11/22/2015
Don't we deserve better than this so-called savior?

I didn't want to start with a cliché, but "damned if you do, damned if you don't" is very much applicable in this case.

It must be hard being in the political arena. The public demands that you have a strong stand, a well-reasoned and well-intentioned stand, on issues. The public also demands that you stick to that stand no matter what happens. You can change your mind - maybe you learned something new, maybe your approach changed over time - but you have to stick to that stand no matter what happens. But then the public also demands that you adapt to the times and not stick to the same old thinking as everybody else. "A particularly tricky line to toe" does not cover it.

I don't know, however, if that applies to Rodrigo Duterte.

Last night he said he's running for president, weeks after saying he wouldn't, and triggering a cat-and-mouse game in which his backers, his more vocal supporters, and doomed candidate for vice president Alan Peter Cayetano attempted to persuade him to change his mind. There was a rally at Luneta for that purpose, accompanied by allegations that the media did not cover it solely to kill Duterte's chances. (Where have I heard that narrative before?) There was a presidential candidate withdrawing his candidacy, nominating Duterte as his replacement - a perfectly legal thing to do, it must be pointed out. There were, still, a series of ads, on television and on social media, promoting the idea. Wouldn't it be great, it suggested, if Duterte ran? And if Cayetano was his running mate? It did not particularly sound good.

Throughout the time there was still some clamor for Duterte to run. "Some", because most of his supporters took the back seat when he first announced that he would not seek the presidency. Some were even glad that he didn't run, their arguments going along the lines of "he didn't run because we want him to - that's principle". But some were still loud about it. Traffic in Manila? It would be much better with Duterte on board. Bullets being planted at NAIA? It would be much better with Duterte on board. Everything, apparently, would be better with Duterte on board, because he's tough-as-nails, and we need tough-as-nails, and we need to be as orderly and clean and streamlined and as good as Singapore or something.

Last night, the few that remained got their wishes granted. Citing the decision to not disqualify Grace Poe for president, despite questions raised over her citizenship due to her being a foundling and having adopted American citizenship in the past, Duterte said that decision "cheapens the Constitution" and so... he... is running... for president... or something.

Yeah, I don't know.

I was one of those who were glad to see Duterte decide not to run the first time. I'm not for him or against him in any way; I just thought it was nice to see someone who has, on the surface, a pretty strong chance of winning go against all that. He's not running, he said, because his family is not into the idea, and because he's not that enthusiastic for the job considering his age. Disappointing for his supporters, sure, but it was nice to see someone toss aside the spoils of politics and focus on the deeper things, so to speak. Someone whose good intentions for the country doesn't automatically translate to joining the dirtiest game of all. It was nice to see someone like that.

Now, he's running. Sure, he could change his mind. He could have simply said that he changed his mind - his supporters will cheer for him either way. Instead, he - despite all his qualifications to the opposite - pitted his budding campaign as a response to Grace Poe's, a fight against a rising third force who he sees as not qualified for office.

"I have nothing against Grace," he said, "but bigyan mo na lang ako ng Ifugao, Badjao. Bigyan mo na lang ako ng plumber, karpintero o accountant. Basta Pilipino, okay lang. Huwag mo akong bigyan ng hindi Pilipino."

In one swoop Duterte shifted from a man seemingly with principle - albeit one many might not agree with, considering his alleged methods as mayor of Davao - to a man who's willing to say anything just so people would agree. You know. Typical politicians.

Sure, but this guy at least looks poised to deliver results, you might argue. Look at what he did to Davao! What has Mar Roxas really done? He could not have singlehandedly given the Philippines a cash cow in the BPO industry. What has Jojo Binay really done? He can't be the reason why Makati is prosperous - the rich have always settled there, before he was even born, and besides, he did not build a subway in Makati. (For the record, I don't think a subway is a measure of prosperity, but some of Binay's critics have actually attacked him with that.) What has Grace Poe really done? Really, what has Grace Poe really done?

Duterte, on the other hand, look - he's transformed Davao into an orderly place. Rid it of its crime and its fireworks. Sure, the methods may be questionable - accusations of human right violations abound - but the country needs someone like him! Maybe we can finally be like Singapore! Oh, Digong, great savior of the Philippine isles, take us to salvation!

Sigh.

I am not voting for Rodrigo Duterte not because his methods are questionable, nor because he changed his mind, but because he's playing the same game as everybody else. Maybe I am not in the right place in looking for principle in Philippine politics, but don't we deserve better than this so-called savior?

And your responses...

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