Written by Erwin S. Fernandez.

Grace Poe’s citizenship and ten-year residency were legitimated in the heat of judicial bias. As a Pangasinan, I do not consider her a daughter of Pangasinan as her spindoctors would like to project her to Pangasinan voters. Mar Roxas will only continue a standard of incompetence that is the trademark of the current administration while Jejomar Binay will surpass Marcos thievery if given the chance. Miriam Defensor Santiago knows her time time has passed for the presidency and her choice of Bongbong Marcos is suspect of her political color. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, the lone candidate from Mindanao whose roots can be traced to Samar Province in a contest dominated by Ilonggos with the exception of Binay who is a Tagalog-Ibanag, seems to be the dark horse.

Is it authoritarianism or the felt need for competent leadership?

A Duterte presidency appeals the increasing public receptiveness to dictatorship that harks back to Marcosian authoritarianism. Lawlessness and the declining peace and order during the present presidency only heightened the people’s desire to have a president who has a political will to curb crimes. Duterte appears to exhibit the qualities of a competent leader lacking in PNoy or in Mar Roxas. However perceived need for competence is mistaken to be a longing for a return of martial law.

Others have equated the receptivity of Bongbong to voters with the same public desire for the return of authoritarian rule. Again, it has little to do with the romantic but flawed perception of a Marcos golden years but it has more to do with the increasing identification of the Aquinos and their allies with incompetence. The more PNoy tolerates incompetence in his government, the more people will identify with the Marcoses as they are their archenemy in politics. The public in their binary political understanding see the Marcoses as antidote to Aquino incompetence. Therefore, whatever negative points against PNoy and his cabinet secretaries, the most glaring is DOTC’s Jun Abaya, is a plus for Bongbong. What could have prevented this sympathy for the Marcoses in terms of vote is the immediate relief of people associated with incompetence and corruption. Their continued stay in government could only mean instant vote loss for Roxas and Leni Robredo.

In contrast, Digong displays visionary and pragmatic leadership with Davao City to boot. Touted as one of the world’s safest cities although this is subject to dispute, Davao under Duterte leadership showcases a brand of Duterte rule in which the rule of law is observed, something that is lacking in the status quo. His platform of eradicating corruption, crimes and drugs in six months appealed to the electorate belonging to classes A to E wary of the unmitigated rise of criminality and illegal drugs trade and abuse. During the five years of Aquino administration, these problems were not given the attention they deserve.

Not ending drugs but a warning that he means business to lessen the problem

It was only when Digong revealed to media that the protectors of the narcotic trade were inside the Philippine National Police that they frantically launched a program, the Oplan Lambat Sibat, last year, which Roxas took credit of initiating to highlight his accomplishments. It was rather too late a response to a serious problem that escalated in the preceding administrations and the so-called Daang Matuwid could have held back the proliferation of drugs and unmade the perilous road to a narco-state where families benefiting from it had sought offices and got elected. Those who chide Duterte for promising to end drugs since they reasoned that it was next to impossibility, fail to see that a declaration against drugs is necessary to warn those who think that it will be business as usual after the elections.

I can understand the rabid support that Duterte is getting from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because a crime-and-drug free country will be in their best interests. They leave the country for greener pastures but all their hardships and earnings for their families will go to waste if their children would be involved in drugs, raped, murdered or hold-upped because peace and order situation in the country had gone to the dogs. A state that allows the proliferation of drugs, immediate riches for those involved and the utter breakdown of peace and order is an insult to the millions of Filipinos breaking their backs and enduring the long distance away from their families to earn a decent living.

Any thinking individual will know that the eradication of crime and drugs in six months is hyperbole . Duterte is aware of this – his city is not even immune to these same issues – but a national platform that promises an end to criminality and drugs is already a strong motivation for millions of Filipinos fed up with the lousy implementation of the law and pathetic prevention, if not tolerance and lenience toward, crimes and drug pushing and use.

Federalism and the political economy of identity and representation

It was recently put forward that Duterte’s perceived brand of authoritarianism appealed to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) looking for someone who could be agreeable to a peace process. By aligning the Philippine left with Duterte, it takes a dig at how the CPP-NPA could agree to a candidate with supposed fascist bent. Duterte forged not only ties with the CPP-NPA but has managed also to maintain cordial relations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), two active secessionist groups in Mindanao. As political warlord in the periphery where Manila’s hold is at best minimal and exacerbated by a weak military, Duterte has no choice but to compromise with these armed groups. A political landscape such as this gives Duterte the advantage of striking a deal with them particularly since he advocated an alternative to the present political system in need of a drastic overhaul: federalism and parliamentary form of government.

Erwin S. Fernandez is an independent researcher based in Urdaneta City. This article forms part of IAPS continuing coverage of the Philippines general election. Image credit: Screencap/Youtube.

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