President Duterte's Own Men are Killing President Duterte's Reform Agend

“Time is not on the side of President Duterte, which is exactly the reason why I want him to see things this early and come up with ways to control the situation.”

One of the main campaign promises of President Duterte was to implement badly needed and long overdue political and economic reforms. Among the political reforms that he proposed, he is a key proponent of the shift from the current unitary system towards a federal system, emphasizing on the need to bring the government closer to the people by empowering the regions politically and economically; and the shift from the current presidential system, which was copied from the Americans, to the parliamentary system, although he is seemingly leaning more toward a semi-presidential system similar to the French Fifth Republic. On the economic front, he wanted to embark on a massive infrastructure building program, now known as "Build! Build! Build!," to bring development and progress to the far-flung areas of the country, but it is the need to implement key bureaucratic and political changes that will ease the conduct of business and open certain sectors of the economy to more foreign direct investments.

The President's strong desire to formulate and implement political and economic reforms can be seen through the formation of a 25-man consultative committee, headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, that is tasked to come up with a new charter that will eventually replace the current 1987 Constitution. So far, there are 19 out of 25 individuals named as members of the said committee, all of whom are, in my opinion, competent and credible individuals. My only concern with the group formed by the President is the lack of technocrats, especially those who are experts in economics, since Constitutional amendments should not be proposed entirely by lawyers, and that more technical inputs are needed to come up with sensible and realistic proposed changes.

The political opposition, the traditional Manila-based political and business elite, the local Roman Catholic Church, and the Left are all expected to oppose any attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution, and other political and economic reform measures that are being forwarded by President Duterte. The current political and economic set-up in the country, dating back to February 25, 1986, caters to their interests. For them, supporting any attempt to implement political and economic reforms is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

I am not concerned with those who will oppose President Duterte's proposed political and economic reform measures from the very start because what they will do and their propaganda are already a given. I am more concerned with two things. Those are: (1) President Duterte's own allies are fighting each other to railroad the political and economic reform effort to meet their own agenda, and (2) the inability of the President's own Communications Team to counter anti-reform propaganda and market the need to implement reforms to the people.

Reading through news reports during the past few days, we could see how the Senate and the House of Representatives are fighting each other on the way Constitutional reforms should be executed. The House of Representatives, backed by the PDP-Laban-led "supermajority" that is said to be aligned with President Duterte, seems to be resorting to tyranny by numbers to make the proposed political and economic reform measures favor the interests of the congressmen, with the main point of contention being them heavily pushing for a unicameral legislature under either a semi-presidential or parliamentary government, and extending their terms of office during the "transition period" until the new Constitution is enforced, with their leader, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, issuing a stern warning to those who will go against them and their "good plans" for the country. On the other hand, the Senate is resisting efforts to amend the Constitution, with the senators, concerned that a new charter will reduce or ultimately eliminate their political hegemony and national relevance, seemingly agreeing with the position of the opposition that the 1987 Constitution would suffice and that only "additional economic reform measures" should be one being pushed. The senators and the congressmen shamelessly fight each other in public, which, honestly, should be a source of dismay among Filipinos.

Then comes the "problematic" Communications Team of the President. While I commend its members for pursuing vital Freedom of Information and other institutional reforms, as well as the effort to modernize PTV and public radio, there seems to be inaction on their part to counter the anti-reform agenda of the public relations- and media-savvy opposition, especially the Left. Anti-reform personalities get lots of airtime on radio and television, and publicity on print and social media, but there was no counter-argument or response coming from the President's own Communications Group. There is also a severe lack of effort to come up with mass education and propaganda materials that will help beef up the President's political and economic reform agenda, explaining to the people why the said measures must be pursued, and how the reforms will benefit the country and every Filipino.

Frankly speaking, it is not the political opposition, the traditional Manila-based political and business elite, the local Roman Catholic Church, and the Left that will kill President Duterte's reform agenda. It is President Duterte's own men who are killing his proposed political and economic reform agenda, through their in-fighting, pursuit of self-serving agenda, and inability to educate the masses about reforms and counter anti-reform propaganda.

Time is not on the side of President Duterte, which is exactly the reason why I want him to see things this early and come up with ways to control the situation. It is only through him taking and addressing matters personally and seriously will he be able to meet his campaign promises of implementing political and economic reforms during his term of office as President of the Philippines. He should be reminded that was given the mandate by the majority of our people on the basis of his anti-establishment, pro-reform stance, and he was expected to deliver, hence the need for him to take control of his own men before his proposed political and economic reforms get derailed because of them.

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About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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