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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Real problems for the President’s attention

/ 05:09 AM January 22, 2018

MELBOURNE — President Duterte has not learned his lesson from past administrations. In fact, he is repeating the mistakes of previous presidents. He is even about to commit the biggest blunder among all our leaders.

The reason a large pool of angry voters grew to bring an unconventional leader like Mr. Duterte to power is this: All previous presidents were viewed as insensitive to the real problems that common people face. Mr. Duterte is losing sight of the very reason he was brought to power by disenchanted people.

All previous presidents were obsessed with economic indicators like the gross national product, international credit standing and stock market performance, among others. In other words, they focused their energies on grandiose concepts that portrayed a better Philippines in theory. But they ignored the fact that economic power was in the hands of economic warlords who monopolized the economic incentives provided by the government. Whatever gains generated under high-flying economic programs were scooped up by the already wealthy, leaving crumbs for millions of long-suffering Filipinos.

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The mistakes of past presidents on the economic front are set to be repeated on the political front by Mr. Duterte in his far more grandiose plan to transform the country into a federal state. In fact, this impending blunder is even more lethal because with political power comes economic power in a politically backward country like the Philippines.

The President has trained his energies on his federalism plan which will supposedly make the Philippines a better country. But he closes his eyes to the glaring reality that political power in our provinces are in the hands of political warlords who will monopolize the expanded powers granted to provincial leaders under a federal form of government.

Mr. Duterte only has to observe the politicians in the House of Representatives who are gleefully supportive of federalism in order to find out the kind of people who will reap the rewards of his impending political blunder. These are people belonging to political dynasties who are the real causes of economic backwardness in the rural areas. It is not the allotment of powers, but the wielders of power, who are stunting development in the provinces.

The economic mistakes of previous presidents have allowed economic warlords to gain an iron grip on the levers of economic power. Meanwhile, it remains almost impossible for people in the lower classes to climb up the economic ladder. This has been the long-festering cause of so much angry disenchantment among Filipinos.

The impending mistake of the Duterte administration will give political warlords in the provinces a stranglehold on political power, even while they have long enjoyed the same. Meanwhile, ordinary people who have long wished to be freed from the clutches of these warlords will be delivered to their even tighter embrace if Mr. Duterte succeeds in his federalism ambition. This will result in so much disenchantment among the people that will fester, simmer and explode in serious political unrest in the near future.

Rodrigo Duterte was voted into power because ordinary people have long felt that their real-life problems had been ignored by a succession of presidents. But two years into his presidency, he has not demonstrated a visible urgency to wholeheartedly address the day-to-day problems that beset ordinary people.

A public transportation crisis that is held hostage by vested interests; an agricultural sector waylaid by syndicates manipulating supply, prices, inputs and loans; a legion of unemployed and underemployed citizens; millions of poor families with no access to education and health services; public contracts with gaping loopholes of corruption; a police force predisposed to criminality.

These are the real problems that ordinary people desperately want the President to pay attention to. Not some inconsequential issue like federalism.

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TAGS: federalism, Flea Market of Idea, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, political dynasties, Rodrigo Duterte
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