Digong’s humanity

Published August 22, 2018, 10:51 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat


In a speech delivered last week at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang before an audience of businessmen and diplomats, President Rodrigo Duterte intimated his desire to step down because of his frustrations at the

problems of the country, principally, corruption and illegal drugs.

“Guys, I want you to know that I am thinking of stepping down because I’m tired…. My chase against graft and corruption seems to be endless,” the President said.

The so-called political “pundits” and “analysts,” of course, immediately jumped on the statement and spun all sorts of conspiracy theories and political scenarios in the event of the President’s resignation. That single statement in his 90-minute speech became the focus of intense debate and speculation.

But after reading it, I thought the speech was very personal and showed President Duterte’s human side. Some people saw politics; I saw Digong’s humanity.

“Now, I’d like to talk also about my personal heartaches and all,” the President said after setting aside his prepared speech. “I do not think that I can fulfill my promise to the people…I said I will try to stop corruption which I’m doing. And still I cannot succeed even beyond my term. I told you that I will go after drugs and I warned everybody because on what used to be millions of transactions worth; it’s now billions.”

In expressing his frustrations at the seemingly never-ending problems of the country, Duterte is exposing his human side to the public. Who has not experienced this episode at least once in their lives? You set out a goal for yourselves — personal, family, or business — and life keeps pulling you down. You feel as if every possible obstacles is being thrown at you. It’s tiring. It’s exasperating.

Imagine the kind of problems the president of the country needs to face. So President Digong in a moment of candor told his audience that he is tired: “Ngayon ho, so habol ako nang habol. Pagod na ako.”

This is not the first time he has expressed this sentiment. In his State of the Nation Address this year, the President also expressed his disappointments. In his remarks, the President complained about “friends and political supporters whom I appointed to public office and then dismissed or caused to resign.”

He stated that he valued friendship but friendship has its limits. The President has not hesitated to fire his friends and supporters who have been accused of graft and corruption.

In a deeply profound and personal moment of the SONA, the President said: “This is a lonely place I am hemmed in. Do not make it lonelier by forcing me to end our friendship because you gave me the reason to end it. It pains me to end — the loss of friendships. And that is why I appeal to you to help me in my cause so that our friendship will endure.”

The President has clearly set the standard for ethics in public service. He values loyalty and friendship but he loves his country more. You are his friend only in so far as you are an ally in his efforts to better the conditions of the country.

These two speeches portray the human side of Duterte. The quality that his critics denounce him for is the same quality that endeared him to his millions of followers – his honesty.

Duterte’s impromptu speeches are unadulterated, not masked by jargon or diplomatic language. He speaks his mind. He is not a politician who utters remarks carefully and cautiously calibrated to appeal to all. When he talks there is no filter. For better or worse, with Duterte, what you see (and hear) is what you get.

His frustrations aside, the President remained committed to the task at hand: “Two years later, my solid commitment to directly and decisively address our nation’s collective challenges remains. It has not wavered. In truth, it has even gotten stronger through adversity and the desire to give the people the most we can.”

Leadership is a lonely calling. For this reason, the support and participation of people are critical. This is not only Duterte’s fight; it is the struggle of the Filipino nation.