Covid conceals DU30’s failings Manila Bulletin

Covid conceals DU30’s failings Featured

THE reason why the Centrist Democrats (CDP) gravitated toward the candidate Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 was that our tenets and programs of government coincided with those of his political party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan. To the uninitiated, a short digression. We are a non-traditional political party founded during the last decade.

Human dignity, our core value, is promoted by our adherence to a body of beliefs characterized by the four pillars of Centrist Democracy: social market economy; federalism and parliamentary government; the institutionalization of real political parties; all under the overarching ideals of democracy and the rule of law.

Corollary to the four pillars is our party platform encompassing the basic needs of the Filipino under the acronym of HEED: for health, employment, education and dwelling. These are the fundamental take-off from which poverty in the country is meant to be alleviated through the establishment of an efficient welfare state system.

An important lesson

If there is anything that is most glaring during this pandemic season, it is the deficiency in our public healthcare system, coupled with a near total absence of welfare mechanisms. Due to meager resources, we had to defeat the coronavirus by mimicking other countries’ defensive stance: quarantine and lockdown to contain the virus. While other countries combined these drastic moves with massive “testing, tracing and isolation” (TTI) of the infected, eventually “flattening their curves,” we fell short. In hindsight, we could have diverted funds to TTI initiatives in lieu of very long lockdown periods causing the near-collapse of our economy, instead of populist dole-outs and hairbrained initiatives like Balik Probinsya.

But this is all water under the bridge now. But the ramifications of what happened cuts to the core of our collective negligence. Our public healthcare system is primitive, to say the least. In 2017 (latest figures) World Bank data on Philippine per capita health care expenditure was $133, or just 4.45 percent of the gross domestic product, putting us on 102nd place out of 141 countries. Equivalent figures for Canada, $4,755; Denmark, $5,800; and Sweden, $5,904 make them the world’s top three countries in best health care. Along with Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany, these countries have excellent comprehensive welfare state systems which the Philippines should emulate, where social spending represents the largest individual item of public expenditure.

Welfare state derailed — promises, promises

The Deegong ran and won riding on three major promises, under his slogan “Pagbabago,” which were the linchpin of his administration. Initiate structural political reforms through the revision of the 1987 Constitution and a shift from the unitary system of government to federalism; the elimination of illegal drugs that is pushing the country toward a narcostate; and the eradication of corruption in all levels of government — tall orders, all.

By July 2018, the Consultative Committee formed to study the revision of the 1987 Constitution submitted its “Bayanihan Constitution” to Congress. For a time, the lower house went through a tableau of hearings before eventually sweeping the same to the legislative dustbin. To deliver the coup de grace the initiative for Charter revisions was then passed on to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and placed under a minor functionary. It was then obvious that Duterte has washed his hands of and dropped the ball on federalism.

His second agenda netted him some minor drug lords but his tokhang methods produced no major drug kingpins. What we got instead were thousands of dead Filipinos and worldwide condemnation for human rights violations. And drugs still seep through.

Unraveling of the presidency

But perhaps the biggest deficit of this administration is on his third campaign promise to reduce corruption in government. And this was symbolized by what is now known as his Duterte Doctrine. He himself declared sublimely that he would not tolerate any corruption in his administration and he would dismiss from office any of his men (and women) who are tainted even by a “whiff of corruption”; and he is ready to sack any public officials even on a basis of false allegations of corruption.

In a series of bloodletting, he executed this doctrine with surgical precision. Two Cabinet secretaries, the DILG’s Mike Sueno and Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo got the axe for alleged anomalies. Then a charade of firings and dismissals ensued: Social Security System Commissioner Pompee la Viña, fired then transferred to the Department of Tourism as undersecretary; and Bureau of Customs chief Gen. Isidro Lapeña (Philippine Military Academy, ‘73), implicated in a smuggling case, “dismissed” and subsequently appointed as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority head.

In the Bureau of Customs, we have the tale of the “three stooges,” high officials implicated in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment scandal. The three were fired/resigned. It really didn’t matter as in a few months, they were reappointed to higher offices; Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo as director in the Office of Transportation Security and ADG at the Civil Aviation Authority, respectively. The third man, Customs Commissioner Nick Faeldon, PRRD’s compadre was “fired” then assigned as Commissioner of the Bureau of Corrections — where the Good Conduct Time Allowance scandals erupted.

And recently, we have the case of Gen. Debold Sinas of the National Capital Region Police Office who flaunted his disdain for quarantine rules that he himself was mandated to enforce. He remained untouched. And now we have Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd, allegedly implicated in a corruption scandal at the Department of Health. Fourteen senators have called for his resignation. And the ludicrous defense of the President’s spokesman is “…Duque will not steal from government because [his] family [is] already affluent…”

And we have many, many more of these Duterte farces. These presidential acts reinforce the perception of the Duterte Doctrine of whiff of corruption to be a monumental hoax when close and loyal president’s men are involved.

Fighting the oligarchy

For a time, we were excited when he started a fight against the oligarchs. But he couldn’t quite finish it. His initial salvo at the ABS-CBN Corp. displaying his resolve, petered out.

ABS-CBN will get its franchise back. It has enough chips to cash in from all the congressmen and senators the Lopezes own. A franchise is for 25 years. The Deegong has only two years remaining and will soon be a lameduck president. Tradpols know how this is played out.

Balik Probinsiya

A failed Imelda program revived by the President’s subaltern was touted as a partial solution to the overpopulation of Metro Manila and the clearing of slums that are the breeding grounds for coronavirus contagion — and crime. Expectations were high and thousands applied, but the program was quietly withdrawn as the local government units that will receive the brunt of the exodus never did buy into the half-thought idea. Professor Ronald Mendoza, a noted political scientist has this to say: “These types of programs tend to be a waste of public-sector resources and merely become ‘ningas cogon’ — they eventually collapse due to the sheer size of the challenge and lack of significant impact.”

And meantime the coronavirus is here to stay, until when no one knows. We endured through the longest lockdown, yet infections are spiking, our people are dying, and the economy is collapsing. Many will come out of this — damaged but surviving. We need a President who can lead us, heal us — make us whole. Is Duterte up to it?000
Read 215 times Last modified on Wednesday, 01 July 2020 10:35
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