“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:”
– From “IF” by Rudyard Kipling
“Daghan nangaburos tungod sa mga saad (many became pregnant because of promises).”
-A saying from Catarman, Camiguin
A pledge is supposed to be sacred, just like an oath. A promise is made to be fulfilled but most of the time broken, especially from traditional politicians and young men whose consuming desire is to bring as many unsuspecting young women to bed. Both characters are dishonorable but traditional politicians are addressed as honorable. A very perceptive writer calls them “horinable” because of their urine like language and behavior. If I were to invent a word, they are urinable. The lustful young man is adored despite despicable behavior in a society that calls itself macho.
What a world! But that is the reality and realities could be so damning that one wonders if this is the kind of “world” we wish to live in. It is visibly human to hope that our world will change. Thus, we dream because as someone has said it before – “without dreamers, men and women will be living in caves.” And who wants to live in a cave except in a cave of your desire, if one must wax poetic.
Earthly pledges: After four years and four months in office, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has not really significantly changed. He still bullies and curses but not as often as he used to. He still makes pledges and promises as if by making them he has already accomplished what is to be done. But knowing President Duterte these past four years through his words and actions, nothing surprises me anymore.
The little bit of surprise for me though is he finally appears chastened by the years, the admissions of the insurmountably of our national problems and the discipline which he is being subjected to, just like everyone else, by the corona virus which his friend, President Xi Jin Ping of China, has effectively let loose on our planet.
Finally, President Duterte appears to have realized that he is not god but mortal just like everyone else. He is not that powerful as he is hamstrung by forces beyond his control. His power is defined by time limits, historical forces, the ravages of the years and his mortality. At this point in time, as I assume, he is as human as I am, he must be seriously thinking of legacy – of how people and generations of Filipinos remember him. He wants to write a chapter in the history of this country and not just be a footnote. A chapter is a triumph for him and a footnote is an intolerable tragedy, at least for him and anybody who bears his name.
Unsolicited advice: This is a habit I’ve acquired since I was editor-in-chief of my high school paper, The Misorien Torch, at the Misamis Oriental High School in Cagayan de Oro City. It was further strengthened when I was trice editor-in- chief of the Philippine Collegian at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City and further developed into a cutting edge when I wrote columns in national newspapers, not the least of which is the Manila Times.
What have I to say on President Duterte’s order to his Secretary of Justice other than what I have already written in my previous column? It is the following:
First, He should appoint a Secretary of Justice, with balls in his brains and brains in his balls with these sterling qualifications — a complete configuration of what to do to succeed; committed to God, country and people; principled with integrity and character; and discipline, focused and result oriented. These are the qualities of the Justice Secretary to be successful in the drive against graft and corruption.
Second: President Duterte should give him blanket authority on what to do without interference, unless he obviously gets out of line.
Third: The provisions of the Rules of Court on preliminary investigation; the time frames in the filing of cases with the Prosecutors Office, preliminary investigations, filing of cases in court and court decisions. There should be no court trials – everything will be a battle of documents and affidavits.
Fourth: Filing, investigation, and prosecution of cases shall be exclusively centralized in the Department of Justice. All other agencies are only allowed to entertain complaints, investigation and prosecution of graft and corruption with written authorization of the Secretary of Justice.
Fifth: No extension of time shall be allowed to file counter-affidavits, reply and rejoinder; file for information, submission of answer, replies, rejoinders and the rendering of decisions.
Sixth: Regional Trial Courts shall have the same power and jurisdiction to try graft and corruption cases as the Sandiganbayan.
Seventh: Appeals of decisions shall be in ten days from receipt of the judgment which shall be a petition for review and the answer to be within ten days from receipt of the petition, all of which shall be done by personal service.
Eighth: When the case is filed in court, a writ of preliminary attachment shall automatically be issued against all real properties and bank deposits of the accused. When the judgment is rendered and becomes final and executory, all properties subject to the preliminary attachment shall be escheated in favor of the State.
Ninth: The accused may plead guilty, after which ten percent of the attached properties and bank deposits shall be returned to the family of the accused while the ninety percent shall be escheated in favor of the State and his penalty shall be reduced to ten years in isolated islands or areas with no rights to visitation – to undergo reorientation and re-education and to grow vegetables and fruits for his maintenance and survival.
Tenth: An additional penalty is that the convicted grafter cannot ever hold public office together with members of his immediate family.
Eleventh: No comprises shall be allowed except that which is mentioned in paragraph Nine.
Twelfth: Prosecutors and judges found to be suspected of graft and corruption shall be suspended immediately and asked to answer within ten days from receipt of the complaint or written charges and the Secretary of Justice shall decide the matter within ten days from receipt of the explanation. The penalty shall be dismissal from the service, confiscation of the real properties and bank deposits to the extent of the graft and corruption committed, imprisonment for ten years in isolated islands or areas without any visitation. The decision of the Secretary of Justice is final and executory.
Thirteenth: Courts are not allowed to entertain any complaints against the Secretary of Justice and prosecutors as well as judges in relation to the conduct of the cases. However, a verified complaint against anyone of them can be filed with the Office of the President which shall render a decision within ten days from the receipt of the complaint. The decision of the President shall be final and executory.
Hard decisions: The preceding suggestions make for a successful approach to the problem of graft and corruption. But the decision to adopt these measures will not be easy on the part of the President and whoever will be chosen as Secretary of Justice. Graft and corruption are a tough nut to crack. The President needs draconian and out of the box solution to such a deeply rooted problem. You need a bludgeon and not a rapier.
Will President Duterte ever entertain this unsolicited advice? It’s anybody’s guess. If we were to think of the usual behavioral pattern of President Duterte these past four years, it is not easy to conceive a favorable response from him. The pressing of the limited time line under which he is currently operating may possibly produce a favorable response.
Duterte’s option: If the President does not adopt these suggested anti-graft and corruption measures, it is about time he stops ranting against it and the people who are continuing to practice it. He’d just be banging his head against the wall. If he does that, he would need a bigger dosage of fentanyl to assuage the greater pain on his head.
So, what is his option if he wants to be fondly remembered? He should concentrate all his time, money and effort on the following activities.
First, provide all the needs of hospitals and front liners on matters of higher salaries and other benefits as well as all the needed equipment, medicines and medications vaccines and vitamins to the sick and those who are in need at the expense of the government.
Second, provide the financial needs of the citizens by continuing to distribute funds to them for their survival in this crisis.
Third, provide interim funds for all kinds of business which were all crippled by the pandemic.
Fourth, give full financial and other forms of aid to the victims of typhoons and other similar calamities.
Fifth, allow the resumption of normal activities with strict enforcement of health protocols –wearing masks and face shields, social distancing, avoiding all large gatherings, bringing alcohol to disinfect hands that touch objects and soaping hands whenever it is necessary.
These are things that are easily doable. These are activities which make people remember their President and his administration.
Leave the perceived insoluble problems to the next administration because the current one is helpless to solve them.
Reminders: Leadership is a risky activity. He who does not risk is undeserving to be a leader. It probably is best to reminder these memorable lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s A Nation’s Strength because they embody our hopes and dreams for our country:
“Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly…
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.”
Will President Duterte and his new Secretary of Justice dare to do the measures in our unsolicited advice? If they dare, there is basis to hope and dream of better lives for Filipinos living in a country where equality, justice and freedom prevail.