Think 12 years

Think about the future and not just the here and now. Remember the gains of the Duterte administration and the problematic issues that periodically caused so much tension and drains the leadership. In fine, we make our future by the leaders we elect. 

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on December 17, 2019.    

Two years from today, we will be thrust into a situation where we, as Filipinos and as voters, will need to decide who among the candidates who would file their certificate of candidacy in October 2021 should be president and vice president. The backdrop of that decision will be based on the six years’ accomplishment of the Duterte administration and what remains pending in that agenda. In other words, a campaign of continuity will define the race in 2022.

We cannot think in terms of a single term of six years or of a mixed ticket where the president is from one party and the vice president is from the opposing party. We’ve had enough of doing split tickets. It does not ensure balanced governance. No checks and balances without a clear platform of governance from an opposing political interest. Splitting only creates a broken system that does not serve the nation. Frontline has improved greatly. Oligarchs have reined in their greed considerably and the Executive’s threat of canceling contracts and reviewing the same has led to more transparency and accountability in processes. Still, we are not in a ceteris paribus condition.

A year is ending and another, beginning with the earthshaking revelations made about the government’s concession agreements with Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc., just like what was revealed earlier about the tax liabilities of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s owners (P3 billion), Philippine Airlines (P6 billion) and Mighty Corp. (P9.56 billion), among others. Both water concessionaires already collected a total of P56 billion for Wawa Dam, the Laguna Lake project, Laiban Dam, Pinugay Plant, Angat project, as well as an earthquake project, but we don’t see any of these. This amount does not include supposed sewerage projects that remains mere plans. The defense made was that all the ghost projects were excluded by the regulator, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). Apart from the public paying for failed water treatment, the public also paid for the firms’ corporate income taxes — truly a neat deal!

Interestingly, Congress was removed from the process of granting a franchise, certificate or authority to operate a public utility. Congress gave MWSS a franchise per Republic Act (RA) 6234 (creation of MWSS in Section 2), and RA 8421 authorized the president to enter into a negotiated contracts (Section 7). Unfortunately, what has been delegated cannot be redelegated. MWSS went beyond its mandate. Maynilad and Manila Water are said to be agents/contractors of MWSS and are not public utilities, when in truth and in fact, both are performing as public utilities. Section 1306 of the Administrative Code clearly states that “no contract shall be entered into that is contrary to law, morals or public policy.”

And in all these revelations, the sanctity of contracts is being invoked, with a former president saying that “government gave its word in the water deals.” The same justification was echoed on the energy crisis, the sale of Fort Bonifacio and the missing AFP modernization budget, the Centennial expo, etc. Things have a way of getting back and snaring names that have created much hardships against Filipinos.

Then we have the US Senate committee on foreign relations passing Senate Resolution 142, “Condemning the Government of the Philippines for its Continued Detention of Senator Leila de Lima, Calling for its Immediate Release, And For Other Purposes.” A clear interference of a co-equal and said to be a friend in the region.

And by March 2020, the franchise of the ABS-CBN television network will expire. Although already positioned to go digital and pin its operation online, the legacy franchise is important to the Lopezes because it is the legal basis of its remaining crown jewel. It is no secret that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) is against the extension and is likewise looking into the friendly but “onerous” loans that the Lopezes were able to secure from the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines.

The family names of the owners of these corporations are formidable. Arrayed with the United States Democrats, it is looking more and more that another attempt will be made against the sitting president in the first quarter of 2020. And if PRRD survives with his base further strengthened, 2022 will be about the collective search of Filipinos for a leader that has the decisiveness that PRRD has shown and continues to show. Such leadership cannot just be for six years. It has to be for 12 years to ensure that things not completed can be finished and issues unresolved could be settled. Stable, predictable and sustainable are variables voters need to consider in making such a decision.

We therefore need to elect a tandem of leaders who complement each other. A South-North combination is crucial but Mindanao will have to be at the center of it for Mindanao is the unfinished agenda of PRRD. Luzon has the biggest number of voters at 56 percent, while the Visayas has 21 percent and Mindanao has 23 percent. The first regular elections of BARMM will also take place in 2022. Although the barangay elections have been deferred and the hybrid system of elections remains pending, things are moving fast and the doables are becoming harder each day. Still, the legacy has to be framed and primed for it will be the crucial determinant of the vote in 2022.

PRRD has various cards still held close to his chest. The revgov remains a trump card. Federalism is fading fast but a calibration has to be made. The extension of martial law in Mindanao is another. As he bowls, the pins can remain sturdy with tired hands or he can secure strikes willed by his wanting to change things and make that huge sacrifice of getting the hard stuff out in our distorted political system. And that includes pork, corruption, political reforms and new pacmans securing key deals as the Duterte administration winds down.

Two years from today, the political cauldron will be boiling. To pass the baton, we need to carry PRRD and defend him to get his mandated tasks completed. Nope, he is not perfect but surely we have found in him a leader, still rough around the edges, with foul mouth and all, but has stood out for making the hard decisions for the nation. Think long term. Think about the future and not just the here and now. Remember the gains of the Duterte administration and the problematic issues that periodically caused so much tension and drains the leadership. In fine, we make our future by the leaders we elect. Think 12 years.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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