I denounce threats in social media hurled against professional journalists because of perceived bias against President Rodrigo Duterte. That kind of vitriol has no place in a democratic society, regardless of where political alliances lie. Words do matter, especially so when daggers are folded in between spaces, buoyed by the anonymity allowed by social media.
We need to detoxify the political atmosphere and perhaps one way to do that is to point out changes that this writer finds to be so refreshing. As head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, I have been going to inter-agency and national consultation meetings for several years now to hash over perennial problems confronting the overseas employment sector. As the pile of problems to solve keep exceeding the number of solutions delivered, it is inevitable that one’s level of frustration keeps going up.
More than a week ago, I participated in two consultation meetings, one at the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) now led by former POEA chief Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, and a second one at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), now led by Secretary Guiling Mamondiong. Both meetings ended with the participants feeling hopeful and invigorated because everyone was allowed to speak, and possible solutions were listed down for all stakeholders to be a part of.
There is a palpable difference in how these meetings were managed. The way I look at it, the heads of agencies are now allergic to perceptions of hanging on to unfinished business. Unlike in the past, any citizen can now call 8888 to complain, and none of the bureaucrats really know which complaint will make it all the way to the President’s attention. I also sense a sincere desire and commitment to please the public, and I don’t mean this in the traditional PR sense.
For example, the earnest way by which Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd keeps engaging various stakeholders under the department’s vast jurisdiction is commendable, especially because he also oversees peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front. Yet today, the labor secretary will preside over a labor summit to build a consensus on how best to resolve pressing domestic labor concerns such as ending “endo,” or exploitative labor contractual schemes.
Things are moving, people are talking and institutions are engaged in conversations that are solutions-driven, and it is so refreshing! Amid the vitriol aired over social media, and questions raised because of extrajudicial killings, there is real substance in the air, and this administration is responsible for it.
Former President Fidel V. Ramos slammed the current administration for lack of vision, and its Cabinet for lack of cohesion. Much of the problem lies in the effort to communicate, because we do have a commander-in-chief that delivers triple the number of speeches as his predecessor – and not exactly in a structured, formal and predictable way. To my mind, what we have is a working class government that aims to leap past the norms and settle mightily into the herculean effort of bringing this nation up to speed so we can catch up with the rest of our neighbors.
Carrying out practical solutions to solve perennial problems is never neat or easy. If it were, then most of these problems concerning traffic congestion, expensive and slow Internet service, age discrimination in the workplace, as well as tremendous income disparities would have long been forgotten. What is refreshing is the openness to new ideas, better partnerships and an unorthodox way of doing things by government itself.
President Duterte is a maverick leader who keeps challenging the status quo because he has seen how it has failed us over the years. People trust him because he is so transparent that all his emotions come out like rainbows in a single speech.
He is going to China unshackled by the need to come up with appearances before the western world. He knows too well that every word he utters and every hand he shakes during the China visit would be magnified and analyzed, mainly from the perspective of those who fear our uncoupling from America. But hey, we are a sovereign nation, capable of harnessing diplomatic ties with any other country for strategic goals in line with our national interest. From where and how can we best get more traction in boosting our competitive advantages as a nation? Let’s face it – our significance in the world rises when our economy hits the boom cycle.
Comments aimed at reminding the present administration about the historic friendship between the United States and the Philippines underscores the insecurities of the day. But riddle me this, why can’t we pursue the full blossoming of relations with China while we continue to work with the United States as its democratic ally? I am confident that President Duterte will pull this off without sacrificing an inch of our sovereign territory.
The momentum for change is here. Let’s pray that it doesn’t stop.