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May 2016 Elections: Rodrigo Duterte

Rodrigo Duterte
I’m not eligible to vote this coming election day, since I didn’t register. It’s just as well, because it allows me the capacity to see the events leading up to the May 2016 elections with a more objective eye; I don’t have anything at stake, and I don’t really care about who wins, so long as they don’t terribly screw up our country.
But seeing as to how we’re five days from the elections, I’d like to throw an impassioned view of things into the overfilled hat of anger, hate, and disillusion that’s pretty palpable throughout social media. There are five presidential candidates, five vice presidential candidates, and two nuisance candidates (Trillanes, I’m looking at you), so I’m going to be filling up the next five days with my opinion of who’s running, and why.

Today, we’ll be talking about the front-runner in this year’s elections. I’m talking about Rodrigo Duterte, the tough guy from Davao. A lot of my friends who are supporters of MarLeni don’t like him, and for good reason: he doesn’t really promise a government that celebrates the basic human rights of individuals.
I’m a bit less critical of Digong than I am of Mar, simply because I feel like Mar has disappointed me, whereas Digong wasn’t even in my radar until last year. I was somewhat impressed by his “hesitation” to run for the top post in the country, and I found his frank, straightforward manner something I could relate with. If there was ever anybody who could have made me consider voting, it was Digong back in the early part of 2015.
But if there’s one problem with a Duterte presidency, it’s this: the common people love him, but I don’t think they realize what having him as president would mean, exactly. I believe that Digong at the helm would mean that he’s going to go for the strict implementation of basic laws. That would mean that, in a perfect world, simple acts like smoking in public and jaywalking would be strictly monitored by the government. Protocol in places like city halls and other public services centers will follow procedure and protocol to the letter.
I’m all for that. And I believe this is part of what Digong stands for. I don’t mind being inconvenienced if it means that I have to walk to a jeepney stop, because jeeps can’t just stop anywhere, for example. But I don’t think people understand that this is what Digong is all about. They just think that the man with the macho bravado is the best thing that could ever happen in the country. Which is dangerous; if they vote him into office come May 9, and his strict rules end up suffocating the same people who placed his name in their ballot, then it’s going to be another case of mass dissatisfaction.
There’s also the policy for federalism. I was talking to a friend who said something that everybody voting Duterte should know about federalism. I paraphrased it, for brevity and clarity, but:
“Just keep in mind that if he wins, Metro Manila is pulled off the tax priority list. It's going to be hard and people will learn to blame Duterte for every lost subsidy. If he does pass federalism, the real estate bubble might just burst. Every rich family dug deep in "imperial Manila" will fight with all they have because their investments stand to crash. But after all that, and the country survives, we stand to have provinces with their own infrastructure. Which means if it works, then after some years of pain, the provinces will actually be worth living in.”
That statement summed up the best and worst things about federalism in one go. Just because we’re going to go federalist doesn’t mean we’re going to become a more successful country for it right away—or at all. The best and worst examples of federalist countries are the United States, where it works to an extent, and Mexico, where it doesn’t work very well at all. And if you’re voting for Duterte because of this, then you have to be aware that it can go either way—and whatever happens, Manila will suffer for it, at least at the start.
So I guess my biggest issue with Duterte isn’t his foreign policy (or lack thereof), his statesmanship, or his attitude. My biggest issue with Duterte is that most of the people voting for him don’t know what his policies mean, exactly. They just think that he’s the magic bullet. But then again, we thought PNoy was the magic bullet back in 2010. And yet here we are.

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