A better president?

As President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency comes to its penultimate moments, support for him has not faltered. Recent approval ratings and preferential surveys for the top executive seats show favor for his administration, the Filipino admiration over him as strong as ever.

With less than 50 days before the filing of certificates of candidacy, many politicians have shown interest in or have been gaining support for a presidential and vice-presidential run, much to the distaste and fear of many. Among these individuals are Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, former Duterte aide-turned-politician Sen. Bong Go, and presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. 

A Go-Duterte tandem has so far been confirmed as they will run under the ruling party PDP-Laban. On the other hand, Moreno, who grew up as a celebrity plucked from the streets of Tondo, became a loyal vice mayor-turned-mayor who was always deemed to have deserved the spotlight and is now a strong contender for the chief executive position. 

“Not another Duterte president,” his critics cry out at the prospect of allowing Duterte’s interests and brand of leadership to stay atop Malacañang Palace. But what is “another Duterte president”? There seem to be two kinds: the family, the friends, and the followers; and the “alternatives” who also capitalized on the same rise-from-nothing story as Duterte. The last time we voted for a “Duterte” president, we ended up with a fascist, misogynistic murderer. 

But consider this: suppose there was a candidate that promises peace and quick fixes to the problems that continue to plague the country. A candidate that is decisive and will fill in the current administration’s potholes—one that is firm and strong and is straightforward and honest. A candidate that finally stands up against the elites with integrity in their stance and strength in their beliefs. Would you favor them? Who would fit such a description?

If you ask the electorate back in 2016, a sizable number of them would have said that that candidate was Duterte. And, if you ask the people now, at least according to the surveys, most will still say the same. 

Duterte promised to end criminality—corruption and illegal drug trade—by six months into his term. He presented himself as the complete opposite of what former President Benigno Aquino III was. He was crass, irreverent, and apparently amusingly disrespectful to the powerful institutions holding the country together. He was an edgy kid at best and an anarchist at worst. 

Despite all of that, he still won the seat at the Palace. If it worked in 2016, it may work again in 2022. 

In our attempts to find a polar opposite to the current administration, there is an undeniable risk of ending up right back where we started—under the rule of a clueless outsider that turns to tyrannical tendencies to get by. 

As Duterte’s presidency nears its end, with less than 50 days before the filing of certificates of candidacy, “not another Duterte president” must mean something more than what it seems like at face value. Rather than focusing on finding a president opposite of Duterte, it is high time to rethink, ponder on, and reflect on what exactly we need in a better one. 

Kim Balasabas

By Kim Balasabas

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