Crispin Maslog: A love-hate relationship with President Duterte

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A Rappler video on YouTube of the ousting of Senator Leila de Lima yesterday as chair of the Justice Committee. The senator is one of the most outspoken critics of Duterte’s policies.

OPINION: By Crispin Maslog

It looks like I am developing a love-hate relationship with you, Mr President. There is much to love about you, Sir, although I did not vote for you. To start with, you have shown political will.

As promised, you have pushed your all-out war against drugs. I love it, and so do 91 percent of other Filipinos. But I hate it when your police kill mostly the poor. The statistics are fluid, but I understand some 3000 have been killed so far. According to reports, many were not given a chance to give up peacefully but were gunned down on the run by police or by assets.

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte ... "Not only are [Duterte's] statements unworthy of a president but they could also be regarded as violations of the law on defamation." Image: RSF Paris
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte … “As promised, you have pushed your all-out war against drugs. I love it, and so do 91 percent of other Filipinos. But I hate it when your police kill mostly the poor.” Image: RSF Paris
I also hate it when you coddle drug lords like Mayor Espinosa. This shatters your credibility. But I will suspend judgment on this issue. After all, you have been in office only three months.

To your critics, I say: Wait three years before we praise or condemn your methods. I can appreciate the argument that if the disease is serious it needs urgent intervention, even surgery.

You showed guts when you said you would push hard on family planning. Previous presidents have all been afraid of the Catholic Church. Not you, Sir. You hit the nail on the head when you said the main reason we are poor is that we do not manage our family sizes. Our development rate cannot match our rate of population increase.

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There are other things to love since you took office. Foremost among them are your peace efforts with the National Democratic Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front, and the Lumad, and your decision to go after the Abu Sayyaf. When you appointed leftist activists to the Cabinet, you showed guts. We pray for your success.

‘Let’s do it’ attitude
I like the “Let’s do it!” attitude among the Cabinet secretaries and the top-level officials of the government bureaucracy. To the list of people I admire in your Cabinet, please add Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, who are Silliman University alumni known for their religious values.

People are still waiting, however, for this culture to sink in to the lowest levels in the barangay.

We in the mass media are impressed by two things you have done or will do for us only three months into your presidency. These two things three previous administrations have not been able or were willing to do.

P-Noy made the campaign promise to pass the freedom of information bill to make government operations transparent.  After six years, nothing. In one month you issued an executive order mandating FOI in the executive branch.

Then you promised to turn PTV Network and the Public Information Authority into a Public Broadcasting System along the lines of BBC. This has been a favourite project of communication academe since I can remember, but commercial interests always blocked our attempts.

Now you have given us hope that sometime soon we can improve the quality of our broadcasting industry with competition from a public broadcasting system. The commercial teleseries have made us an under-informed but over-entertained society.

168 exceptions
But what worries me is that your communication office is listing 168 exceptions to the draft FOI law, which will definitely emasculate it.

Now for some unsolicited advice. I was not really intending to go into this, until US President Barack Obama called you a “colourful character,” in reaction to a diplomatic faux pax you committed.

Please, Mr President, control your temper. I saw that video of you gritting your teeth and swearing under your breath that if the US president asked you about extrajudicial killings at the Asean Summit, you would insult his mother. And, reading your lips, I saw that you actually did, even before you met him in Laos.

Sir, that is just not done in polite society. As President of the Republic, you cannot be the same “colourful character” you were as mayor of Davao City. Those are two different positions.

Earlier, you also verbally abused the Chief Justice. It is a good thing she did not answer back, but kept her cool, and you apologised. I give you brownie points for apologising. It takes a great man to own up to his mistakes.

Then you ran amuck and threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at a senator of the Republic. Even assuming she is guilty as charged, she does not have to be shamed on national television. It runs counter to our culture of saving face.

Innocence legal dictum
Besides, whatever happened to the legal dictum “presumed innocent until proven guilty”? It looks like the senator is now guilty until proven innocent.

Finally, Mr President, I hate your insistence on allowing Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Have you forgotten the abuses of the Marcos regime? I can understand why the millennials do not care if the guy is buried there or not. They do not know any better.

But our generation saw the human rights abuses and the systematic plunder of the Philippine economy by Marcos and his cronies. We know how he fabricated the story of his war medals to get US war veterans’ pension.

Now you want to honour him as a hero? Forget the legalities, Mr President. If anything else, the issue here is morality. It is immoral to bury an SOB in that cemetery. Pardon my French.

Crispin C. Maslog is a former journalist with Agence France-Presse and communication professor at Silliman University and University of the Philippines Los Baños. This commentary was first published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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