By Melito Salazar Jr.
The recent shooting in a high school in Florida, USA, that killed 17 and wounded scores of others is an indictment of the American democratic system which allows lobby groups to direct legislation to serve the best interests of business rather than the public. Using nonprofit and advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization founded in 1871 that stands for the protection of the Second Amendment which guarantees a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, those engaged in the manufacture and trade of guns have been able to stop any legislative proposal to regulate the sale of guns even for clearly identified high risk-groups. Swaying public opinion, they and their allies in Congress have come up with “words of wisdom” – Guns do not kill people; people do.
The situation also reflects the state of USA politics where a political party can win the presidency without a majority in the popular vote but with the needed electoral votes. This is achieved by catering to fringe groups that are able to swing the electoral votes in the states by the narrowest of margins but delivering the full bulk to their candidate. These highly politicized groups are mostly pro-gun, anti-immigration, anti-globalization and anti-Washington/federal bureaucracy. No wonder that the Republican Party now captured by previous outsider President Donald Trump is catering to this core constituency despite the fact that the national surveys show the American majority are on the opposite side of the fence.
Such a big difference compared to the Philippines. While President Duterte won the plurality and like President Trump not the majority, he is continuing to garner high ratings in the national surveys. It means that unlike President Trump and the Republican Party, the Duterte administration has been able to expand its supporters’ base beyond the initial avid (rabid?) campaigners. The Trump administration can benefit from following in the footsteps of the Duterte team despite the criticisms President Duterte continues to get internationally.
At the slightest hint of inappropriate behavior President Duterte is quick to compel even his own appointees to resign if not to be outright fired. While at times his action is proven wrong – take the case of General Santiago of PDEA whose foreign trips turned out to be authorized; who never received a house from a drug lord (it was another general) – still the public lapped it up. In the case of President Trump despite the photo of the first wife bruised and battered, he kept repeating the “innocence” angle of his aide.
The high credibility of President Duterte stems from his war against drugs. Despite the accusations of extra judicial killings (EJK) from both international (the United Nations) and local (church, civil society and journalists) critics, the general public has supported the concentrated focus on eliminating the drug menace. The public has expressed that they approve the war but at the same time disapprove the generally unaccepted conduct, especially that of the police; which President Duterte was quick to respond to by removing the police and letting the PDEA to take the lead. Lately, the police have returned to the campaign but equipped with body cameras and accompanied by media. President Trump may want to shift from driving out the “Dreamers” to driving out of the United States the drug dealers, especially the major ones.
I will not be surprised if President Trump will start calling President Duterte for advice. Then we will see a greatly changed United States of America.