Sep 202016

Much of what is making the current political situation seemingly volatile can be described as self inflicted. We love scaring ourselves like children telling each other ghost stories and finding it difficult to sleep alone afterwards.

I am sure most of us have heard one conspiracy story or another. Even some friends who should know better seem to believe there is more to it than mere product of the overworked imagination of some people who profit from it.

There is a plot to kill the president, one story goes. And the PNP chief says it isn’t just the president whose life is in danger but his as well. But isn’t such danger inherent to the jobs they both agreed to take?

Plots against presidents are par for the course. That’s why we have the PSG and the Secret Service among others.

As for the plot against the PNP chief, isn’t he leading the war against drugs? Of course he should assume the drug lords will try to neutralize him. It is his job to neutralize them first. It doesn’t fit his image to sound like a cry baby.

The Liberals are plotting to oust Duterte, another story goes.  Well… the Liberals lost so badly in the last election there isn’t much of a Liberal Party left. Didn’t a throng of Liberals renounce party membership to join Duterte’s super majority in the House of Representatives? That makes Duterte impeachment proof.

As for the conspiracy story the Liberals will try to unseat Duterte ala Erap, that is wishful thinking for them. That the Duterte supporters are the ones bringing this up only means they are using an old trick in a propagandist’s tool kit. Raising the conspiracy story is a diversionary ploy.

This story came out strongly in the wake of Duterte’s diplomatic gaffes over the past two weeks. Foreign media had been relentless in pointing out human right abuses happening in the course of the war on drugs. Of course, Duterte’s foul mouth and frequent clarifications aren’t helping much.

What about the CIA? We really have an exaggerated sense of our importance in the world that’s totally unrealistic. They have bigger problems in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan… and they are in the midst of a bruising election campaign. If Trump wins, he and Duterte may get along famously. They both admire Putin, they both speak impulsively, they both think of themselves as strong alpha male leaders who will bring change.

There are two very destabilizing problems in our political scene today. The first is Duterte himself… he just can’t help thinking aloud… like sending the American advisers in Mindanao home, only to have his Defense secretary deny that is the new administration policy.

Consider how the Defense secretary refuted the president in a hearing before the House budget committee: “As for the president’s fears that they might be subject to reprisal by the Muslims, it is a little bit unfounded because they are in their camp, and they don’t go out of the camp when they’re alone or they are also armed.” A little bit unfounded?

The second destabilizing problem is the administration’s communication strategy or its absence. Too many people are talking who shouldn’t be talking at all.

Panelo should keep his mouth shut about declaring martial law or constitutional dictatorship. He only heats up the political temperature unnecessarily. He should stick to his job as legal counsel and only talk to the president, not the public.

As for the possibility of a military coup, that cannot happen at all given how much public support Duterte has. And to the president’s credit, he has gone around the military camps to touch base with the military’s rank and file. And like most of the citizenry, the soldiers love him or are at least supportive of him.

He is raising their pay and benefits and looking after their welfare and that of their families. He has commiserated with the families of fallen soldiers and he looks like he genuinely feels their pain unlike you know who. It would seem the morale of the military is at an all time high these days.

As for the ability of the Liberals and their oligarch supporters to destabilize or grab power, we can discount any danger that can happen. As I wrote last Monday, the conspiracy story about the Liberals plotting to overthrow Duterte is as ridiculous as it gets.

It is silly to think the Liberals, the guys who can’t even fix the MRT 3 or properly manage the Yolanda relief effort are capable of mounting something requiring meticulous planning and daring execution. The oligarchs are normally cowards and tightwads who will only finance such moves after they are sure it is all over and the rebel side has won.

The drug lords can be another thing altogether. They have the money and the guts to do bloody projects. I can believe the claim of General Bato the drug lords have mobilized assassins to go after him and the president. But even here, the advantage belongs to him and the president because they know who the drug lords are and government should be many steps ahead of them.

Indeed, the administration enjoys a big advantage in neutralizing serious destabilization moves. If they use their billions of pesos in unaudited intelligence funds well, there should be very little leeway for any conspirator to succeed in any attempt to seize power or do away with the president.

Through all the bedlam, I still believe we have a very intelligent president who knows what he is doing, but is testing the limits of what he can do.

But it is important for the president to deliver the message to the world that he totally subscribes to the rules of engagement accepted by civilized nations in everything he does. He must also try very hard not to project the image of a president who decides major policies without careful thought, only to apologize and clarify later.

Investors are always after stability of policies and such stability is seen based on the perceived stability of the president, mental as well as political. It is not correct to totally attribute the decline in the stock market (assuming it matters much) on Duterte’s perceived verbal attacks on Obama. The turbulence in the world markets is as much to blame in the local market’s decline as Duterte’s gaffes.

We have all been surprised by the enormity of the drug problem that the last administration obviously neglected. We all realize Duterte and General Bato will have to employ extraordinary measures to win this war at the soonest possible time.

But winning the war on drugs doesn’t mean everything else must take the back seat. Life must go on in all other aspects of governance. The quick delivery of low hanging deliverables will cement the high public support for Duterte now.

Just get the job done or at least show they are trying to get the job done… in traffic, infrastructure development, health and welfare delivery, cutting of red tape in transactions with government, solving the vigilante murders and many other things that touch our everyday lives.

We are as politically stable as we have ever been in recent times. The NDF are now in peace talks with Duterte. Even Nur Misuari is talking to Duterte.

So far, Duterte is doing better than P-Noy did in many areas. But he has the potential to do a lot more. It would be tragic if such progress is derailed because of undue focus on conspiracy theories that only betrays an insecure government. And one thing Duterte isn’t and shouldn’t be is insecure.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is 
Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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