The April 26-29 survey of Pulse Asia, commissioned by ABS CBN, shows Rodrigo Duterte (33%) retaining his double-digit lead over Mar Roxas (22%) and Grace Poe (21%), following a similar trend tracked by Social Weather Station, another credible survey company, a few days before the May 9 election.
Analysts, however, said that while Duterte enjoys an edge and momentum over his closest rivals, he is by no means assured of victory in the presidential race on May 9.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, a professor at the University of the Philippines and executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform, cited two significant factors which can possibly decide ultimately the outcome of the presidential race. He outlined on May 1 these factors during an interview with Pinoy Life, a Hong Kong-based radio program for Filipinos and English-speaking communities in this city.
“There is this so-called bloc of ‘soft votes’ of about 20 to 25% [of total voting population] which can swing from one candidate to another depending on the latest developments in the political arena. In a tight contest like what we have, these soft votes can certainly help decide the outcome,” said Casiple.
“President [Benigno] Aquino is another important factor. If he doesn’t really want Duterte to win, he can possibly persuade one or two candidates to drop out from the race and support the candidate with a strong chance of beating Duterte,” he said, adding: “In this way, votes for any candidate who might drop out might go to the one supported by Aquino.”
Other analysts have said that in the event of a Duterte presidency, his term will likely be plagued and hounded no end by a host of major issues notably the following: 1] alleged ill-gotten wealth and corruption (P2.4 billion in undeclared bank deposits, 41 undeclared properties and huge contributions from Pastor Apollo Quiboloy); 2] threat of impeachment in Congress led by Antonio Trillanes; 3] questions on sources of his alleged ill-gotten wealth and whether chunks came from illegal activities; and, 4] violent backlash from his iron-fisted approach to criminality.
With just a few days to the national election from the date of this writing (May 4), scores of the most prominent personalities in Philippine society, including the head of the Philippine Catholic church, have spoken out against a possible Duterte presidency. They have effectively described the presidential election as a great battle between “the forces of good and the forces of evil.”
BATTLE BETWEEN FORCES OF GOOD AGAINST EVIL
On May 1, a pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP) was read in all Catholic churches across the country, asking voters to reject “a candidate who takes positions that are not only politically precarious, but worse, morally reprehensible” – a clear reference to Duterte. CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas added that while people’s desire for change is understandable, this should not push citizens to choose a leader who has no regard for morality and the rights of others.
Fellow presidential Miriam Defensor Santiago told Philippine Daily Inquirer editors on May 3 that the Philippines is not ready for a Duterte presidency as she cast doubts on the latter’s allegiance to the rule of law. “Some of his statements make us doubt his allegiance to the rule of law,” she said, adding that many people don’t understand that some of Duterte’s actuations might be against the law.
President Benigno Aquino has warned against the return of dictatorship in the event of a Duterte presidency and reversing the gains achieved during his six-year term.
“May God help us!” This remark summed up how negatively former police chief and senator Panfilo Lacson regards a Duterte presidency. Feared by corrupt policemen and criminals when he was police chief, Lacson is one of the country’s foremost experts in fighting criminality. He said it would Duterte’s promise to stamp out criminality across the country in just six months was virtually impossible.
This writer can’t help but agree with a veteran crime expert, like Lacson. If no country with the most modern and sophisticated crime-fighting equipment and technologies, like the US, Germany and France, was able to contain crimes in just six months, how can the Philippines achieve what these advanced countries failed to do?
Lacson expressed hopes that Duterte will not lead the Philippines into a civil war in case he wins the presidency – an apparent warning of the cycle of violence that will possibly result from an iron-fisted approach to criminality, including extra-judicial killings practiced in Davao.
This writer believes that a frightening cycle of violence can arise from Duterte’s iron-fisted manner of dealing with criminals. If hard-core criminals know that authorities are licensed to kill them and won’t bother with legal niceties, their instinct will be to use guns, higher-caliber guns, to improve their chance of survival against policemen out to kill them.
More bloody shootouts will put at risk innocent civilians. Many people say that under a Duterte presidency, only criminals will be targeted and killed. Simplistic assumption! If criminals fire indiscriminately to fight their way out of being killed, they won’t care if civilians get caught in the crossfire.
Former diplomat and international book author Narciso Reyes Jr has also warned against a Duterte presidency, saying that “governing through fear and violence . . . will trigger more violence of retaliation from those harmed by it.” He added: “The history of violence from ancient to modern times comprises a lethal trajectory of blood and gore, at the cost of mostly innocent lives.”
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE CHANGES?
While many Filipinos clamor for change and an end to what’s bad in the Aquino administration – criminality, drug abuse, Metro Manila traffic, government indifference, etc – have they ever stopped to think deeply and critically what kind of change they want? Is it positive or negative change which they wish to see?
Of course, everyone wants positive change, changes for the better, definitely not negative changes. But if everyone is clamoring for much needed-changes, then why are the most respected and prominent leaders of Philippine society today strongly against Duterte to become the principal initiator and implementor of sought-after changes?
Are these people, such as CBCP president Bishop Socrates Villegas, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Ping Lacson and President Aquino, all blind not to see Duterte as the best choice for change? Or is it the way around? Is it more a case of Santiago and other leaders seeing Duterte as a promoter of negative changes, including mass killings and public executions of criminals even without the benefit of proper judicial proceedings?
Speaking about and advocating changes are easy. A good and entertaining speaker can easily persuade listeners that he is the best option for much-needed changes in Philippine society. Duterte has successfully delivered his message of change – even to the extent of breaking the law. But how about the morality, character and integrity of this initiator of change? Will all these be set aside in favor of change?
And if not Duterte, are there other candidates not as charismatic and entertaining as Duterte, but who can nevertheless deliver changes although not necessarily according to the drastic changes being advocated and promoted by the Davao city mayor? Mar Roxas and Grace Poe are both more morally upright than Duterte, corruption-free and possess the intellectual mettle and leadership to become the next president.
CORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY
Allegations by Antonio Trillanes of ill-gotten wealth against Duterte have been widely condemned by fans of the Davao city mayor as mere fabrications, aimed sorely to derail his bid for the presidency. But despite seeming questionable entries in purported undeclared bank transactions of Duterte in Metro Manila, Trillanes has forced Duterte into admitting the existence of his secret bank accounts in Metro Manila.
Using documents provided to him by whistleblowers, Trillanes has accused Duterte of having a mind-boggling P2.4 billion went through 17 banks accounts together with his daughter Sara. Apart from this, he also questioned 41 properties put under the names of Duterte’s children. Trillanes said Duterte should bare to the Filipino people details of these massive holdings. Roxas, Poe and other national leaders have also called on Duterte to explain the unexplained wealth that he has allegedly accumulated.
Duterte denies having ill-gotten wealth and said some of his “friends”, including Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, have contributed monies and even properties to him throughout the years. On May 2, Duterte admitted receiving expensive gifts from Quiboloy, who heads the Kingdom of Jesus Christ church. The gifts, according to Duterte, included three residential lots in Davao city, a Nissan Safari and a Ford Expedition. His admission though violates Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which bars government officers from accepting gifts of significant value.
While denying allegations that he has accumulated ill-gotten wealth, Duterte has rejected calls for him to provide the history of transactions in his BPI Julia Vargas branch which Trillanes alleges to receive nearly P200 million on a single day during his 69th birthday in 2014, as well as his other bank accounts. His refusal to open to the public the transaction history of his bank accounts sends a clear message to everyone – Don’t peek into my personal financial affairs! But just like his clear violationof RA3019, his disclosure refusal violates a provision of the Philippine constitution and RA 6713 which requires all civil servants to declare their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN.
With just a few days before the national election, Filipinos must weigh carefully their choices, specially for president as this official will lead our country in the next six years. Is it Duterte who is seen more as an initiator of negative changes – not positive – by many respected leaders in our country today, like Miriam Defensor Santiago? Or is it other choices, like Mar Roxas or Grace Poe, who can also bring positive changes and not criticized by scores of our national leaders?
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