Cutting corners

Published August 20, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



If there is one impression I have of the Duterte administration, it is that it is good in “cutting corners.”  Early in its term, a number of its cabinet members started issuing directives, suspending operations of

 Melito Salazar Jr.
Melito Salazar Jr.

companies without regard to protocols that necessitated going to a multi agency council.  Due process seems to have been ignored in a number of cases.  The anti-drug campaign with passionate encouragement of the President became a model of how to cut corners – no need to bring them to jail or the courts, as long as it seems they are resisting; finish them off.  The advice of former President Fidel V. Ramos to – shoot to disable, not shoot to kill, was not heeded. 

In military security, without regard to existing treaties and alliances, the Duterte administration did a u-turn and embraced China to the point of ignoring its intrusions into disputed territories where the Philippines had previously won its position in international tribunals.  Yet when one looks at the support in military equipment from China in comparison with traditional allies like the United Stares of America, Australia, and South Korea, one wonders whether the Chinese bear hug was worth it.

Cutting corners has worked in the area of protection of Filipino Overseas Workers.  Ignoring the usual diplomatic process and just being led by what his heart tells him, President Duterte has achieved an array of benefits for OFWs in the Middle East, especially in Kuwait.  His unshrinking posture has impressed the Middle East nationals that a popular personality who questioned the concessions provided, like the non-surrender of passports, received a barrage of criticism from her fellow nationals.

Attempts to cut corners by President Duterte allies could — as the case of former House Speaker Panteleon Alvarez — not only not succeed but could lead to one’s downfall.  Intent on ramming through the Federalism Charter in the legislature by having the two chambers vote as one and even enticing the congressmen with a “No-el scenario” so far away from Christmas, the legislators found their senses by kicking him out in favor of vastly experienced and politically savvy former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  She has her own baggage but she has enough of former appointees in the present bureaucracy to get her initiatives adopted and push change in the Duterte term.

Cutting corners works for President Duterte when the institution itself facilitates the process.  Expressing publicly his displeasure with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Serrano (one of three strong ladies, the other being Senator Leila de Lima in jail and Ombudsman Conchita Morales in retirement), his allies in Congress were swift to open impeachment proceedings ruling in the opposite direction from the manner that impeachment charges against him were handled.  Supreme Court justices enthusiastically showed the public that they were mere mortals as they became witnesses in the congressional proceedings in what they said and how they said it.  Finally realizing that a Senate trial may not prosper, the Duterte minions dug up the “quo warranto” approach and with, the justices previously participating in the congressional sessions refusing to inhibit themselves, dislodged the Chief Justice.

Now, it seems frustrated by his administration’s inability to score meaningful accomplishments in his main campaigns – anti-drug, anti-corruption, and Build, Build, Build, President Duterte wants to step down but not following the Constitution.  Instead of Vice President Leny Robredo, the President has mentioned former Senator Bongbong Marcos, Senator Chiz Escudero and, horrors, even a military junta.  Sounds like impeachable acts, as none follows the Constitution.  Will the Filipino people grappling with high inflation allow the President to cut corners with the Constitution?  I doubt it.