OPINION: Duterte omnipotence is Duterte impotence

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Oct 21 2016 02:08 AM

There is more than ample evidence that the early, immediate acceptance by the general electorate of Rodrigo R. Duterte as President by plurality has began to wane.

The burden of maintaining and shoring up a President’s popularity, an irreplaceable sine qua non in effective democratic governance, is indeed getting heavier. After his 100-day roadshow, it is doubtful that the ranks of  the Duterte horde of admirers, faithful cultists and idolaters can remain impervious to swelling discontent and apostacy. Disappointment creates non-believers. The 39% plurality that awarded him the Presidency has been diminished, for sure. This is inevitable as a consequence of the President unmasking himself to be not NOT what he was touted to be. Not what he was voted for. 

The adulation over candidate Duterte, an attractive vote-capturing populist personality on the stump, has not translated into a progressive and productive President  Duterte elected to be in the useful and beneficent service of the nation.  And, guess who is to blame!  Oh, thank you, adored one, for shoving your hoof into your  godawful mouth!

Bereft of any display of humility, President Duterte--by his imperious behavior and by his arrogant words,  by his stances and statements--an almost irreversible  public persona is embedding in the national consciousness. Reformation is seriously in doubt. Is he not outwardly cocky and overconfident? Petulant and pugnacious? Worse yet, blatantly opinionated, brooking no contradiction and unheeding of solicitous counsel. It is obvious that his unchallenged authoritarian thuggishness as Davao City mayor has become a habit impossible to wash off.  Now a tenant of Malacanang, the Davao City mayor’s hangover will be this President’s undoing.  It is beginning to show.

In the  meantime, the Duterte social media machinery continues to ramp up the vitriol against his critics. They remain unrelentingly vile and vicious, dumbing down the people with serial disinformation. Not to be outdone,  we find cyberspace likewise populated by countermeasures from an unorganized non-Duterte crowd.  While a pro and con battle rages on, so far President Duterte and his social media renegades have yet to deliver any substance of public beneficence. Unfortunately, the capacity to do so may never have been available, in the first place.


Speaking of critiques--collaborative and  constructive--former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) has written in a Manila Bulletin column last weekend what I surmise to be hurtful to an inflated ego like Duterte’s. In fact harmful, for a sitting President to be so counselled, nay chastised, in so public an atmosphere, coming as it did from his political ‘godfather.’ But what might be unsettling may not necessarily reform presidential boneheadedness. Is President Rodrigo R. Duterte incorrigible?  I continue to hope for an epiphany, pro patria! He is our President, after all. 

Let me cite what I find the most cogent assessment cum fatherly advice that came from FVR’s trenchant observation. We all remember, of course, that earlier President Duterte was profuse in thanking his avowed padrino for his political support and precisely for  visiting him in Davao, convincing and inspiring him to run for the Presidency.  

After FVR’s reality check, Duterte is still to be heard from, reacting to the sobering words that really express caring concern and caution, not only for the Presidency but for the President, himself. The words uttered by FVR will continue to echo and reecho: President Duterte  “must prove his mental stability……...and  his psychological fortitude.”

It does not require interpretative double-speak  to decipher that proof of "mental stability" actually means “this boy is not very bright, after all!”  And insofar as proving his "psychological fortitude" is concerned, I am certain Agot Isidro is farthest from FVR’s mind. But how can one not hazard deducing that FVR was wishing for Duterte to behave in a manner that also disproves the popular charge that he is a "psychopath!"  The dictionary defines "fortitude" as  “mental and emotional strength.” 


In a vain attempt to bolster an image of resolute nationalism and public management savvy, obviously to impress the rest of the country and the world of his omnipotence on matters of Philippine governance, (has he not bragged  that he is the ‘savior,’  ‘the last card,’ and that only he can solve the problems?),  Duterte glories in headline-hugging pontifications on national policies, without benefit of expert counsel and without as much as asking input from his Cabinet, as normal Presidents do! And these, on matters alien to his experiential limitations. Evidently, irresponsible nonchalance!  As it turns out, on his public utterances  that deal with serious policy matters that would require time and effort, profound study and serious consideration,  President Duterte has been winging it!  Bluff and bluster as it turns out!  

In what may have been an inadvertent admission, we have a glaring testimony:Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in all candor and honesty, responding  to a query from Senator Frank Drilon during the former’s confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments. The Secretary of National Defense is not consulted by the President on matters that pertain to the Defense Secretary’s area of discipline and responsibility. My premise is founded upon a well-known and accepted Duterte quantity. His area of competence does not go beyond his notorious police work as Mayor of Davao City, much ballyhooed this might have been. Never mind that as Assistant City Prosecutor, he has bragged about ‘planting evidence,’ as part of his legal expertise.  

Yet, ever since his inauguration, he has been expounding on State and Foreign policy, decisions and purported controversial actions. His statements on  National Defense, on an independent foreign policy, critical Armed Forces concerns, joint coastal patrol and military exercises with allies,  long-term mutual defense treaties  were all  pronounced  without  counsel of and  the benefit of consultation with, his Secretary of National Defense! 

No President of the Republic of the Philippines has ever been so cavalier in his behavior towards policy making and policy declarations of critical  national import.  

If the President Duterte does not alter his demeanor that exhibits a brazen omnipotence,  his governance and administration is threatened with impotence.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.