OF TREES AND FOREST
Former Senate President
The Philippine Vice President has traditionally been viewed as a mere backup, a spare tire, to the President. Unlike in the United States where the VP serves as the president of the Senate and presides over the Senate's daily proceedings, the Philippine Constitution merely suggests a possible role for the second in command: “The Vice-President may be appointed as a member of the Cabinet. Such appointment requires no confirmation” (Art VII, Sec 3 ). Aside from this non-binding Cabinet offer, the vice president is likewise mandated to assume the presidency in case of the death, disability, or resignation of the sitting President.
I have a strong feeling that the 15th Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines will not fit comfortably into this traditional role. She’s not going to be a mere spare tire.
On June 19, 2022 — coincidentally Jose Rizal’s 161st birthday — Sara Duterte was sworn in as Vice President in Davao City where she is also the outgoing mayor. The inaugural speech which she delivered after taking her oath was succinct and meaningful. One part was, in particular, very significant:
“If we all take a moment to listen to the call to serve and decide to heed the call — in the same way that many are already devoting their lives as hardworking farmers and fisherfolk that ensure there is food on our tables, dedicated health workers who help the sick, brave soldiers who fight for our country, honest and fair entrepreneurs who support our economy, patient school teachers that guide our children — I believe the country will be heading toward a future of hope, security, strength, stability, and progress.”
Sara views her assumption to the Vice Presidency as a “call to serve;” not a job, but a vocation. A calling which she has bravely accepted. This, I believe, shows her courage. She views this as her destiny. She recalled in the speech that she wanted to become a doctor, a career which she tried to pursue. But she became a lawyer. She wanted to finish her full three terms as mayor of her beloved city but she is now vice president. She is correct — this is her destiny.
I have always known her as a brave soul. I have written in previous social media posts that I consider her as a wonder woman — a perfect brew of Angela Merkel’s strength of character, the grace of Gal Gadot, the charisma of her father, and her own confidence and equanimity.
I had some personal discussions with her before she made her decision to run for a national post. During our conversations, I sensed in her a strong conviction for what she believes in but also a profound understanding of her destiny as a servant of the country she truly loves. She wanted to continue serving her fellow Dabawenyos but she knew that there is a bigger calling for her.
I am glad that President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. offered her the education portfolio. She has a good grasp of the problems of education in the country. She mentioned this in her speech: “At home, parents have the duty to teach children the values of integrity, discipline, respect, and compassion for others. And we should never forget that it is the duty of each Filipino family to emphasize that education begins at home.”
She ended her speech in a humbled but determined tone: “Hindi ako ang pinakamagaling, o pinakamatalinong tao sa Pilipinas at sa mundo — ngunit walang makakatalo sa tibay ng puso ko bilang isang Filipino.” Of course, we value intelligence and abilities but more important than these qualities is the heart to serve your country. This is your moral compass as you navigate the complicated and challenging realm of public service which has corrupted some. It is nice to know that our new VP has her heart in the right place.
I wish our new Vice President the best of luck as she faces a new chapter in her life as the second highest official of the land. Let us pray for her, and offer our help, so she can fulfill the destiny of our country towards “a future of hope, security, strength, stability, and progress.”
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