Change did not come

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Marlen V. Ronquillo

Remember the euphoria generated by Mr. Duterte’s campaign theme “change is coming?” There was no literal dancing on the streets but an equivalent surge of hope and optimism was palpable after Mr. Duterte’s overwhelming win in the May 2016 presidential elections. The nation, tired and weary of Mr. Aquino’s cluelessness and obsession with “GDP” was electrified with the promise of “change” and the unorthodoxy of Mr. Duterte’s approach to leadership.

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“Change is coming,” said Mr. Duterte. And Filipinos, even the Duterte doubters, believed.

As if to stress his difference with the clueless Mr. Aquino, whose exclusive display of toughness was his firm veto of token legislative measures for the suffering, Mr. Duterte started with all the right pronouncements. A peace pact with the revolutionary left, a scorch-earth policy against official corruption, the resurgence of manufacturing, a radical overhaul of foreign relations, untangling the metropolitan gridlocks through science and planning and an infrastructure build-up like no other.

Of course, his war on drugs was the priority. Filipinos, however, had the sense that the war would target the real culprits, stop the smuggling of shabu from overseas suppliers and manage the whole processing of purging the drug menace with the least collateral damage.

“Hear, hear,” Mr. Duterte told Filipinos at this point last year. “We are going to remake the country and for the better.” With a mock gesture of a clenched fist thrust forward, Filipinos cheered every word of Mr. Duterte.

What is happening in October 2017, today, rends the heart, to say the least. Heartbroken Filipinos are now the Irish from the earlier times. They have the feeling that they cannot really rejoice as the world will always come down crashing on them and snuff out any feeling of euphoria and celebration.

Right after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, also of Irish descent like Kennedy, was quoted by the newspapers as saying: To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will always break your heart.

That is us now, as the general euphoria from “change is coming” gets its reality check. As usual, we are wallowing in the usual woes of a Banana Republic.

The major newspapers may be bleeding on all fronts – loss of readership, loss of revenue, loss of the influence they had in the pre-FB age, the general signs they are going down the path of irrelevance – but what they publish still sums up the preoccupation of the national leaders and the general state of the nation.

The preoccupation of the country’s most powerful leader, the president, is vividly captured by the newspaper headlines. So, what are today’s headlines?

The headlines start off with Mr. Duterte’s determination to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Sereno, and the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales. Mr. Duterte claims the two are part of a conspiracy to remove him from office.

In the other headlines related to the presidency, Mr. Duterte slams his arch-enemy, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th. He said that Mr. Trillanes, who has been presenting bank records that allegedly showed a P2 billion movement in the bank transactions of Mr. Duterte from 2006 to 2015, got his documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council executive director Julia Bacay-Abad. Mr. Duterte has alleged that Ms. Bacay – Abad is a “mistress “ of Senator Trillanes.

He called Mr. Trillanes names.

The Senate President, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, asked the PNP a pointed but timely question. Where is the promised peace? Killings via riding-in-tandem have been a national spectacle along with the EJKs.

From the euphoria and celebration of October 2016, we are now in an October of “conspiracy” and “plots” to remove the duly-constituted government. The presidency, instead of being preoccupied with change and hope, is now preoccupied with the ghastly stuff, the sorry stuff that give the general impression of a nation not on the go but on its path to self-destruction, the usual woes of a Banana Republic.

In just a year, the dreams and hopes of a better country under Mr. Duterte have been shattered by the obsession with conspiracies and plots, extra-constitutional seizure of power, politics of the most vitriolic kind, all egged on by presidential aides who can conjure scenarios of sieges at the drop of a hat and without any prodding and context at all.

To the political conspirators and zealots who seemed to have found their springtime under Mr. Duterte, the Philippines’ version of an unthinking Game of Thrones is their coming out party from the cocoons of venomous anonymity. Abetted and aided by bloggers of the same viciousness and stupidity.

To the ordinary Filipinos, the Everyman who dreamt big in the early months of the Duterte presidency, it is an opportunity squandered – at their expense and at the expense of a country that could have had bold and radical reforms under Mr. Duterte.

Change did not come. We are back to the same situation, this time with more venom and vile.

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