Leadership in times of sudden deaths

Winston Arzaga

Filipinos have it coming. During the campaign, then candidate Rodrigo Duterte made it loud and clear that he will cleanse the streets of illegal drugs and in doing so, he will have no compunction to kill those who will destroy the future of the country. And kill he did. The police , as if on cue, started rampaging the streets in search of pushers and drug lords even before Duterte could formally assume the highest office of the land. It seems what PNP failed to do in all those years that illegal drugs have crept into our neighborhoods , they now have to make – do with daily body count of unabated killings. In other place and time, the sheer volumes could have ignited massive protest of human rights violations, but the landscape is eerily silent. Where then are the familiar faces of known leftists who have their crowd ready to protest for the flimsiest of reasons? How Duterte succeeded in silencing them is a good lesson in leadership by inclusion, that is , by including some leaders of the left to his cabinet, they now see themselves as part of the administration of which they have a stake. So why rock the boat with boisterous and often senseless protests?


Great crisis call for unorthodox solutions from leaders who ,not only think outside the box, but are from outside the box themselves. Duterte comes from the fringes . The mayorship of Davao no matter how long and fruitful, is an unlikely launching pad for a presidential run. Even the issues he raised in going around the country – federalism- is so strange a concept even to most political science students. Yet he rose to become President even eclipsing those who spent a lifetime preparing for it. To a large extent,Duterte’s uncanny ability to read the rhythm of the times and feel the pulse of the people helped in no small measure for his victory. The electorates were simply feed up with more of the same of our leaders and their programs. And here comes Duterte with a different language voicing understandable programs that resonate with the voters. His solution to drugs and corruption is simply to kill the perpetrators, simple solution to a complex web of lingering problems . But this is a language clear enough to send shivers down the spine of the drug lords and the corrupt.

As a leader, the President has shown a deep grasp of the sources and uses of presidential power. His visits to military camps are less of a visit and more of using to the hilt, the power those camps symbolize. His unbending will on certain issues without fear of public backlash as shown in his decision to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani , conveys to us a leader unafraid to pull the trigger in doing what he believes is the right thing. And his uncompromising objective of winning the war on drugs portends of more sudden deaths to come. It is best for a leader to be feared than be loved, opines Machiavelli, who I am certain President Duterte had read as a political science student at the Lyceum of the Philippines. The President, in times of unabated bloodshed, could not flinch least he shows vulnerability. He could not be ambiguous least he lose focus. At the risk of becoming a one dimensional leader, Duterte must win this war as his rise or fall depends on its outcome. And the stakes rise higher by the day. His recent announcement of the involvement of local politicians in illegal drugs has opened a new battlefield in this protracted war. Will heads roll as with those unrepentant pushers meeting sudden deaths ? Like you and me, Mayors are mortal enough to fear for their lives – so off they went to Camp Crame in a hurry to beat the 24 – hour deadline set by the President. Their involvement have certainly added a political dimension to the drug problem. It is an indication of how pervasive it has become and of how it has been the lifeblood of politics in some LGUs. There is just too much at stake in the President’s all- out war. He has, in fact, opened a Pandora’s Box of which nobody but the President knows how it will be unraveled , be it in his first one hundred days or in the entire breath of his administration. It will ,without doubt, define his Presidency and his leadership for many years to come.

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