Duterte of Davao

I was talking to a bunch of out of town visitors the other day and, as what seems to be happening more and more frequently of late, our discussion eventually turned to Davao’s most famous attraction – Mayor Rody Duterte. Because of the extensive media coverage about his  possible run at the presidency, the mayor – who was not exactly unknown before all this frenzy began – has become a bigger political star in the eyes of my guests – and the rest of the country.

After blowing through the usual topics of curiosity – from the his alleged involvement with the DDS and occasional moonlighting as a taxi driver, to the city’s renowned campaigns against drug pushers, smokers, and drivers who feel the need to speed beyond 30 KPH – we eventually got to the question that was foremost in their minds: Will Duterte run for President?

Not having had the opportunity to talk to the mayor himself, I will not claim to have a definitive answer. But after picking the brains of those whose social and political orbits revolve much closer to the alleged candidate, I would estimate that fully ninety-nine percent of the people involved in the Duterte for President movement believe he is going to run. The only caveat is that, since the remaining one percent represents the still noncommittal opinion of the mayor, majority rule definitely does not apply.

So the next question is, why hasn’t he announced his decision – whatever it is? 

There are several possibilities floating around regarding this. Some think that the mayor isn’t really serious about running and is only using it as a way to leverage concessions from the other presidential wannabes. Then there are those who feel that he is merely waiting for enough funding support before he commits to the campaign. Some speculate that he is a trojan horse for another candidate, for whom he would throw his support and captured votes at the right time. And still there are others who believe that the mayor is telling the truth when he says that he has no plans to run, and all this is simply being driven by the people around him.

As for myself, my guess is that he is holding back for the same reasons that kept Floyd Mayweather from taking on Pacquiao five years ago. Just like Money May, Mayor Duterte also has an unbeaten streak to protect. And as tempting as the presidency is, I cannot imagine that it is an easy choice to risk for the mere possibility of winning. It has to be a certainty. In line with this, if the numbers continue to become as favorable as the latest polls, I expect the chances of his running will increase as well.

Now presuming he does go for it, what are his chances of winning? Seriously.

Again basing on the most recent surveys, if Poe runs, everyone can go home and we might just as well hand her the keys to the palace. But since this is not yet a given and the vice presidency still remains an option for her, the possibility of a three cornered fight between Duterte, Binay, and Roxas for president still looms in the horizon. If this happens, I see Mayor Rody as having the inside track in becoming a minority president like Ramos in 1992. 

The recent acrimonious history between Poe and Binay, which observers credit for the decline in the VP’s popularity, could mean the majority of those who would have voted for her as president would now go for either Roxas or Duterte. In this case, owing to his populist, celebrity-like image, Duterte should have the upper hand particularly in the areas of Mindanao and in the class D and E groups. It is also for this same reason that Binay can expect a further decline in support in favor of Duterte as the contrast between their candidacies become more and more pronounced. These developments should be enough for the mayor to come out with a slim margin of victory over Roxas, with Binay coming in third.

Once the issue of his running is settled, the next big question for the mayor would be his choice for vice president. While there may be many who are imminently qualified for this position, I feel that the best course would be for him to run solo and simply endorsing Poe for the position. By supporting her, the mayor not only benefits from Poe’s strong pull among those sectors where he is relatively weak, but also avoids the distractions of having to carry a less popular running mate that does not contribute anything positive to the campaign.

The last big question that remains, and one that goes directly into his ability to govern effectively after he wins, is wether or not he can do for the country what he has done for Davao? 

The answer to this is crucial to his inherent attractiveness to the masses, and the point on which his whole candidacy turns. Just like Binay’s ganito kami sa Makati pitch, if Duterte can convince the rest of the country that the Davao experience can be replicated in every barangay, town, city, and province he should be a shoe in as the next resident of Malacanang. 

But then this must be balanced against the inevitable attacks against his human rights records and persistent rumors connecting him with the summary executions of criminals in Davao. With De Lima, Rosales, and other hounds baying at his heels, it is entirely possible that they would be able to convince a significant enough portion of the population to reject the Duterte Doctrine of Discipline, and thereby pose a serious obstacle to his candidacy. 

In this regard, his campaigners should not be led to a false sense of security owing to the unquestioning love of this city for its mayor. Davao after all is Davao, and its unique historical experience stemming from the lawlessness of the 1980’s makes it predisposed to Duterte’s style of governance. This is something that his campaign handlers should be always be cognizant of, especially when presenting the Davao model to other communities for example and emulation. 

Because while Davaoeños have had the benefit of decades to grow into what we are now, trying to force the same on the rest of the Philippines in a shorter period of time would be like cooking those proverbial crabs by dumping them into an already boiling pot of water – expect a lot of trashing around.

Finally, there are those who say that the presidency is a matter of destiny. If this is true, then it is truly an honor to be a Davaoeño at this time when the fate of one of our own can lift the whole community – and the country – to heights yet unreached.










Recto’s Train Wreck

Edge Davao (September 19, 2011)

Recently there have been discussions on whether or not the elevated railway systems that exclusively services Metro Manila residents are being subsidized by those of us living in the provinces.

On one side of the debate is Sec. Manuel Roxas of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), who in news reports was quoted as having said that “the government—and ultimately taxpayers— (is) subsidizing fares to the tune of around P40 per passenger, or P7 billion a year.”

Opposing this view is Sen. Ralph Recto, who has argued that not one person living outside of Metro Manila pays for the operations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) or the Light Rail Transit (LRT). Recto bases his argument on the comparative taxes collected from three Metro Manila cities and those coming from the rest of the country.

Citing data from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which shows that P281.8 Billion – or 83% of the total taxes collected for 2010 came from Quezon City, Caloocan and Makati while the rest of the Philippines only contributed P 56.8 Billion to the national coffers, Recto concludes that the subsidy for the MRT and LRT must naturally come from Metro Manila residents alone.

On the face of it, and if you are as simple minded as Recto is, the argument seems to have merit. Or at least it does until you start factoring such trivial concerns like, say… the provisions on Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in the Local Government Code, or… how the Philippine government actually works as opposed to how Recto imagines it does.

Sadly – for Recto – if you take these things into consideration, then his delusional argument of how the residents of Metro Manila are the ones being squeezed dry by the rest of the country falls apart like a cheap magic trick in a roomful of skeptics.

What Recto ignorantly fails to take into consideration is the fact that ALL local government units (LGU) – provinces, cities, and municipalities – are required to remit a part of their income to the national government. This is then pooled and only a portion is returned back to the LGU as their IRA.

The rest remains with the national treasury and is used by the government to fund projects that supposedly benefit the whole country. Projects like the modernization of the Armed Forces, infrastructure development, the construction of hospitals and health centers, and (drum roll please)… the operations of the MRT and LRT.

So despite all of Recto’s misinformed protestations and premature political posturing the fact is, by this simple mechanism of tax collection and allocation detailed in the Local Government Code, it is clear that the whole country contributes to something that only Metro Manila residents enjoy. And while an argument can be made that it is a small contribution – miniscule, insignificant – Recto will never be able to dispute that it is there and it came from us – the people of Mindanao.

Ironically this is coming from a guy who for a time served as head of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippines’ “social and economic development planning and policy coordinating body.” With guys like Recto in charge, no wonder we’re neck-deep in shit and still clueless about what to do to get out of it.

You really have to wonder, is the caliber of national leadership we can expect from Recto and those who share the same crazy Manila-centric notions that he has? if it is, then the people of Mindanao will be best served if we kick them out – and keep them out – of office.

And by the way, if there ever was a train that the provinces should subsidize, it’ll be the one-way kind that would run politicians like Recto out of town– permanently.

Minding Mindanao

(Edge Davao, September 5, 2011)

If you’ve seen the news lately, then you know that the world is getting smaller.

Each new technological breakthrough brings us closer to that vision of a completely global village where your business is my business is our business. Pretty soon, just like that proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in Europe and causing storms in Asia, seemingly minor events happening on the far side of the globe can have potential life changing consequences in the most unlikely places.

Recent events in North Africa certainly point towards this conclusion. In the case of Egypt and Libya, an argument can be made that the fall of both Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi can be attributed to the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor in far of Tunisia.

So whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not – this new reality is here. This is the first time in history that we have this level of interconnectedness. But the really fun part is that, looking ahead, we can only expect it to become even more so.

So the question is, are we ready? Are Filipinos prepared for the implications and consequences of a world where one man’s act can bring down another man’s country? With a tenth of our population living overseas and our local economy critically tied to their remittances, we can only hope that we are.

On the bright side, there is a wealth of evidence that Filipinos are among the best workers in the world. From the Arabian dunes to the Hong Kong skyline, countless paeans have been made to their dedication, commitment, etc… etc… ad nauseam. In other words, we can confidently say that we have more than enough human resources for growth.

Unfortunately we remain particularly vulnerable on two other areas of the development equation, namely capital and infrastructure.

As evidenced by the recent visit of Pres. Aquino to China, the Philippines needs more foreign investments to keep the country going. We need outside investments to help build our roads, bridges, dams, railways, telecommunications systems and a whole laundry list of other essential projects and programs.

This is particularly true for Mindanao, where neglect from the ‘national’ government has been institutionalized as policy and passed from one administration to the next. In Mindanao there is a desperate need for even the simplest kinds of development projects – things that our more affluent neighbors up north take for granted.

Just take the supply of electricity for example. It is an outrage that in contrast to the hardworking farmers of Mindanao who have to make do with the lowly gasera to light their homes at night, there is not one illegal squatter living in Metro Manila who does not have an electrical connection. It makes one wonder whether the policy makers and politicians in our nation’s capital place value on the lives of Filipinos based on geography, number of potential votes, or plain and simple patronage.

When will our leaders learn that an empowered Mindanao can only bring progress to the rest of the country? It is not something that they should fear. But by continually withholding the benefits that rightfully should go to this part of the country, they are helping to perpetuate the same policies used by Spanish and American colonizers to keep the native Filipino population docile and subservient all those centuries ago. That system did not work then, it certainly will not work now.

And just like in our rapidly shrinking world, we Filipinos should start realizing that the waters that serve to separate the islands in our archipelago are no longer enough to insulate us from what is happening with the rest of the country. The unequal distribution of resources that has disadvantaged Mindanao for so long has to stop, not just because it will be good for Mindanaoans, but because it is what needs to be done if we want the Philippines to move forward.

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