A vote for systemic change

May 18, 2016 at 09:53

A vote for systemic change

INTROSPECTIVE by Calixto V. Chikiamco | Posted on May 15, 2016 11:05:00 PM

The electoral victory of Davao City Mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte can’t be interpreted anything else other than as a vote for systemic change. Not just change, but systemic, radical change.

It certainly wasn’t a vote for continuity. Mar Roxas, who ran on continuing “Daang Matuwid,” received just 23.5% of the vote. The rest, 76.5% of the vote, wanted some form of change.

The other presidential candidates offered change, but not systemic change.

Grace Poe, could only offer to fire the current DoTC officials, but not really radical change. She ran as alternative candidate of the Establishment, getting the support of the Makati Business Club, San Miguel, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and the Samar faction in Malacañang. She too offered some form of continuity to “Daang Matuwid.”

VP Jejomar Binay didn’t really run as an oppositionist candidate. He ran against Mar Roxas, but not really President Aquino, with whom he still has ties. His old strategy of making the Philippines like Makati didn’t resonate this time with a public seething with anger at the status quo. Although he ran a populist campaign with promises of social goodies like abolishing the income tax and free health care for the poor, the public didn’t want to be bribed. They wanted action, justice, and radical change. Unable to answer the corruption charges against him, he wasn’t able to offer a credible alternative of change.

In style and substance, only Rodrigo Duterte offered a radical change to the status quo. He trash talks, punctuating his sentences with expletives. He says politically-incorrect things, from sexist jokes to seeming approval of extra-judicial killings.

He’s a political outsider. He’s the mayor of a city in far-off Mindanao, which never had any presidential candidate. He became a last-minute candidate of PDP-Laban, whose members can fit into a Volkswagen (the Beetle, not the Touareg).

His life is anything but pristine. He admits to having several female partners. Although 71 years of age, he dresses, acts, and swears like a canto boy.

He admits to being an intellectual underachiever, being kicked out of school, and taking years to finish his secondary education.

It would be mistake to frame his candidacy as a hunger for dictatorship, with some foreign journalists even describing him as “The Dirty Harry” of the Philippines. While it’s true that he started out his campaign with a law and order platform and a hard fist against drug pushers and criminals, he evolved his campaign with a call for radical change, hence, the slogan “Tunay na Pagbabago” (True Change).

He called for Federalism, or decentralization, because the Manila-centric power structure allowed the oligarchs to block change. He says he’s a “socialist,” not a communist, but offering visions of uniting the Left (Jose Ma. Sison) and the Right (Marcos). He says he has part Moro blood and pushes for federalism as the solution to the demands of the MNLF and the MILF.

His economic ideas are similarly a radical break from the usual policy prescriptions of traditional politicians. He says he’s for stopping land reform, a political no-no for almost all politicians. (And this is why it’s confusing to call him a communist). He’s for leasing out whole islands to foreigners. He’s for changing the Constitution to allow for 70% foreign ownership of corporations.

Even on social policy, there’s a promise of change. He says he doesn’t care for the Catholic hierarchy, even likening the bishops to corrupt bureaucrats. He approves of gay marriage and medical marijuana.

It would be a mistake for the Manila-based oligarchs to treat him as another politician with whom they can cut deals. For one thing, his principal political support — Pastor Quiboloy, Mindanao businessmen, social media — is outside their traditional spheres of influence. For another, his candidacy transformed from being one man’s quest for power into a social movement, indicated by small contributions to his campaign from thousands of supporters.

Indeed, Leoncio Evasco, Jr., the former rebel priest, mayor of Maribojoc, Bohol, and the National Campaign Manager of Mayor Duterte, during the controversy caused by Senator Trillanes’ exposes on the alleged bank accounts of Mayor Duterte, framed the campaign as a class war: “The May 9 presidential election is no longer a narrow choice between and among contending forces of the ruling class. It has become a matter of choice between the rich and poor. The perfumed and the sweat-soaked. The silky smooth and the callous hands. The lissome and the ginger feet. The moneyed and the hungry.”

What is the status quo that the public seems so angry about and why is it demanding systemic change?

It’s the post-EDSA order enshrined in the 1987 Cory Constitution that after 27 years, has not addressed the problems of widespread poverty, high income inequality, the rural insurgencies, and corruption and inefficiency in government. Instead, it has produced a corrupt, incompetent bureaucracy (e.g. DA, DoTC, etc.); a dysfunctional unitary government characterized by political dynasties lubricated by pork barrel; and a lack of genuine and accountable political parties.

In the economic field, the post-EDSA order restored the old, anti-Marcos oligarchy and protected them with anti-FDI provisions in the Constitution and other laws. The post-Edsa order’s alleged pro-poor and anti-insurgency signature legislation — CARP or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, passed in 1987 — instead caused agricultural stagnation in the countryside and failed to quell the world’s longest-running rural insurgency.

While the post-EDSA order liberalized tariffs in accordance with international treaties and agreements, it protected monopolies in key service (non-tradable) industries — telecommunications, ports, shipping, utilities, etc. — leading to the shrinking of manufacturing for which these are inputs. It relied on consumer spending, principally financed by OFW remittances and lately, BPO earnings — to spur the economy. The result? Lopsided growth in favor of consumption, not investments; low-productivity services, not manufacturing or agriculture; Metro Manila and cities, not the countryside.

The post-EDSA order was guarded by the Yellow faction in the ruling class together with its allies in the traditional Catholic hierarchy. Former President Estrada was thwarted when he tried to remove the foreign ownership restrictions in the Constitution early in his term and was ultimately deposed by the Yellow crowd in alliance with Cardinal Sin and the Catholic hierarchy. President Aquino similarly killed an initiative to amend the Constitution by Speaker Belmonte. President Aquino’s candidate, Mar Roxas, opposes Charter Change.

Make no mistake about it: the election of Rodrigo Duterte is an indictment of the post-EDSA order and represents a clamor for systemic change. Whether he will be able to deliver on that mandate is a burden big enough for him to cry over his mother’s grave.

Source: www.bworldonline.com

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