Category Archives: duterte

Duterte Makes Peace While Robredo Prepares for War

While President-elect Duterte and his team are busy with forging a peace agreement with the communist party of the Philippines and ending a decades-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of Filipino lives, the team of in coming Vice President Leni Robredo and their allies in the media are preoccupied with making a fuss over the separate inauguration ceremonies for the two newly elected officials.

In trying to make a mountain out of this molehill – or more appropriately a shit pile – Robredo and her cohorts are showing just how petty and small-minded they are in the face of the greater socio-economic challenges facing the nation. It is no wonder then that her running mate was soundly trounced, and she herself barely scraping enough votes from vote-buying to get a win in the recently held elections.

And while the media wants to paint the decision of Duterte in political colors, the fact of the matter is really much more mundane – there just aren’t enough seats in Malacanang to hold all the guests if both the President and Vice President are inaugurated at the same time.

This information was already conveyed to Mindavote a few days before the formal announcement of the inaugural arrangements. According to our source the President-elect stuck to his original pronouncement of wanting to hold the event in Malacanang. This of course posed several logistical problems, not the least of which was the limited – only 500 seats – capacity of the venue. This meant that after all the mandatory invitations have been sent out – to the diplomatic core, the senate president and speaker of the house, cabinet secretaries, etc – there were only a little more than 100 invitations left for the President and Vice President, and their families and personal guests. 

This is why it was decided to hold the event separately, to allow each of them to celebrate it in a way that was both significant and meaningful to them. But of course, this kind of simple and sincere reasoning does not fit the narrative that the media wants to portray – that of a divisive and dictatorial President Duterte. 

Then again, this isn’t like the old days when all the news and information had to pass, and was controlled by the traditional media. People can now get the truth from other sources and make their own informed opinion.

A Vulgar Politician

By Sass Rogando Sasot

Guestwriter for Mindavoices



That was how Abraham Lincoln was called by The New York Herald in one of their articles that lampooned him. They couldn’t believe the Republicans favoured Lincoln over candidates who looked and sounded more like a respectable statesman, such as Seward and Chase. On May 19, 1860, a writer called Lincoln a “third-rate Western lawyer..who cannot speak good grammar.”  On May 20, another writer limned Lincoln as someone who represented “all that is brutal and bloody in Seward’s political programme.” 

The Atlas and Argus was equally disgusted by Lincoln. On May 21, 1860, they described him as a “slang-whanging stump speaker, of a class with which every party teems, and of which all parties are ashamed.” On the same day, the Boston Post predicted that Lincoln would only serve as “the tool of the fanatical host he will lead on.”

On May 24, The Philadelphia Evening Journal  asked why should Lincoln become President? His language was “coarse,” they said. His style, “illiterate.” And Lincoln’s “vulgar and vituperative” character couldn’t hold a candle to the refine and eminent personality of his opponent.

When Lincoln became president, a newspaper in Illinois said this about him: “His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President.”

In Unpopular Mr Lincoln, Larry Tagg shared what a “Carolinian correspondent” told his friend about Lincoln:

“Did you think the people of the South, the Lords Proprietors of the Land, would let this low fellow rule for them? No. His vulgar facetiousness may suit the race of clock makers and wooden nutmeg venders — even Wall Street brokers may accept him, since they do not protest — but never will he receive the homage of southern gentlemen..[because they would never submit to rule by a president who] exhibits himself at railway depots, bandies jokes with the populace, kisses bold women from promiscuous crowds.” 

In their 2012 Civil War issue, the Atlantic republished the 1904 article of Henry Villard, the journalist who covered the Lincoln-Douglas debates. 

Lincoln, Villard said, was fond of “low talk” and liked telling “coarse or  even outright nasty” stories and dirty jokes. “The coarser the joke, the lower the anecdote, and the more risky the story, the more he enjoyed them,” Villard explained.

Villard found Lincoln revolting.  “Again and again,” he said, “I felt disgust and humiliation that such a person should have been called upon to direct the destinies of a great nation in the direst period of its history… I could not have persuaded myself that the man might possibly possess true greatness of mind and nobility of heart..”

As he got to know more the man, Villard saw something more in Lincoln: “…in spite of his frequent outbreaks of low humor, his was really a very sober and serious nature, and even inclined to gloominess to such an extent that all his biographers have attributed a strongly melancholic disposition to him.”

And as the presidency of Lincoln unfolded, Villard witnessed how the vulgar village politician “proved [himself] to be one of the great leaders of mankind in adversity, in whom low leanings only set off more strikingly his better qualities.”

In Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan offered this reflection regarding Lincoln’s nasty and dirty jokes:

“More genteel than Lincoln, [Henry Whitney, friend and colleague of Lincoln,] struggled to explain the president’s ‘filth,’ and to be sparing with his examples. ‘The great majority of [his] stories were very nasty indeed. I remember many of them but they do us no good.’ Apparently they did Lincoln good. They helped him politically and professionally. And rather than displacing his “ideality,” they expressed an element of his personality and experience inseparable from his moral idealism. Like Mark Twain, he had a genius for pithy narrative, and a sense that his stories and obscenities expressed something crucial about the underlying flaws in the universe and the inexplicable darkness of the human situation. And often the darkness found its best expression in humor.”


Will Duterte become a Lincoln or a Qaddafi? Only time will tell.


By Sass Rogando Sasot

Guest writer for Mindavoices


By projecting himself as a strong authority, Duterte is presenting himself as the Hobbesian solution to the state of nature. Duterte wants to bring back order, so that the rule of law can work its magic.


Filipino historian Vicente Rafael recently published a commentary in Inquirer entitled “Duterte’s Hobbesian World” ( In that article, Rafael points out the seeming non-existence of the idea of “universal human rights…in the local-regional world of Duterte.” And in Duterte’s world, these principles, Rafael argues, are “abstract impositions by the West that infringe on the sovereignty of nations.” 

It’s a thoughtful piece that contextualised Duterte’s vision of justice. Duterte, Rafael said, was shaped by a “Hobbesian world,” i.e. the Davao of the 1990s. A world of various violent groups and corrupt journalists. A world where “human rights are translated into highly particularized notions of honour and revenge where my freedom depends on my right to take yours away.” The last paragraph ends with these stirring words:

“But what about those who do not share the same notion of honour and the desire for revenge? They are left vulnerable and unsafe. Human rights, as contradictory and hegemonic as they are, remain our best hope for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth. Doing so requires that we claim those rights and insist on their protection, not by a strongman or a tatay, but by the laws that we ourselves agree to abide by, however imperfectly and unevenly their enforcement might be. Otherwise, it’s back to Hobbes. Or forward to Stalin.”



I’d like to begin my critique by questioning Rafael’s use of “Hobbesian World.” What does he mean by that? Thomas Hobbes is the author of The Leviathan, one of the canonical texts in Political Theory. In the Leviathan, Hobbes envisioned two kinds of states: the state of nature and the state of civil order. 

The state of nature is an anarchic world, no higher authority exists to impose and maintain order. Since there’s no order, no law is possible. Everyone is equally free to do what they want to do. It’s a world full of rights but no obligations. The latter is absent because there’s no authority that would “constrain those that would otherwise violate their faith.” The state of nature is not the mere absence of the rule of law but the absence of an enforcer of the law: the hand that maintains order. As a way out of this anarchic world, Hobbes recommended that individuals submit themselves into a central authority that would regulate their rights and enforce their obligations. Thus, the Hobbesian solution to the state of nature is the presence of a strong central authority that can “keep everyone in awe.”

Rafael cautions us about devolving into a Hobbesian World. However, it’s not clear which world is that: The state of nature or the state of civil order? 

By projecting himself as a strong authority, Duterte is presenting himself as the Hobbesian solution to the state of nature. Duterte wants to bring back order, so that the rule of law can work its magic.

But Rafael doesn’t see the significance of what Duterte is trying to do. Rafael’s article is about a world of rights. He said that we will escape the state of nature, of war of all against all, if we “insist on their protection, not by a strongman or a tatay, but by the laws that we ourselves agree to abide by, however imperfectly and unevenly their enforcement might be.” The question is WHO will enforce those laws?

The rule of law is not self-enforcing. The rule of law only becomes effective if it’s obeyed. Obedience doesn’t come cheap: you obey the law either because you believe in it or out of fear of punishment. However, that fear only works if the law is strongly enforced and the punishment is harsh. Without strong enforcement, following the law, as Duterte would say, becomes optional. You cannot do away with a strongman, if by strong man you mean someone who has a strong political will to enforce the law. Even the darling of political science, i.e. institutions, needs leaders with strong political will in order to be effective. Institutions are only as strong as the people helming them.

Even if we live under the regime of human rights, strong political will is necessary because our rights aren’t just contradictory, as Rafael acknowledged, they are also “not compossible, that is, the implementation of one human right can require the violation of another, or the protection of a human right of one person may require the violation of the same human right of another” (Michael Freeman, Human Rights). Institutions need leaders with strong political will in order to enforce laws that would protect the rights of some people at the expense of others. That is an inescapable political reality.



The problem for me is not the contradiction of rights nor that they are hegemonic, as Rafael called it. Rights require order and every order is hegemonic, as Mouffe said. The problem for me is characterising “human rights” as our “best hope” to anything. In Rafael’s article, it is “our best hope for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth.”

First of all, the doctrine of human rights cannot protect you in the face of an attack from someone for whatever reason. Period. That is the point Duterte wanted to convey: How can the Constitution or the notion of Universal Human Rights protect a journalist from the moment that s/he is being killed? The constitution and the lofty notion of humans rights only work after the fact OR they might be effective if the constitution and human rights doctrine arouse enough fear that could deter your attacker from committing violence against you. 

When I was still living in the Philippines I was almost killed. One night, while I was on my way home from a speaking engagement, a gang of teenagers who were hanging outside a 7-11 convenient store saw me and started debating among themselves whether I was a girl or a boy. One of them settled it and shouted, “Putang-ina walang suso! Bakla yan! (Fuck! No breasts! That’s a fag!)” Then they started running towards me, shouting “Bakla! Takbo! (Run faggot!)” Terrified, I ran as fast as I could. I screamed for help but there was not much people in the road, only cars and jeepneys speeding by. Luckily, I saw an empty cab. I immediately hailed it. I locked all the doors and asked the driver to drive fast. Then I saw that the teenager closest to me was carrying a steel pipe. He banged the trunk of the cab with it. The driver was furious and tried to stop to confront the guy. But I pleaded for him to just go and hurry up. Only fate knows what would have happened to me if I had been too slow or if there had been no empty cabs that happened to be there.

How could the UN Human Rights Commission or the Philippine Commission on Human Rights protect me at that moment when I needed my right to life be protected? These institutions would come after the fact, sometime after the sad fact. But, as how we say it in Tagalog: Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? What exactly do I need during that time? It’s not the absence of human rights that was on my mind at that time but the absence of police officers with strong political will that could face my attacker. Yet the police cannot be everywhere. I also have a duty to protect myself from these attacks and to avoid places where these attacks are likely to happen. I cannot debate with my killer and stop him with an eloquent speech about human rights. If someone would kill me, they would kill me. 

This is the reason why I understood what Duterte meant. I’ve been in a lot of situation where my life was in peril. I can preach that killing is wrong, but people will still be killed; I will still be killed. If preaching could stop violence, we would have been living in paradise already with all the preaching against violence that has been going on since time immemorial.

It is not human rights that is our best hope “for protecting each other from this parochial world of revenge and the spiralling fear and violence they bring forth,” as Rafael put it. Our best hope is the cultivation of self-restraint. 

We are at the receiving end of revenge because we did something worth avenging about. And some people, a hell lot of them, find their dignity, yes the wellspring of human rights, worth killing for.

The Maranaos in Mindanao have this concept called “maratabát.” As Robert Day McAmis explained in Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia, maratabat guides the “life and conduct of the Maranao in his daily life. A Maranao will go to great lengths to build a ‘good’ maratabat. Having a bad community image is considered ‘having dirt on his face,’ and this will provoke a Maranao to go to any extreme to remove any ‘stain’ from his maratabat.” It’s a very compelling sense of dignity; when it is ruined by somebody else, it “demands retribution that often takes the form of violent retaliation” (Thomas McKenna, Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines).

If you mess with their dignity, destroy their reputation, you effectively ruin their lives. Human rights will never ever protect you from someone avenging their dignity that you destroyed. Your best hope from being at the receiving end of a violent retaliation is to stop ruining people’s dignity. It’s not more rights that can help you from someone’s revenge but the maturity to restrain yourself from destroying their dignity. Your best hope is not some lofty principle but yourself. Yes, your killer would be sent to jail, but what’s its use to you? You are already dead.



Certainly, political will can be excessive and destructive. But this risk doesn’t mean we should strive for a “rule of law” doing its magic without strong authority enforcing its content. Rafael identified the polar ends of excessive political will: Hobbes and Stalin. As he used it, Hobbes refer to the state of nature while Stalin to the state of excessive State authority. 

But why these two non-Asian choices? Why not Lee Kuan Yew? If one would carefully study Duterte’s rhetoric, one could hear Lee: the cruel stance against drug lords, the frank attitude towards the press, the boldness against international institutions, including the UN, and human rights organisations. It’s not a surprise: Duterte has repeatedly mentioned Lee as one of the statesmen he considers as his mentor.  

It’s interesting to note that the Philippines has consistently ranked higher than Singapore in the Press Freedom Index of Reporter’s Without Borders. In  2016 the Philippines’ rank is 138, while Singapore’s rank is 154. Unlike the Philippines, Singapore isn’t a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights or even the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Singapore doesn’t even have its own Commission on Human Rights. Singapore has repeatedly received a bad press, criticised by international human rights organisations, portrayed as a repressive regime.  But which country has a better quality of life?  However, it’s not because of the absence of a strong human rights culture that made Singapore as what it is now but the presence of leaders who have the political will to do what’s needed to be done in order to create a safe, prosperous, and disciplined society, which could serve as a fertile ground for the cultivation and flourishing of one’s self worth.

Who’s Afraid of Duterte?

This is an excerpt from an article written by Sara Soliven De Guzman for the Philippine Star ( she exposes the efforts of groups and personalities identified with the previous administration to prevent President-elect Rodrigo Duterte from taking office.

Duterte, who won by more than six million votes over his nearest rival (with allegations that it was actually much higher if not for the vote-shaving done by the administration party), was elected to implement a wide variety of changes starting with a crackdown on criminality and corruption in government. In her article, Ms. De Guzman echoes the feeling of many observers that there are those who are afraid of Duterte, seeing in him an end to their lording over the Philippines. 

“There is a very strong crusade to stop president elect Rody Duterte from becoming the President of the Republic. Many sectors of society are out there for the kill. They continue to lambast him and threaten him for one reason or another. If you carefully study the background of these groups or individuals, you will clearly see a connection to the so-called “yellow mafia.”

Why is there a conspiracy to destabilize the new government? In the past, new presidents are welcomed. I have not heard nor read of a president elect being excoriated this way. We usually wait and see and give that leader a chance to prove himself or herself for the first 100 days. What is strangely happening now?

This is also the first time we see a president elect working right after the pronouncement of his winning the election. He started telling the public what he wants to happen as if making those in government hear his message in a subtle way. This is the first time I see police manning the streets, drug busters out for the kill, government working heeding the calls of the president elect unaffected by the presence of the former who still maintains his seat of power until June 30.

Amidst his roughness and nonchalant ways, president elect Duterte is giving us a head start of his presidency. He is a no nonsense guy. He is tough and rough and whether conservative citizens disdain him, the majority is looking forward to the “change” he will bring in.

If you watch the news on major networks, you will sense a strong campaign against Duterte. If you read the news, you will observe several newspaper journalists and social network sites taking a turn against him. Many in media have joined the bandwagon especially after Duterte called their bluff on boycotting him: Go ahead, boycott me. I’m urging you. Make this trip your last to Davao City. I do not care if no one is covering me. By the way, many politicians (mayors, congressmen and senators) have jumped off ship and are now swimming to Davao. Some are even riding a “yellow” submarine. Susmariosep!

Many of the top corporations and networks in this country are run or have been affiliated with the ‘yellow race.’ Believe it or not, they are anxious of what might be. This is precisely why they are all out there to destroy the “terminator.” Yes, Duterte if clear with his decrees will swipe all of them to do what is right thus, leaving a small chance for any hunky punky which many are used to in running conglomerates. Enough is enough and come July 1 all hell will break lose as we watch Duterte walk his talk.”

Calculating True Value of Duterte’s Social Media Campaign

For the first time in Philippine history, we have elected a President not because he had more money than the other candidates, but because he had more likes, shares, and comments on Facebook


With the release of the Statement of Campaign Expenditures by the candidates that ran in the 2016 elections, people – especially the voters – are able to get a glimpse of the personalities behind their candidates.

In the case of Robredo, Poe, etc, the lump sum declarations without any details as to who and how much each campaign contributor gave is less informative about the details, but speaks volumes about how these candidates operate. Transparency and accountability are governance principles that may or may not be important to them.

As for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, by revealing the names of his contributors, he is putting the rest of the country on notice that he is not afraid to be scrutinized. And neither should the other members of his cabinet and all government officials. By setting the standard of integrity higher than it ever was, it is now up to others to follow his example. And failing, suffer the inevitable consequence.

But what the SOCE  forms fails to account for, and here Duterte received more than any other candidate, is the contribution in time, effort, creativity, passion, and all around support given by millions of Filipinos on social media.

While it has been talked about over and over again, with “expert” analysis coming from all colors of the political spectrum, the phenomena that was Duterte’s social media surge may never be adequately explained nor accounted for. Being largely organic – despite what other candidates might say – it is almost impossible to track the growth of the movement and its overall impact on the campaign.

For the first time in Philippine history, the individual efforts of these so-called Dutertards – alone or in groups, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – proved more valuable than the hundreds of millions of pesos donated by the various campaign donors. And while it may be impossible to put a monetary value on these individual efforts of pure volunteerism, the results of their sacrifice cannot be denied. And on June 30, 2016 – as our new President takes his oath – we offer a silent prayer for his success and the continued vigilance of the Dutertards.

How to keep up with the changes in social media

As demonstrated in the 2016 Presidential elections, social media is paying an increasing role not just in informing, but more importantly in organizing and mobilizing into action. The rapid changes happening on both the technology and the content development sides of the equation means that social media publishers and users also need to evolve with the times.

According to social media experts who attended Newscred’s 4th annual #ThinkContent Summit held in New York City, content marketers, or those who produce the stuff we read, hear, and see on the internet, must focus on brand purpose, make sure content strategy evolves, and not be too focused on self-promotion.

The talks were given in front of about 1,2000 content marketers from across the United States and other parts of the globe. The theme for the event was “Convergence: The New Marketing Imperative.” For more details in the event, here’s the link to the story by Newscred’s Brian Caulfield –

Leni Robredo’s Own Game of Thrones

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES

This looks innocent: Leni Robredo being honoured with a dinner by the diplomatic corps. I mean, what could be sinister with the Vice President of the Philippines discussing “common advocacies” and “partnering with them in the future”?  

Legitimacy of political leaders has an internal and external dimension. Internally, it comes as votes from the citizens; externally, it comes as support from outside powers. With allegations of election fraud and a razor thin margin, Robredo has a very fragile internal legitimacy. But being given with an allegedly 8,000 php per plate dinner in your honour by the diplomatic corps in the Philippines indicates that your external legitimacy might not be as rickety as your internal legitimacy.

Well, on the surface there’s nothing wrong with this dinner, but it’s politically questionable if one takes this into consideration: Robredo hasn’t taken any concrete steps to build rapport with the President. Instead of going to Davao and meeting with the President, she just kept on giving interviews to express her views.

Did she already call the President and set a meeting with him? If there’s any person in this world Robredo must first build rapport with, that is the President. Why are you first building rapport with the spectators of our politics? It’s not their partnership that you should first seek in order to realise your advocacies but the partnership of the President.

If it’s really true that it’s the diplomatic corps that sponsored this allegedly 8,000 peso per plate dinner in Robredo’s honour, then why are they giving her this lavish reception? They didn’t do that to the President. If there’s any ass they need to kiss, that’s Duterte’s dirty old ass. The President, after all, is the chief architect of our foreign policy, and any decision that involves foreign affairs is the prerogative of the President. Period.

Who is the political strategist of Robredo? The pictures give a thousand clues.

Photos are from the Leni Robredo fanpage



Map of Recent News Regarding the Action Points of Duterte’s Cabinet

a.k.a. Enough of Satisfying our Tabloid Desires. Tigilan na ang TikTik Mentality

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES



From the Department of Budget:

“President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s candidate for budget secretary is looking at a wider budget deficit to fund new infrastructure, which he hopes will boost growth momentum and spread the benefits of the Philippines’ economic improvement in recent years.” (Read:

From the Department of Finance:

“Incoming Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez said he is mulling over the imposition of additional taxes on junk food to discourage its consumption, promote health and boost government revenues.” (Read:

From the Department of Social Welfare and Development:

“We would like to know about that ano na ang impact ng 4Ps ano nagawa na positive, ano yung areas na nagraduate na because may trabaho na nagkaroon nang lupa or is that impossible, or tingnan din natin na beyond 4Ps ang mga beneficiaries would also be able to organize themselves,” Judy Taguiwalo. (Read:

From the Bureau of Customs:

“A reorganization that includes the abolition and merging of offices is officially underway at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) due to the recently signed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and the impending change in leadership. Under the CMTA, outgoing Commissioner Alberto Lina said his successor, former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, may reorganize BOC personnel and employees to streamline processes in the revenue-generating agency.” (Read:

From the Department of Education:

“Incoming Education Secretary Leonor Briones announced Wednesday that she will prioritize the expansion of alternative learning system (ALS) to provide equal opportunities for those who will not be covered by the K to 12 program.” (Read:

From Department of Agrarian Reform:

“Incoming Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano announced a review of the implementation of what he said was a “sham” agrarian reform program in a sugarcane estate owned by the family of outgoing President Aquino as among his priorities as head of the agrarian reform department.” (Read:

From Department of Justice:

“Incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday said the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will undergo some “drastic” changes under the Duterte administration.” (Read:

From the National Economic and Development Authority:

“Aside from generating more jobs in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, Duterte’s administration plans to reform the income tax system, Pernia said. He added that they want to increase the bracket that is covered by the tax exemption and calibrate the system to the inflation.” (Read:

From the Department of Foreign Affairs: 

“The incoming Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary-designate, Perfecto Yasay, hinted on Monday that bilateral talks would be the likely diplomatic track to be followed in the effort to untangle the territorial conflict with China in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).” (Read:

Political Naïveté

Political Naïveté

By Sass Rogando Sasot guest writer for MINDAVOICES



Composite Photo from CNN Philippines


I watched yesterday the whole press conference of Duterte in which he presented some of his cabinet secretaries. One of the questions hurled by the press at Duterte was what he can say about what people are saying regarding his cabinet choices not reflecting his slogan:Change is Coming.” They were chosen because they were close to him etc…KKK blah blah.

Duterte was thankful that the issue was asked. He said that the cabinet secretaries are alter egos of the President. When a cabinet secretary fucks up, the blame goes all the way to the President. The buck stops at him. Thus, he chose his cabinet secretaries based on how much he can trust them and how competent they are. What’s wrong with these criteria? Nothing. You don’t hire people you feel you cannot trust. He also said that for most of his political life he was only based in Davao City. He didn’t create a large network of friends in Manila, the political capital of the Philippines. His sphere of influence is quite small. So, he explained that he could only pluck people from his own small political circle. They are the people he can trust. Was Aquino this transparent to you?

Just in case you didn’t notice, in the last administration the buck didn’t stop at Aquino. The blame even went all the way to Gloria Arroyo. Aquino didn’t release his cabinet choices as early as Duterte. He released his cabinet choices a day or two BEFORE his inauguration. Tell me, did Aquino bother to explain to you why he chose those people? Did you demand Aquino to explain his constant rift against his VP, Binay? No. Did Aquino explain to you why he recommended Domingo Lee to be our Ambassador to China even though Lee didn’t have a fucking idea what diplomacy was, as well as the difference between soft and hard power and the pillars of our foreign policy? No.

Now, as a staunch Leni Robredo supporter (I expressed my support to Robredo as early as October 2015), I was disappointed when Duterte said that he wouldn’t offer any cabinet position to Robredo yet. He mentioned this already before. You know why? Because he doesn’t know if he can trust Robredo. That’s why Duterte said, they must build rapport first. What the hell is wrong with this?

Just in case you were living under the rock, during the campaign period, Robredo herself said that among the presidential candidates it was only Mar Roxas who knew what tasks to assign to her based on her abilities. Clearly, Roxas is not our president. Ergo, following Robredo’s logic, the president-elect, who is not Roxasdoesnt know what tasks to assign to her. So why the hell are you complaining?

Ahhbecause Duterte said giving Robredo a cabinet position would hurt the feelings of Marcos Jr. Let me remind you this: Whether you like it or not, Robredo won by a hairline against Marcos Jr, and with allegations of election fraud. Duterte won with a huge margin against Roxas and the latter was even accused of shaving Duterte’s votes. Robredo’s mandate to lead is very, very, very fragile. Giving Robredo a cabinet position at this stage will be politically risky. 

It is politically risky to give Robredo a cabinet position while Marcos Jr is still seriously considering to file an electoral protest against her. Politics – student council politics, office politics, national politics, or the politics diplomats play within the United Nations – will always be a numbers game. If we stop whining and start looking closely at the results of the last elections, well see why the feelings of Marcos Jr shouldnt be hurt. Whether we like it or not, Marcos Jr is now an indispensable political force  and no amount of Facebook ranting can change it. 

In April 2016, ABS-CBN published an infographics on the distribution of voters in the Philippines. Luzon has the highest number of registered voters, 56% of them inhabit this island. Its followed by Mindanao with 23% of voters. The remaining 21% of registered voters reside in the Visayas. Who dominated Luzon? Marcos Jr. And he dominated it fabulously.

According to the information from COCs shown at the COMELEC-run Pilipinas 2016, Marcos Jr was voted as the majority vice president in 13 out of 38 provinces and the plurality vice president in 9; while Robredo was the majority vice president in 6 and plurality vice president in 8. Majority means the candidate got more than 50% of the votes; plurality means < 50%. Marcos Jr was also the majority vice president in 2 out of 7 NCR cities that have COCs on the website, while the plurality vice president in 4 of them. Robredo was neither the majority nor plurality vice president in any NCR city. However, Robredo dominated Visayas. She was the majority vice president in 7 out of 16 provinces, while the plurality vice president in 6. Marcos Jr didnt win as a majority vice president in any provinces in the Visayas, but was plurality vice president in 2.

Duterte owned Mindanao. Hes the majority president in 21 out of 22 provinces, and the plurality president in 1 of them. He didnt do that well in Luzon and the Visayas. In the Visayas, hes the majority president in Cebu, the most vote rich province in the country. Hes the majority president in one NCR city – Taguig-Pateros, while the plurality president in 8 Luzon provinces, 5 NCR cities, and 4 Visayan provinces.

If you hurt the feelings of Marcos Jr, you run the risk of alienating his HUGE following in Luzon: Abra (89.24%); Apayao (85.21%); Benguet (59.02%); Kalinga (69.20%); Ilocos Norte (96.82%); Ilocos Sur (93.05%); La Union (89.76%); Pangasinan (61.21%); Cagayan (78.90%); Isabela (74.72%); Nueva Vizcaya (66.76%); Quirino (64.23%); Nueva Ecija (55.65%); Pasay (50.69%); and Manila (53.03%). To quote Duterte: that is the political reality.

Duterte didn’t do well in most of the provinces where Marcos Jr was leading. Either Poe or Binay was number 1 in those provinces. Duterte’s grand plan of using his admin to lead the transition of the country into a federal system requires him to get as much support he could get from different provinces, specially from Luzon. The truth is, to achieve this goal, Duterte will need Marcos Jr more than he will need Robredo. The choice then is between alienating the supporters of Robredo or alienating the supporters of Marcos Jr.

Furthermore, Robredo is from LP which launched a very hostile campaign against Duterte. Remember all the black propaganda of LP against Duterte? Oh dear, the political operators of LP even fed them to foreign press. Have we forgotten the attack dog called Trillanes? Do you really think that Duterte can already TRUST Leni after what LP did to him? No.

Regarding that comment about journalists. Duterte was asked what he would do about journalists being killed. Duterte should have just answered by quoting those words attributed to Voltaire, which Duterte always does whenever freedom of speech is implicated. But Duterte and his dirty mouth narrated a story about corrupt journalists playing with fire. If you are playing with fire, expect to get burned. That’s what he meant when he said that journalists aren’t exempted from being assassinated just because they are journalists. 

Duterte was not endorsing the assassination of corrupt journalists. He was saying that if a journalist were about to get killed by a person s/he abused with his/her pen, how could freedom of speech and the Constitution protect him/her? Can a journalist debate with his/her assassin? In his story, Duterte pointed out an unfortunate reality in our country: Not everyone can handle criticisms, let alone abusive criticisms, very well. He said: “Ako praktisado ako, eh yung iba papaano? (I’m used to these, what about others?)” When this part got reported by the media, they highlighted the soundbites and decontextualised them.

Nonetheless, Duterte is in desperate need of a smart, sharp, and charming press secretary. Davao journalists are used to his style of speaking so they understand him. But he must now realise that his reality has now changed and must adapt to it in order to be and remain effective.

Mindanao Tourism Gets a New Lease on Life

Have you ever looked at one of those tourism ads and wondered what sort of stories lie behind the spectacular sunsets, the colorful sceneries, and the sweet smiles of the people in the glossy photographs?

Are they just as happy when the cameras aren’t around? Or does the twinkle in their eyes fade when the afterimage from the last flash dies down. What secrets do they keep and what kind of lives do they lead beyond what tourists normally get to see.

In Mindanao, where years of government neglect has rendered many beautiful places inaccessible except for the truly determined, there is hope that some of these hidden gems will finally see the light.

If there is one thing that the first Philippine President from Mindanao has brought to the national consciousness, it is a greater interest in the land he calls home. While much of the focus so far has been on the political front, images and reports on the beauty of Mindanao are also starting to come out. And with them come the stories of the people.

In the next six years, Mindanao will have an unprecedented opportunity to reveal itself to the world – and the world will, for the first time, have greater access to this last pristine frontier of Philippine tourism. Hopefully this will be supported by the administration with the appointment of a Tourism Secretary who is also from Mindanao and understands its people and culture.

With Duterte and the Muslim rebels promising lasting peace, maybe the stories of Mindanao can finally be told by those who have lived them.


All photos are by award-winning Davao-based Photographer, Rhonson Ng