From the Editor:
Forty one days into his administration, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is going full steam with his promises – from the drug war to making peace with the Communists. Invariably, he is faced with fierce opposition as well as unrelenting support.
While we have our own opinion about what is happening in the land of our birth (and we will speak from time to time) we will defer to the voices of those who are on the ground and how they see it from their vantage point.
We will try to balance our choices of news or opinions to feature.
We welcome your opinions as well and if we miss something that you think should be included, please write to us at:[email protected] or post your comments at philippine canadian news.com
We begin with an opinion column by Sun Star Cagayan de Oro’s Arnold P. Alamon.
Alamon: Go slow
ARNOLD P. ALAMON
WRAPPED IN GREY
Sun Star, Cagayan de Oro
August 8, 2016
IT IS HARD to keep tabs of everything President Duterte says without being reduced to a chain-smoking nervous wreck waiting for that irresponsible slur to drop.
In the past weeks, his vitriol was directed not just to the pushers and drug lords and the narcopoliticians and the police who protect them. But he has also trained his sights on human rights defenders who have called attention to the rising body count of his ruthless campaign against drugs.
Erstwhile allies have also been at the receiving end of his tirades. The Left in the past few days have been given more than just the cold shoulder. It can be said that the peace talks between the government and the communists were momentarily placed in peril when a word war between him and Joma Sison escalated quickly on the subject of the CPP’s inability to offer a reciprocal ceasefire.
Coinciding with his visit to numerous military camps after his first Sona, he repeatedly issued statements whipping up his soldier’s appetite for a military victory with his promise of new equipment, more soldiers, and funds versus the four decade-old insurgency. From someone who once professed a clear understanding of the roots of the armed conflict and convinced many cynical supporters to begrudgingly take his side with his promise of addressing these, it was definitely a big let down to hear him speak so recklessly.
One wonders if his administration remains serious in achieving a political settlement to the civil war raging in the Philippine countryside or are his statements an indication of a 180 degree policy shift from negotiating to unleashing the dogs of war once again to achieve what countless administrations before him failed to secure in almost half a century – that of crushing the New People’s Army with the brute force of the State.
One way to make sense of this apparent turnaround is that it is a revelation of an idiosyncratic trait where you have a president who panders to the whims and interests of an assembled audience.
Before soldiers in formation, he is their Commander-in-Chief and in an informal meeting with leftist demonstrators invited to the palace, he is a gracious and amiable host.
No wonder his official cabinet seem to have difficulty following through with tangible plans to realize his pronouncements, because they are usually bold and knee-jerk, and tailor-fitted to a specific audience.
Beyond these observations on the unique personality traits of the current President, his visits to military camps in the three major island groups and the sharp shift in rhetoric can be interpreted as an attempt to consolidate the Philippine military to his side.
It is a necessary move given his attempt to dismantle the architecture of narcopolitics which have infiltrated all spheres of governance as the recent list of drug personalities reveals. It is a formidable battle for sure and his statements declaring his willingness to die for the country for the sake of his war against drugs indicates the threats that his life and administration is facing. Perhaps, to his mind he needs all the fire power he can get to keep his government in place in order to save the Republic from narcopolitics and thus, he must coalesce with the Right.
So is this shift in rhetoric indicative of some sort of Solomonic decision that in order for the goals of the anti-drug campaign be achieved, far-right elements should be satisfied and the Left and its demand for comprehensive social and economic reforms be set aside? This is where the danger lies.
The single-minded approach in the current drug campaign and its destabilizing effect might be the Trojan horse for right-wing interests to creep their way to this administration.
Before he knows it, the President shall have become a rabble-rousing president launching not just a war against drugs but also against a wide swath of organized Filipinos fighting for the rights of the poor and the oppressed.
Instead of being the protector and savior of the Filipino people, Duterte shall have become its number one oppressor all because he was incapable of harnessing the enormous political capital which catapulted him to presidency; all because he does not trust the civilian authority as well as the judicial and legal institutions to do his bidding and instead relies on what should be his reserve arsenal, the military.
For all his bravado and passionate vision, Duterte’s weakness is revealed. As the cleansing in Davao and the rest of the country now show, he is also a terribly impatient old man.