By Melito Salazar Jr.
Today, the focus of the Filipino people will be the State of the Nation as reported by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Let me refocus the attention to the man delivering the report. Just as the nation expected progress in the country’s economic and social development, so too should the Filipino people expect a maturing, an improvement in the leadership and management capabilities of their President.
Candidate Rodrigo Duterte exhibited the reality of what he was – expletives in his speeches, a seemingly disregard for gender sensibilities, a candidness (I have no program, I will just borrow from what the others are presenting), a populist and anti-imperial Manila appeal, and “don’t care for the trappings” attitude. And he won, on a very attractive and compelling promise – Pagbabago! Change!
He launched the anti-drugs campaign and despite the thousands of poor addicts becoming victims, his popularity soared as many communities had seen how drugs destroyed families and encouraged petty crimes. His was for the instant solution, not the ones that took time – rehabilitation, education, community involvement. His was a mayor’s approach, the symptoms attended to but the disease still there. Not learning from the experiences of other countries like Thailand, President Duterte is leaving behind a legacy of death but not a long-term and sustainable solution to the drug menace. Regretfully Candidate Duterte has not metamorphosed into President Duterte.
The President of the nation is expected to embody the virtues and character of the Filipino people. His speeches and pronouncements are meant to encourage everyone to do good, praise those who have sacrificed for the country, inspire everyone to unite for the common good. President Duterte’s speeches seem to evoke fear and despair. At times, there is disrespect for institutions and on a recurring basis, on women. I may be wrong but I sense the President’s uneasiness in dealing with strong women who disagree with him. He picks up a fight with them and together with his minions topple them from their positions of power into the waiting arms of the Filipino people. The future generations will not learn good behavior and right conduct from President even as his Secretary of Education, Leonor Briones includes it in the curriculum.
Mayor Duterte had a reputation as a tough mayor taking on all those who threaten peace and order of Davao. President Duterte is quiet and deferential when it comes to dealing with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Under his leadership, China has increased its encroachments in the West Philippine Sea and planted Chinese names on features of Benham Rise now declared by us as Philippine Rise. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has expressed our inability to fight China while our ASEAN neighbor Vietnam has valiantly protected its territorial sovereignty. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has on many occasions lamented our inability to use international tribunal rulings favorable to the Philippines. The Filipino people have declared their patriotism to defend Philippine sovereignty; will President Duterte follow?
Program – “Build, Build, Build” and many other developmental projects in all departments are still waiting to be started. The Duterte administration is good in giving away money. In government management that is the easiest thing to do – double salaries of policemen and the military. The more difficult ones are to make projects take off. To get infrastructure projects started and completed, one has to deal with stringent procurement procedures, RIGHT OF WAY issues, coordination with electric and telecommunications providers, traffic management with MMDA and local government units and a multitude and layers of decision making. These are not resolved by Cabinet meetings for photo ops but by cluster meetings like what we had during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos. What we need is a President who will pester his cabinet for completed staff work (csw) and take the time to visit projects. His personal concern and attention will make things move faster. It may also have the collateral benefits of less speeches and more action.
President Duterte promised Pagbabago! He should realize by now that the change he promised is not just change for the better in the lives of the Filipino people