In case he does not know it yet, someone should tell Rodrigo Duterte that the political campaign is over and he is now the elected president. And he should act like one.

For starters, Duterte can lessen those news conferences he’s been holding in Davao City where he called Church officials hypocrites and said they were not doing enough for the plight of the poor. Duterte does not have to kowtow to the Church but he also does not have to pick a fight with it. In his recent press conference I thought I heard Digong use the “P.I” phrase and the “F” word in responding to a reporter’s question.

We do not know if Duterte’s deep disdain for the Church has anything to do with his claim he was abused by a priest during his childhood. Somehow, he does not have any issue with the influential Iglesia ni Cristo which endorsed his presidential candidacy. In his verbal exchange with retired Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Duterte dredged up the “sins of the Church” and the issue of Montero SUVs given to Church officials during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Cruz clarified the vehicles were donated by the Arroyo administration for priests to carry out their missionary work in far-flung places not accessible by public transportation.

The brash-talking Davao mayor also announced he would restore the death penalty even as he urged married couples to limit their family to three children so as not to encounter economic hardships. While the two proposals have gained acceptance with a wide segment of the population, these are visceral issues strongly opposed by the Church in this country of 103 million-one of the fastest-growing in the world.

In his free-wheeling news conferences, the incoming president also made known his plan to shift to federalism and the parliamentary form of government even before he has been sworn in and before he has completed his Cabinet. Establishing a federal and a parliamentary form of government needs an amendment to the Constitution. If the amendments are passed by Congress, the proposal still has to be submitted to a referendum for the people’s approval.

We understand the new president’s well-intentioned eagerness to make meaningful change to move the country forward. But his two proposals need to be carefully studied and thought through. Federalism could, if we don’t watch out, be used by politicians to perpetuate political dynasties in every province.

On his way to call on president-elect Duterte, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said a new Philippine administration augurs well for the start of bilateral talks to heal the strained relations between Manila and Beijing brought about by the bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Yeah, right. But we all know ambassadors are trained in the art of talking in diplomatic niceties. We hope Digong does not use his “P/I” phrase and “F” word on the envoy who’s just doing his job.

Is China’s softer stance due to its expectation of an adverse ruling by The Hague arbitral court upholding United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, recognizing the Philippines’ 200-mile economic exclusive zone ? This, plus the firm stand of the United States to conduct sail by and surveillance flights in the area claimed by China. The countries in the region-Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and the Philippines-welcome the US presence as a counterbalance to a rising China.

Lifting the embargo on the sale of weapons to former enemy Vietnam and sealing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines are two of the US actions to strengthen its hand in Asia and the Pacific. The US considers itself a Pacific power and is not about ready to relinquish this position to the Chinese.

Does China really want peace in Southeast Asia? If it does, the first step to take is to dismantle those military installation it built on man-made islands reclaimed from the sea. Another option is to settle the conflicting claims in the South China Sea though multilateral talks and not bilaterally.

Finally, have a wide-ranging joint agreement to explore and exploit the potential oil, gas and mineral resources under the sea. This would redound to the peace and prosperity of all the countries in the region-not just of China.

Source: The Standard