If the Duterte administration achieves nothing else except conclude a political settlement with the National Democratic Front (NDF), it will have made a major contribution. Duterte’s experience in crafting a “working arrangement” with the Davao City NPA, and his appointment of NDF nominees to Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions, have created better political conditions for peace talks than in the preceding administrations. All indications are that Joma Sison is anxious to conclude talks that will enable him to return from exile.
Whether Sison can get the local NPA to agree is another matter. If Benny and Wilma Tiamzon, who are not as enthusiastic about peace talks as Sison, are released, will they go along at the pace that Sison wants? A ceasefire should be relatively easy, but what “cantonment” means, will local NPA agree to remain in identified camps, is going to be difficult. The situation in Caraga, where Duterte wants an end to illegal mining, provides an example of difficulties. Can Duterte and Sison persuade the military and the NPA who protect illegal mining to forego their millions in protection money?
I do not understand what considerations underlie Duterte and his people’s seeming hesitation on finalizing political settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front by pushing for the passage of the BBL. Waiting for constitutional amendments shifting the government from unitary to federal will take many years, and will not address the historical injustices to the Moro people. It’s also curious that neither Digong nor his people have said much about Mindanao development. Surely it’s not enough to stick a dirty finger at Imperial Manila.
While waiting for constitutional reform, there are many things that the Duterte administration can do to transfer more power and resources to local governments. They can retain Bottom-up Budgeting (BuB) for a start. Cutting it as Cabinet designate Ben Diokno reportedly suggests would risk the opposition of mayors. Poverty can be added to the formula for Internal Revenue Allotments (IRA). The long delayed review of the Local Government Code can be organized even as the more radical federalism proposal is being discussed.
There are many reforms that Digong and his people have supported, from FOI to mining to K+12. His economic team – Sonny Dominguez, Ernie Pernia and Ben Diokno – is strong and will likely continue the economic reforms of the PNoy administration. What people worry about is the volatility of Duterte’s rhetoric. It’s not just his cussing, it’s also how Duterte will navigate the demands of his allies on the Left and the Right. We can always hope for the best. In Siquijor, we go from unsaon pod lamang to hope, bason pod lamang.
Leni can help. With characteristic generosity, she says Duterte can expect 100% support. It may be best that she will not be in the Cabinet where she will be expected to provide undifferentiated support. From outside the Cabinet, but with the authority of her mandate as number two, she can provide critical collaboration, or if necessary, an alternative. – Rappler.com
Joel Rocamora is a political analyst and a seasoned civil society leader who has been working on issues of democracy, governance, and social movements for several decades. An activist-scholar, he finished his PhD in Politics, Asian Studies, and International Relations in Cornell University, and had been the head of the Institute for Popular Democracy, the Transnational Institute, the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party, and member to a number of non-governmental organizations. From the parliament of the streets, he crossed over to the government and joined Aquino's Cabinet as the Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.