Sara Zimmerman Duterte took her oath of office as the 15th Vice President of the Philippines in simple ceremonies held in Davao City on June 19, the birth anniversary of the country’s national hero, and the global celebration of Father’s Day. It was a unique inaugural that conveyed the importance of faith in God, love of country, and caring for the family as the three most important imperatives for Filipinos today.
She took her oath before Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando as the country’s second highest official while invoking God’s help, and in the presence of her family: her father, President Rodrigo R. Duterte; her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman; her husband Maneses Carpio and their three children; and her two brothers.
As she had promised, it was a brief speech, only 821 words, that she delivered in just 15 minutes. Yet her message was one that resonates clearly with the more than 32 million Filipinos who voted for her and gave her the highest number of votes in a national election.
She said that the call to serve is an expression of God’s will: “There is a God. A God whose will transcends the desires of our hearts, one whose will directs us to the way that we might not have imagined — but a way that consecrates ourselves every day to help our fellowmen overcome the difficulties they face in their lives, to change lives, to save lives. She likened heeding the call to public service to the way that farmers, fisherfolk, health workers, soldiers, and entrepreneurs fulfill their vocation to serve while earning their keep.
Paying homage to Dr. Jose Rizal’s heroism, she said that by emulating the virtues of selflessness and sacrifice that he exemplified, we “could change our country’s fate and shape our children’s future” just as his bravery “completes the fabric of our identity as Filipinos.” She urged the citizenry: “Let us show our love for our country by taking care of our families and communities despite the unending challenges that come our way.”
Her focus on family served as the platform for outlining her perspectives on what ails Philippine society: poverty, criminality, drug abuse, disease, illiteracy, terrorism, and misinformation through the internet. She pointed out the antidote to all these social ills: “A strong, loving, happy family sets down all the basic foundations essential in the development and growth of a child.” Moreover, she said — “We should never forget that it is the duty of each Filipino family to emphasize that education begins at home” — in subtle reference to her forthcoming role as Secretary of Education in the Cabinet of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.
She ended her memorable inaugural speech with a simple affirmation:” Ako po si Inday Sara. A proud Dabawenya. A proud Mindanawon. Hindi ako ang pinakamagaling, o pinakamatalinong tao sa Pilipinas at sa mundo — ngunit walang makakatalo sa tibay ng puso ko bilang isang Filipino.” (“I may not be the best or the most intelligent person in the Philippines and in the world, but no one can beat the fervor in my heart as a Filipino.”)