RODRIGO Duterte is showing the world that he is different from all of his predecessors in the presidency. Filipinos, specifically those who did not vote for him, are struggling to accept the change that he had promised to bring about in government.
When you have a leader who prefers to go against the norms, you have to brace yourself for change. But when change is toward regression, the struggle becomes even harder to hope for better things to come.
Duterte, who will officially become the 16th President of the Philippine Republic on June 30, is far from being perfect. In fact, he is perceived by the majority who had other choices in the May 9 elections to be worse than those who came before him.
When the President sets aside good manners and right conduct even when appearing on national TV broadcast, we think we’re in big trouble. When the President shows disrespect for women, elders, and the disabled, he disconnects from his previous records that show laudable programs promoting their welfare.
Browsing on Facebook a few days ago, I saw this status of a teenage girl: “Hindi ko na alam kung ano ang tama sa mali.” (I can no longer distinguish right from wrong.) She made this comment on news reports that Duterte was not bent on assigning any Cabinet position to Vice President-elect Leni Robredo because it could hurt Bongbong Marcos, Jr., Robredo’s closest rival in the VP contest.
Previous posts of this lady, whose parents have not even met when martial law was declared in 1972, show her understanding of the country’s politics even before she was born. She was born a few years after Marcos, the dictator, was flown to Hawaii in 1986 where he died in 1989. In short, her political awareness is quite high compared with other teeners.
The girl’s post struck me. Change is coming, indeed! But it is change that does not show positivity. The change Duterte espouses seems to be from good to bad, the opposite of what we have grown accustomed to.
We often struggle to hope for a better tomorrow because we don’t know what it might look like. We take some time to try to figure out what awaits us, what future the younger generation would have if they grow up in an environment that we perceive to be far from ideal.
But there is no way that hatred, finger-pointing, labeling, defaming, casting aspersions on one another would help improve the situation.
Before the May 9 elections, I dreaded the probability of a Duterte presidency; it was difficult for me to accept his victory. But what option do I have other than accepting? The abhorrence was difficult to let go in view of the disgusting actions and behavior he had shown weeks before he officially assumes the presidency.
I wanted to give Duterte the chance to prove his worth. I wanted to be hopeful. But he is self-destructing even before he could take over the seat of power. Instead of breaking out of his bad habits in view of the widespread public disgust, he refuses to change his ways. He keeps on taunting his critics and continues to challenge the norms.
The hatred on the outgoing administration and the apparently unrealistic expectations on the incoming dispensation present a worrisome situation. Duterte should be able to narrow the gap to avoid further dividing the people. However, his post-election actions betray our hopes.
For one, his choice for a spokesperson has the reputation that seems unfit for the office he would represent or speak for. Salvador Panelo is disliked not only because of his links to the Ampatuans, the family embroiled in the mass murder of media workers in Maguindanao in 1989.
I won’t forget his nightly presence at the wake for my good friend Chit Estella, whose death in a vehicular accident in May 2011 was well-publicized. He also came early in his obnoxious attire for the funeral mass. It turned out that he tried to make his presence felt because he wanted to handle the criminal case against the bus company and its driver that bumped Chit’s taxi, causing her instant death. Nobody paid attention to him.
Two weeks after Chit was interred, we were shocked to read the news quoting him as the lawyer for the bus driver.
I learned from a Palace insider recently that when Panelo met with outgoing Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. for the transition and turnover of office, he asked if directorships in government-owned and -controlled corporations and other extra income go with the position.
Duterte may be right when he said he was having difficulty recruiting for Cabinet positions because they were concerned over the low pay in the bureaucracy. I would like to be hopeful in some of those who have accepted the challenge to serve under his administration, particularly UP Professors Benjamin Diokno and Leonor Briones.
I would like to be hopeful that by June 30, Duterte would live by his statement that he would behave prim and proper, that he would bring about change, a change that will be meaningful to every Filipino, change that can restore law and order and make us walk with heads up, proud to be Filipinos.
I hope that Duterte will not fail me, and the rest of the Filipinos, particularly those who raised too much expectation on his promise of change.