Isko Moreno, the young gun who wants PH to be the next Singapore
MANILA, Philippines — Isko Moreno is ambitious, but ambitious not only for himself, but also for the country.
At least that was his presidential speech during his one-on-one interview with the Philippines’ first Nobel laureate, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
The special presidential interview series #WeDecide: First 100 Days aims to ask candidates to illustrate what their administration would mean and do for Filipinos. Moreno’s interview aired on Tuesday, April 19.
The 47-year-old mayor of Manila’s long-term vision for the Philippines under his leadership is to make it the next Singapore. Ressa pointed out a fundamental difference between the two countries – Singapore’s population is over five million while the Philippines has over 110 million people, Singapore is a small island, the Philippines has over 7,000 islands.
“There is no harm in achieving or trying to achieve what Singaporeans achieve, kasi sila ‘yung pinakamalapit sa atin, at sa kasaysayan, pinaka-dugyot (they are the closest to us, and in history, the most oppressed),” said Moreno, a staunch admirer of Singaporean leader Lee Kwan Yew.
“No matter what happened in the past, they got there, so hindi rin siya (so it’s not) impossible,” Moreno said.
How will he realize this dream? The mayor said he would start by fixing the bureaucracy.
He said he was the man for the job because of his decades of dealings with a city of bureaucracy – Manila.
“It’s a very difficult city, especially when I took office – financially, physically, and the impression of the business people in Manila was that there was no certainty. We are not predictable on rules and regulations,” Moreno said.
He impressed many with his quick clean-up of the notoriously chaotic streets of the city’s famous shopping districts. When he said the persistence of vendors in the middle of the streets meant he was on the alert, he left an impression of political will.
Moreno’s formula was simple: get the best people to run departments, even if they worked under political rivals; then order them to “speed up everything” related to bureaucracy and program implementation.
The most effective bureaucracy would then be mobilized to focus on what he calls “minimum basic needs” – food security, health, education, jobs, affordable necessities like electricity and gasoline.
Moreno is giving himself the first two years of a six-year presidency to address these pervasive challenges, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think the first two years mean the most to me of this six-year term. Which one is paano tayo makakatawid in this pandemyang? As we yearn [for] better things, good things, kapag gutom ang tao, namatay ang tao sa sakit, balewala lahat ‘yan. There’s nothing to govern if people die, so I’ll go back to basics. Tawid lang kitahe told Ressa.
(I think the first two years mean the most to me of this six-year term. That is, how can I get us out of this pandemic? As we yearn for better things, good things , if people are hungry, people are dying of disease, all that doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to govern if people are dying, so I’m going to go back to basics. I’m just going to get you through .)
Ressa described Moreno as “charming” like President Rodrigo Duterte, also a mayor who aspired to the top national post. His passionate supporters have often cited Duterte’s “authenticity” and unconventionalness as key to his appeal. (READ: Isko vs. Duterte: A comparison by a reporter who covered their campaigns)
But whereas Duterte used fear of his person to instill order, Moreno’s tactic would be different: He said he would instill order by creating certainty that laws would be applied without preferential treatment to any class or class. nobody.
“If you are certain and this certainty [of laws] would apply to the poor, to the middle class, to the rich, to the powerful, to those without power, I think it will trickle down, naturally, without creating fear,” he said.
Ressa also asked Moreno about his hardline stance on online misinformation. In previous forums and debates, the tech-savvy mayor had said he would hold social media platforms responsible for spreading fake news and harmful propaganda.
For Ressa, he said that meant finding a way to ensure that anyone using a social media account is using their real name.
‘I’m going to hold everyone accountable…. One of the keys is, “Okay, let’s make this account legit.” So democracy can continue,” Moreno said.
Ressa then said, “When you say legit, you want their names?”
“Sure!” replied Moreno.
After the interview, controversial pro-Duterte blogger Mocha Uson began joining Moreno’s campaign events and endorsing his presidential bid, raising eyebrows about his commitment to fighting misinformation. Uson is facing administrative and criminal complaints against Uson for spreading “false news” while she was deputy secretary of the Palace. But in the face of such concerns, Moreno said Uson had to deal with these cases.
Last Friday, April 15, Malacañang announced that President Duterte had vetoed a bill that would have required social media users to register their real names when creating social media accounts.
Duterte cited free speech and data privacy concerns in rejecting the bill. The Duterte presidency has seen the rise of rabid disinformation networks bent on defaming critics of the government. Frontrunner in the presidential race, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has been the primary beneficiary of many such networks that have aired misleading content sanitizing his father’s dictatorship and outright denying widespread human rights abuses during this period.
Moreno alluded to it during the interview.
“Marami nabulag (Many were blinded). Because there is too much of a smokescreen… Can you imagine, we voted, chose, through democratic processes on the premise of ‘sinabi language,’ ‘napanood ko lang‘ (‘someone just said, ‘I just watched it’). That’s what worries me [about]not as a candidate, but as a citizen,” Moreno said.
He hopes Filipinos will vote on May 9 for proven leaders who have the people’s best interests at heart. Moreno hopes voters will see that kind of leader in him. – Rappler.com