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A golden age for warlords

Change is (not) coming” under the Duterte administration, because the iron hand of government is being used against the people instead of being wielded against crooked leaders who ruin our country.

The Duterte government continues with the tradition of disciplining people but exempting the rulers, a practice began during colonial times. The Spanish, American and Japanese regimes imposed rules that were ruthlessly applied exclusively against the people. After our country gained independence, the same tradition continued under the reign of Filipino leaders. Rules are for ordinary citizens, while our leaders treat themselves as a privileged class exempt from the same regulations. Our leaders shield each other from the application of laws that are strictly enforced against ordinary Filipinos.

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President Joseph Estrada was convicted of plunder but was pardoned by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Senate and the House of Representatives refuse to implement Ombudsman orders permanently dismissing from public service both Sen. Joel Villanueva and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia. Four senators charged with nonbailable offenses—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Leila de Lima—were allowed to stay in special detention quarters at Camp Crame, while ordinary mortals are sent to jam-packed prisons.

While government clerks are dismissed for the theft of a few thousand pesos, presidents give senators and congressmen tacit license to embezzle tens of millions yearly from their pork barrel allocations.

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The strongest proof that our leaders band together as a privileged class is the fact that they flock together as allies of any new president or members of the new political party in power, regardless of their previous party affiliation. Even the Liberal Party, which should have functioned as the default opposition party after the 2016 elections, formed an alliance with the Duterte administration, even when extrajudicial killings were happening by the thousands.

It would take a president with strong grit, and with a personality that instills fear or reverence among our leaders, to completely rehabilitate our politicians’ wayward ways. Change will not come until the people install a national leader who will use the formidable powers of government to compel sweeping reforms in our political culture.

President Duterte held so much promise of becoming such a leader at the start of his presidency. But, instead of cleansing the ranks of our politicians or shepherding them to straighten their ways, he has ushered in a golden age for political warlords.

Under the Duterte administration, leaders and their kin who stand accused of causing so much damage to our country have been resurrected and given powerful positions. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now Speaker, and Mr. Duterte openly declares his preference for former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as his successor. The new political party of the President’s daughter, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, welcomes with open arms the stream of traditional politicians who are stampeding to join its fold.

Pork barrel allocations have also skyrocketed under the current administration. According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, some legislators now get P1 billion and even P5 billion to P6 billion per year. At a conservative “commission” rate of 10 percent, some legislators are pocketing at least P100 million per year or a whopping P300 million for a single term in Congress. Legislators need “massive rehabilitation and detox” for their “addiction to money,” said Lacson.

The most chilling illustration that the “tayo-tayo” culture among our politicians is even more entrenched now is the list of sponsors at the wedding of the daughter of former governor Zaldy Ampatuan, an accused principal in the Ampatuan massacre. It includes stalwarts of the Duterte administration, the Binays, a Cojuangco, a senator, Comelec commissioners, and a military general.

Change is not coming. We are being led farther astray from the path of change.

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TAGS: Duterte administration, leadership, Philippines, politics
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