Wenceslao: Time 100

Bong O. Wenceslao

TIME’S list of “100 Most Influential People in the World 2017” is out. Time 100 is fresh in the consciousness of Filipinos with recent reports that our very own President Rodrigo Duterte topped the magazine’s Reader Poll. The online survey solicits the help of Time readers on who should be included in the list. The “counsel from Time 100 alumni” is also sought. The final decision on the matter, though, remains with the magazine’s editors.

In the online survey, Duterte was followed closely at the top by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Pope Francis, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. In the final list, only Duterte and Pope Francis were included. Sen. Leila de Lima, who was not in the online poll, is in the list.

The Time 100 accompanying article, written by the magazine’s managing editor Nancy Gibbs, notes that the list “explores the intersection of accomplishment and renown.” She adds: “As in years past, this year’s list includes Presidents and Prime Ministers, CEOs and celebrities — but they are joined by others of less fame but great force, in the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve.”

Herein lies the crux of the matter. It’s not always that those in the list are “honored.” The criteria is not solely about accomplishments, and the consequences of the nominees actions are not considered. This obviously was the point missed by supporters of the President who feverishly worked to have him top the online polls and be included in Time 100.

If the President’s supporters are dismayed by the Time 100 presentation, I partly share that dismay. They must have thought the President would be heaped with accolades; what he got instead was a back-handed compliment. Time chose to ask former Colombia president Cesar Gaviria, a critic of Duterte’s conduct of the war on illegal drugs, to write the President’s introduction. Months ago, Duterte had called Gaviria an idiot.

Gaviria continued the criticism in his introduction of Duterte. “There are solutions that work,” he writes. “Duterte could start by treating drugs as a health, human rights and development issue...There will always be drugs in the Philippines, whether the President likes it or not. The tragedy is that many more people are likely going to die as he learns this lesson.”

In contrast, de Lima’s introduction was written by a diplomat, former United States ambassador Samantha Power, who obviously does not buy the accusations linking de Lima to the illegal drugs trade. Instead, the senator was presented as someone being prosecuted for her criticism of extra-judicial killings in the government’s war against the illegal drugs trade.

“It is a disturbing testament to the current solidarity among strongmen and the global surge in impunity that de Lima’s cause has not been more embraced,” Power writes. “And yet, even from prison, she continues to speak out against her President: ‘It’s not O.K. with me that we have a murderous psychopath occupying the highest post in the land.’”