Political Naïveté

Political Naïveté

- in Opinion
DuterteComposite image 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 Roxas, doesn’t know what tasks to assign to her. So why the hell are you complaining?

Ahh…because 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, we’ll see why the feelings of Marcos Jr shouldn’t 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. It’s 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 COC’s 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 COC’s 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 didn’t win as a majority vice president in any provinces in the Visayas, but was plurality vice president in 2.

Duterte owned Mindanao. He’s the majority president in 21 out of 22 provinces, and the plurality president in 1 of them. He didn’t do that well in Luzon and the Visayas. In the Visayas, he’s the majority president in Cebu, the most vote rich province in the country. He’s 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.

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