Sunday, October 21, 2018
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Can Duterte follow FVR’s act?

What do you remember of FVR?” an old friend asked, reminding me that I worked years ago for the former president Fidel V. Ramos. My friend thought it would be fun to compare the chiefs we had then and now.

So I said: “FVR was an extraordinary chief, a leader of great composure. He was not given to cursing over an annoyance, even when in one lousy day at the golf course every other ball he hit flew out of %$#&@z bounds.


“He loved to hear contrary opinions, to test the validity of his ideas. Thus, he shied away from conversing with perceived ‘yes men’ in the office. But he made sure they were around after a day’s work, to guarantee there’d be lusty laughter when he cracked his, uh, jokes.

“He was meticulous to a fault. Any submission to him more often than not went back to the sender with a pithy marginal note, ‘Complete staff work?’  which each understood to mean ‘Have you checked everything here with everybody… more importantly with the First Lady?’


“He loved explaining the unexplainable, and he did so with an excess of humor, casting aside technical jargon in favor of street prose. His favorite illustration aid, which brought as much hilarity as clarity about his topic to his listeners, was the old Filipino snack favorite, bibingka.”  (Here I was told by my friend to stop. I did. Our talk was starting to sound like “Celebrity Roast,” with FVR as the roastee.)

But really, what in my opinion differentiates Rodrigo Duterte from FVR?

FVR comported himself with quiet dignity; Du30 reminds you of the swagger and talk of Hollywood heavy James Cagney. FVR exhorted the nation to act with equanimity and confidence; Du30 gives the vast majority of us the heebie-jeebies, warning there will be no stop to the war on drugs until drug lords and pushers are all behind bars or under the ground.

FVR told longtime friends and allies: “Welcome, welcome to our shores, we treasure your friendship.” Du30 snaps: “P—ina nyo lahat, don’t meddle in our affairs.” FVR focused his energy on finding ways to solve the nation’s chronic problems—poverty, joblessness—and, in between, fixing his golf swing. Du30 focuses his on thinking up new ways to tweak the nose of Uncle Sam, frighten the durugistas, and discombobulate Sen. Leila de Lima.

I really think we should do something for Du30. No, not do anything improper or unlawful, or wish him ill, or, as his critics are probably thinking, cast some voodoo spell on him. Nothing of the sort. What I think we should do is try some positive procedures—the Bontoc tranquility dance, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s calming chants… I’m open to suggestions—to get him to understand that he’ll achieve more for our nation, small, weak, and poverty-stricken, with efforts done intelligently and tempered with good humor than one-liners that shock and awe.

We should help him retool himself, and hold him to his pledge to metamorphose into a New Duterte, clean in tongue, circumspect in pronouncements, fair in judgment. He can yet be another FVR!

Faulting his unorthodox ways and macho rhetoric and offering suggestions to recast them are not being insolent; it is the duty of the governed—we, the people—to do so, with due respect.


After all: Quidquid delirant reges plectuntur Achivi (Whatever aggravation possesses the chief, it is the common people who suffer).

* * *

Gualberto B. Lumauig ( is past president of the UST Philosophy and Letters Foundation, and former governor and representative of Ifugao.

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TAGS: fidel v. ramos, Gualberto Lumawig, Inquirer Commentary, Inquirer Opinion
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