A Cabinet official on Wednesday allayed concerns that President Rodrigo Duterte would be a dictator just to restore order in the country amid pressing problems such as terrorism and illegal drugs.
At a media forum, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Duterte's iron-fist approach toward crime should not be equated to authoritarianism, which is a government characterized by strong central power and limited civil freedoms.
"All is know he is very strict and he is bent on enforcing the laws of the land. He's a lawyer and he knows his limits," Esperon said.
Esperon, former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also does not see Duterte arrogating power to himself, citing the President's push for the shift from presidential to a federal system of government.
Under the federal setup, the central government would be limited to a few powers like maintenance of law and order and the other duties would be devolved to federal states.
"Why would he go for federalism which breaks up the country into several federal states? Is that what you call authoritarianism?" Esperon asked.
"He will not go for it. So do we call him a constitutional dictator or do we call him a forceful law enforcer, enforcer of the laws of the land, enforcer against criminality, enforcer against illegal drugs, enforcer against corruption, enforcer for good governance? Be the judge," he added.
Duterte had openly praised former President Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country for 20 years including nearly a decade of Martial Law, which the former leader declared supposedly to stem lawlessness and the threat of a communist insurgency.
Marcos' critics, however, said he used his vast powers to clamp down on political foes and activists and accumulate billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth.
Duterte had promised he would not follow Marcos' lead, saying in a press conference on August 31 that his late mother, Soledad, was part of the anti-dictatorship movement. Duterte, however, is bent on giving Marcos a place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, triggering a flurry of petitions from various groups seeking to block the plan before the Supreme Court.
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