By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The country has a new president in Rodrigo Roa Duterte. His induction as the 16th president of the Philippines had none of the pomp of previous presidential inaugurations. According to the Malacañang website, seven presidents were inaugurated at the Quirino Grandstand, three at the Legislative building in Manila, three in different venues due to extraordinary circumstances – Cory Aquino at Club Filipino, Marcos at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall in 1986, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in 2001, at the EDSA Shrine – and four outside Manila: Emilio Aguinaldo and Joseph Estrada at the Barasoain Church, Arroyo in Cebu in 2004, and Manuel L. Quezon in Corregidor Island in 1941. http://malacanang.gov.ph/1608-the-protocol-ceremony-history-and-symbolism-of-the-presidential-inauguration/
So President Duterte is the first elected president who, by choice, held it in a relatively small venue, in Malacañang Palace, shunning the grandeur of previous presidential inaugurations. Duterte’s inaugural speech was also simple, short, and sober. It did not contain big promises, flowery one-liners such as “kayo ang boss ko” (You are my bosses), “walang iwanan” (nobody would be left out), “There could be no reconciliation without justice,” or the declaration that this would be a new era for the people.
President Duterte did promise to stamp out corruption, criminality, the illegal drugs trade, and the breakdown of law and order. The fight against crime and illegal drugs has been hallmark of his presidential campaign, and even his terms as mayor of Davao City.
But stamping out corruption? Wasn’t this the main campaign promise of Aquino and supposedly the hallmark of his presidency? “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap.” (If there is no corruption, there would be no poverty.) “That is no mere slogan for posters — it is the defining principle that will serve as the foundation of our administration. Our foremost duty is to lift the nation from poverty through honest and effective governance.” (Aquino’s 2010 inaugural speech)
President Duterte identified “erosion of faith and trust in government” as the real problem that confronts the Filipino people.
“Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier.” (Duterte’s inaugural speech)
Wasn’t addressing the problem of corruption and erosion of the people’s trust in government the whole point of Aquino’s “daang matuwid”?
“We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation.” (Aquino’s inaugural speech)
The fact that President Duterte identified the erosion of the people’s trust and confidence in the government as a main problem implies that Aquino’s “daang matuwid” was a total failure.
Were progressive groups right all along when they criticized the Aquino administration for being corrupt, elitist, and numb to the needs of the people?
The Aquino administration has ended after six long years and yet the Filipino people are nowhere near its promises of good governance, eradication of poverty, and prosperity. In fact, poor Filipinos, who comprise the majority, are even worse off.
Even before his inauguration President Duterte has already reached out and extended the hand of peace to different groups to help solve the problems confronting the Filipino people: corruption, criminality, illegal drugs, massive poverty, and a government controlled by and benefiting only the elite. Will he be able to deliver on his campaign promises or at least move the nation toward genuine change? Or will we again be pointing out the unfulfilled promises of an outgoing administration?
So far, the Duterte administration has appointed a good mix of people in his Cabinet and has initiated moves toward resuming peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines with the declared objective of addressing the roots of the armed conflict.
But there is still much to be done and the next 100 days would reveal the direction the Duterte administration would be taking. Much depends on the sincerity and determination of the Duterte administration.
The road to change is arduous and full of struggles because those who wield political, economic and military power, both local and international, would fight tooth and nail to defend their entrenched interests and the status quo. They could derail or even attempt to undermine or topple the Duterte administration in the name of regime change. Only the power of the Filipino people acting collectively to support the progressive initiatives of the Duterte administration and to push it if and when it falters from moving toward genuine change could countervail the power of the defenders of the unjust and anti-people status quo.