Shallow leadership pool: F. Sionil Jose endorses Carpio-Gibo team but Marcos-Duterte tandem looks like a winner for now

The national artist for literature F. Sionil Jose qualifies his praise of Duterte for his detractors in his piece today, “Wisdom from my doctors”. They read, but didn’t comprehend his words. This is par for the course in this day and age where a long read is disdained and even if read, the comprehension quotient is low.

I stand by my Facebook post last week on Duterte with this minor clarification. Many Filipinos do not comprehend English. I did not categorically state that Duterte is our best President now. I said that he MAY YET BE the best President. That judgement will be confirmed or refuted not now, but in the future.

I did not compare him to Magsaysay and say they are equal. I said, NEXT to Magsaysay. I never met President Duterte. I expected a very furious reaction to my statement because of the passionate opposition Duterte himself had developed. Listen. All of us are so involved with our time, the NOW in our country. Look around you, in Manila – can you not see the progress? In the provinces, too? Maybe because we are so used to the drumbeat of despair, the self-laceration we inflict on ourselves because we are suffering now. That we cannot perceive the deeper implications of the NOW.

Jose also had this to say which highlights what is missing in governance in the Philippines today…

To succeed, however, this leader must have real power – one: raw – the coercive and punitive power of the state, and two: moral. The first is the dominant feature of government already in place, or something new drawn from a revolution or a coup. The moral power is what he acquires as an individual. Machiavelli pontificated on this.

In short, the least we need should be strong enough to wield the power of the state against its enemies and have a moral compass which points to the true north.


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Our politics is shaped by power blocs. This has been the norm since the colonial period. The Americans didn’t bother with socio-political reform because the cooperation of the elite was essential in subjugating the majority. From 1898 up to 1945, the Americans had to contend with “freedom loving” Filipinos who made representations with US officials for self-governance. The transition period was interrupted by World War II. With this came a change in priorities and the Philippines was given independence. This is why we are, where we are, now.

If the Chinese didn’t come to our shores, we would be without manufacturing capacity. Filipinos prefer rent-seeking businesses than those which produce products. Just look at the number of malls throughout the country and the cartels in various industries. Contrast this with our ASEAN and Asian neighbors which are more progressive. Their work ethic is different from ours as is the mindset. The goal is not privileged entitlement but the creation of businesses of value.

Why did Deng Xiaoping seek out Lee Kuan Yew for advice when he became China’s leader? If you look at it closely, China has adopted Singapore’s best practices. Corruption still exists in China but it is not on the scale as ours in per capita terms. China has adopted the best that communism offers in terms of control and discipline of the population and melded it together with the combined central economic planning and capitalist freemarket with the state still keeping control of anyone who steps out of line. Look at what happened to Jack Ma recently.

The exigencies brought about by the pandemic present an excellent opportunities to reform government. Decisive and forceful action is necessary in order to adjust and cope. It is a black swan event which will not end anytime soon. The next President will have his hands full and should be ready with a comprehensive and detailed roadmap for economic recovery and how the nation should move forward with the goal of addressing the weaknesses exposed by the pandemic.

Jose mentions his preference for retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former presidential candidate and Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro as two candidates he will campaign for should they decide to run. However, while they may be intellectually qualified, they do not have masa appeal. Gibo speaks fluent Chinese, Ilokano, and Capampangan but he wasn’t able to convert this advantage to votes when he ran in 2010. Carpio is a political neophyte. He will have to build a coalition as his political vehicle. The Yellowidiots may opt for this gamble since Robredo is a weak candidate and the other names 1Sambayan has floated do not appear inclined to link up with them.

The runaway winning tandem is that of former Senator and Bongong Marcos and Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte. But if Sara doesn’t run, this opens up the field to an oligarch who wants to take a shot at controlling the country. Isko Moreno Domagoso, Ping Lacson and Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao are confirmed to have Presidential ambitions. Isko has the largest base of oligarch support. The fate of the administration tandem will largely be determined by the President and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). You cannot discount the influence GMA has which she projected even when she was in detention at the time of the 2016 election.

Our weakness as a nation is evident in the shallowness of the leadership pool. The opposition is in the worst shape because if Robredo is the best they have then they can’t expect to win much more put up a credible showing at the polls. 2022 is going to be a crucial and interesting election cycle.

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