Digong or Mar ?

Elpidio V. Peria
8 May 2016


from : sunstar.com.ph

Filipinos who now chant in increasing crescendo that change is coming appear to be unaware of or may have overlooked our recent history. Change already happened in the Philippines back in February 1986, when the street action by the people supported by the religious and some military officers at EDSA led to the toppling of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and the Marcos family fled to Hawaii.

That change happened 30 years ago this year last February 22-25, and to the millennials and the long-suffering masa who may think that was an abstract event or a failure, what is mainly at issue this coming Monday is this: do we want to embark on a path of nation-building focused on inward-looking issues of ridding ourselves of criminality, drugs and corruption or do we want a country that is outward-directed with healthy political, trade and economic relations with other countries and is responsive to the needs of the people in a manner that is open, participatory and does not leave it all to a strongman-type of leader, a character that we, the people, already rejected back in 1986?

Nation-building in the 21st century in an era of climate change and interlinked socio-political economic and cultural challenges is not easy, but we have had a good start since 1986. An open though dynasty-laden Congress. A free and rambunctious media though dominated by several families. An agrarian reform that’s supposed to complete the distribution of landed estates of the elites, but has not yet fully done so. We have a dualistic economy with a largely undeveloped agricultural sector working side by side with a modern electronics components manufacturing sector and a growing service sector led by the business process outsourcing industry. Corruption ? In Pnoy, at least we have a President finally who is not seen to be corrupt, and who may not actually be corrupt though he seems to take his time deciding on whether to get married, if at all, which is irrelevant to the question if he will ever be corrupted. In the past six years, there are many corrupt individuals who either got impeached or in jail or have cases going against them. We have a strong and opinionated Ombudsman who was a former Justice of the Supreme Court in the person of Conchita Carpio-Morales. Traffic in Metro Manila? That’s easy, decongest the metropolis and disperse key government offices in the nearby regions surrounding Metro Manila or how about change the working hours of people, why bother going to the office when you can do your work at home and send your output through the internet.

We need to build on what has been started. Higher tax collection efforts by the BIR should continue. Address under-spending by the government agencies, but that should go hand-in-hand with clarifying the limits of what’s allowable spending within the confines of what the Supreme Court set in its Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) ruling. Just-tiis system or the very slow justice system should be addressed though by the Supreme Court and our poverty levels should drastically go down, like what our ASEAN neighbors have done. The 4Ps may be a good start, but there has to be something more substantial than throwing money at the poor and underprivileged, like embarking on a massive wealth creation program that utilizes our massive biodiversity resources and systematizing the fragmented research and development efforts of our state universities and colleges so that we can produce world-class or exportable products. We can also organize our IT graduates so that we can have something like an industry cluster that may eventually blossom like Silicon Valley.

The work of nation-building is never over and now we have to mull over whether what’s acceptable – Cambodia getting past us in higher education or Vietnam already passing us by in GDP per capita. And we are now in an era of ASEAN integration, what have we been doing in an era of free trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties, climate change, mass surveillance by the state, etc?

Given this context, the essential challenge for the Philippines now is to have a leader who understands the issues interconnected with globalization and the challenges it brings to a developing country like the Philippines.

Mar Roxas as DTI Secretary back in 1999 during the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle in the US, said then that no deal is better than a bad deal. This was about the supposed deal in that conference that the developed countries wanted the developing countries to agree on trade related matters.

His nuanced understanding of issues connected to globalization is also seen in the early stages of the campaign when it was reported that he was also against the Philippines entering into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement as it puts our farmers and agriculture sector at a disadvantage. It was just bad that this was not taken up at all in the 3 Presidential debates. It is an oversight on the part of our national media, who perhaps found this issue not urgent, amidst all the other pressing concerns of the country.

In the entire stretch of the campaign, did candidate Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte say something on this issue of globalization? It seems there’s none, but going through his pronouncements in media on this topic, he has some ideas on the economy but it deals mainly with leaving businessmen do their thing, since his belief is that once there is peace and order then the economy will flourish. Is this attitude to achieving a healthy economy via peace and order enough?

He would have had the chance to expound on this view before the Makati Business Club, but he mainly talked about other things but not on economic matters. Perhaps he will leave it all to his advisers, who may come from the ranks of the oligarchs in Mindanao – the Alcantaras and the Dominguezes who funded his campaign as reported by a recent Rogue magazine profile.

We also need a leader who can bring all the various sectors together and make them work collaboratively towards achieving the country’s common goals.

Duterte said during the campaign that he will let Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Maria Sison back to the negotiating table but it seems it is not a wise expenditure of political capital, since his priority will be on ridding the country of drugs and criminality in the first six months of his term.

Mar Roxas, for his part, vowed to continue the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) so that it will finally be enacted by Congress, which is but a continuation of Pnoy’s pursuit of peace in Mindanao embodied by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Digong’s federalism proposal is a misdirection and does not directly address the Mindanao peace process that already culminated in the draft BBL. Besides, if one federalizes a country but does not pass an anti-dynasty law, then it is these same political families who will dominate the federated states of the country. Just look at almost all our provinces, and you can see the same political families change position every election. The three-term limit in the law should be that, a limit, and there should be no rest period where a politician can run again for his old term-limited position.

There are other things the voter will have to consider in choosing between the two, but the most important thing ultimately is their character, since even leadership guru Warren Bennis will say, “perhaps the only unperishable characteristic at the base of all effective leadership is character”.

Let’s take Mar. He was supposed to lead the Liberal Party in the 2010 elections, but he gave way to Pnoy. That is selflessness and humility, though his detractors will say he was just vowing down to the reality then that he can never win.

Digong a humble and selfless person? I have not read anything about this trait of Digong, though if we go by Pia Ranada’s article in RAPPLER, he is someone who will not hesitate to share his saliva with another person, when Digong shared his sandwich and cocowater with the reporter.

Another thing is perseverance, what management commentators usually call the king of all leadership traits, and as Barry Overstreet noted :

It doesn’t matter how strong your vision is, or how positive your attitude is, or how deep your passion is or how much you want to help others. If you don’t have the determination to NEVER QUIT, then it’s game over. Sure, all of those other leadership traits are very important, indeed vital to being an effective leader. However, if you don’t have the deep-seeded determination that prevents intermittent failures from killing your eventual success, none of the other leadership traits matter one bit.

Is Digong a leader who is persevering? Maybe, when he served as Davao City mayor for several terms now. But in his promise to work wonders in the country for six months and promising to resign if he fails, he has shown to have some knack for decisiveness, for quick action, for a quick fix. That is not perseverance.

Mar took on many jobs under Pnoy, first as DOTC Secretary then later, as DILG Secretary. While other observers took potshots at him for his tenure at these Departments as undistinguished, perhaps it is so not significant, in terms of major corruptions or shenanigans. But one thing that can be seen is that this fellow persevered, bided his time, until it was proper for him to leave and start his campaign. We thought he will resign after Mamasapano, how we wished he would have, then he has shown his spine and show Pnoy how wrong Pnoy was for keeping him in the dark about the key operational details of that bungled mission. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be seen as an opportunist who will hit his friend when that friend Pnoy, is under fire.

All these things – from giving up his Presidential aspiration in 2010, continuing on and waiting for his time, until this campaign – that, over-all, is perseverance. This is a key trait that we need our President to have, as we continue to work on changing our country, from 1986, not to change it back to what it was – a dictatorship with blood on his hands, disrespectful of the rule of law and looks at all of us as his idolaters ( a trait already exhibited by that woman in a TV newsclip in a campaign sortie in Marinduque fanning Digong’s back while she appears to be sweating herself) like perhaps, all or most, of the people who are surrounding Digong now or who are about to vote for him this Monday.


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