Wenceslao: Overly high expectations for Duterte

RODRIGO Roa Duterte will take his oath of office in Malacañang today as the Philippines' 16th president. For the man and his supporters, that can be both a boon and a bane. A boon because he and his team will acquire power limited only by the Constitution and our laws and balanced only by two other branches of government (okay, only one branch--the judiciary--if we consider how the legislative—Congress—has gone sipsip to the executive). A bane because of what Ben Parker told his nephew Peter a.k.a. Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I believe no other incoming president has heaped more expectations on his presidency than Duterte himself and his supporters. We Cebuanos have a phrase for that: “way meter-meter.” This “expectations heaping” has its roots in the campaign. Duterte's spin doctors apparently thought that the best campaign strategy was to promise the voters the moon. You promise them the earth, why not the moon as well?

I actually thought that when Duterte first spewed that “I will end crime and corruption in the first six months of my presidency if I win” line, he would back off in the succeeding months. Instead, his campaign strategists decided to rub it in, sort of, by making that line the heart and soul around which his platform of government was fleshed. Or at least that was my observation when I heard even the voluble but usually sober Duterte running mate Alan Peter Cayetano mouth it.

But while the high expectations were what catapulted Duterte to the presidency, these could be his undoing if he could not meet them. That is the reason why the other candidates were hesitant to follow the lead of the Duterte camp in the campaign. They didn't want to make promises they couldn't keep. But since the Duterte camp went ahead with those promises, people would be waiting with bated breath their fulfillment. Can the Duterte administration give us the moon?

I am one of those who are in a wait-and-see posture. I hope he succeeds.

But one other thing. One other challenge for the Duterte administration is that he follows a presidency that, while it was virulently attacked by critics, largely succeeded in many aspects of governance. Every new government will always be compared with the one that preceded it, more so if the new government is led by one from the opposition.

In the campaign, the Duterte camp criticized the acts of the Aquino administration at every turn in order to pull down the candidacy of PNoy's anointed, Mar Roxas. But by doing so, the Duterte camp made it appear that if Duterte wins the presidency, a Duterte administration can top the achievements of the Aquino administration. Unfortunately for the Duterte camp, the consensus is that the Aquino administration has set the bar high in many aspects of governance.

This is different from when Aquino took over the presidency from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We know what happened during the nine years that Arroyo ruled the country. Governance was at its lowest since the time of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Meaning that the bar was low and that there was no other way but up after that. While expectations for the Aquino administration in 2010 was low, Aquino had a far easier job topping the governance of his predecessor.

So there. The overly high expectations and Duterte having to surmount the bar put up by his predecessor are among the challenges that the new administration wll meet in the coming days and months. We hope that the President would be up to the challenge. We could not wish otherwise because, after all, we are all in one ship.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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