SIEM REAP, Cambodia: When one does business in a foreign place, usually you combine it with pleasure, given the chance. That has always been a privilege given to people who can combine both and come out experiencing local culture, whether food, sites, history, politics, economy, and all.
But in selling a country as a destination or an investment area, its policies need to be reliable, predictable and stable. If the country is not, then it is hard to attract visitors and investors. Worst, the ease of doing business becomes problematic and, hence, risks become unmanageable. And so it came to pass that we ushered in the Duterte administration.
For someone who comes from Mindanao and whose experience was purely local, the pre-inaugural work had given most Filipinos a sigh of relief that this administration would buckle down to work on its first day. In a matter of one month, PRRD has changed the political landscape. The so-called power relations have undergone a shakeup, from the Church to media, from the oligarchs to politicians, from the uniformed personnel (AFP and PNP) to those in the Order of Battle and the like. There was the release of the eight-point economic agenda, which later became 10-point. There was the economic summit that gave the venue for the new leader to discuss brass tacks with the business sector. It was a chess GM dealing with all the plays and creating the necessary environment to reposition governance and business protocols in order to re-boost and recharge the system. Indeed, change has landed and the driver means business.
In his first act, PRRD talked about the role of the people, his campaign battle cry of leading the fight against corruption, crime and illegal drugs; on rules and contracts; honoring treaties and international obligations; pursuing peace, “in step with constitutional and legal reforms,” among others. Duterte’s article of faith has been clearly introduced, “I have no friends to serve, I have no enemies to harm.”
The sun has risen and the man with the yellow ribbon is gone. But until the end, Aquino chose to continue the insult by wearing a yellow ribbon on his chest while the “lowly mayor,” as some yellow crusaders would derisively call Duterte, proudly wore the Philippine flag, pinned on his barong but not at the lapel, as has been the practice. It was placed on the left side of his barong near the heart. A small flag pin, unnoticeable to an untrained eye but a wondrous act to a jaded few, is the most telling photo in my mind on that ceremonial sit-down symbolic of the changing of leaders and administration. Aquino was leader of the yellow-ribboned pack while the “lowly mayor” was leader of a nation. Some say symbols are nothing, that a photo means everything to Filipinos, and Aquino and his lot still don’t get it!
The second day saw the first, in frame shot of the new President and the Vice President coming from a different party. I don’t know if it was planned that way but the timing was good because the so called “unity shot” was made before the changing of the guards in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was quite interesting to see the body language of the two leaders but more than the photo, it was a relief to a nation so tired of divisiveness and selfish politics.
On the first weekend of the new government, change was also palpable. Duterte went home to Davao and, Robredo, to Naga. Manila will have to get used to being just a bit player now. Good for the nation, for Manila is not the Philippines, finally.
With the ribbon retired, we hope to see more holistic growth and less hubris of government officials. We hope to see less of economic growth measured by GDP per capita, which is not the only gauge for a high standard of living. Let us use and pursue the Social Progress Index (SPI). The SPI collates the scores of three main indexes: “Basic Human Needs, which includes medical care, sanitation, and shelter; Foundations of Well-Being, which covers education, access to technology, and life expectancy; and Opportunity, which looks at personal rights, freedom of choice, and general tolerance.” We have to be more social-focused than economic driven for change to be felt.
And I hope that change will take into consideration, the main gateways to and from the country because, we, as a nation, should be proud first of our airports and ports before the others can say that the Philippines is on its way to improving frontline services. When services are felt and welcomed, government has done its job.
Truly a most welcomed inaugural speech. “Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished—these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey toward a better Philippines. The ride will be rough. But come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest.”
Yes, it can be wobbly, but I will take the sun shining clear with flag waving proudly than the sun shining for the very few, mixed in yellow, blaming the previous leaders for things he could have changed on his own. And, yes, leaders fade but a Ramos insisted a Duterte and willed, “PH needs Duterte and Robredo working as a team,” for flag and country. Snappy salute, PH!