TODAY is the third day of the New Year, may the wishes of the Filipinos for their country, leaders, institutions, community, family and personal life be granted and may 2017 be a peaceful and kinder year for the world.
Mr. President, thank you for the six months of governance.
A budget after a hotly contested and very divisive national campaign is like stretching the peso to its severe extreme (Filipinos have certainly mastered the science and art of it). You did not pass the blame to the previous government but certainly made a general issue of the pittance they left you with. The bottoms-up way of spending the people’s money in support of Daang Matuwid during the election campaign was a reality you needed to handle and for that, we thank you that you outperformed previous presidents in their first six months in office. Quite a record!
#PuedePala is a hashtag that has been used to describe what you have done in the first six months. Today, we have a vision, AmBisyonNatin 2040 and we have an infrastructure plan (Build.Build.Build). The idea of having 24/7 construction of public works is a welcome development. You will now have your own budget for FY2017 in pursuit of your 10-point agenda.
Today, the Philippines is known for her bold leader trying to earn respect in the world stage not as the “little brown” ally of the United States but as a true sovereign. It matters that you are more Asian and ASEAN because the Asians have their own way of working things out as equals.
If the six months is going to be the measure of 2017, then Filipinos are in luck, we will have a government that responds to our needs. We will have a leader who works 24/7. And we will have a Cabinet (a septuagenarian type, yes, old and gray but patriots to the call of service) that truly cares.
The first six months were not smooth for we had to get used to your style, most especially the communication part. But it was welcome to see, for once, presidential leadership and decisive action where the frontline is now buzzing well, servicing Filipinos.
As has been pointed out, there is no perfect government or perfect leader, but what is so obvious are two narratives, which some point as weak spots: the death toll because of police operations in the war against illegal drugs (and it is not EJK because that has a different meaning altogether) and the way you choose to engage (for some, uncouth; to others, all hyperbole, all BS) with the varying audiences.
Mr. President, as you very well know, change in the country has historically been incremental. In all fronts, you have pursued transformation, shaking every nook and cranny of institutions. Good, because light is shone on them just like your FOI, which every citizen is trying to test (we are invoking FOI on Yolanda, telcos and Internet and soon, SALN). What about political and electoral reforms? Should you not prioritize these? Yes, there are changes but the previous administration never bothered instituting political reform and looked what happened in 2016.
We need the anti-political dynasty, political party reform, overhaul of the COMELEC and a universal FOI to change the kind of politics we have. Your victory in 2016 is the sum total of all the frustration over the kind of politics we have had for the past 30 years, post-martial law. Please make it real before any talks on federalism because if you don’t, the promise of federalism will never be achieved. But Sir, thank you for flushing out the illegal drugs in our politics. That is certainly one good start and a laudable act.
Mr. President, please do not be a single-issue leader. Yes, the proof of concept is good. Davao stands as a testament to what can be. When there is peace and order, other things will fall in their right places. But Sir, that is Davao. Scaling it to the rest of the country may not be the way to go. You need to harness the local governments and make them builders of dreams, just like Davao. Just like what you are pursuing in Sulu. Imagine if, because of the might of your office, you can have Save Sulu Project in every poor province? You need to do that pre-federalism or the system will fail in the transition.
After six months, the PNP should now have a plan on the war against illegal drugs. Institutionalize it. Please do not go around saying the same narrative as if no change has been made and just waving pages from an intel report that is still raw and is not actionable. The P6 billion drug buy bust is an example. No heads rolled. Perpetrators were not identified and no news after, why?
Mr. President, you have been publicly convicted by people with agendas and labeled as “guilty of genocide” and “mass murderer.” In political communication, that is bad for the brand. You do not want the name Duterte to be synonymous with these words, right? Then PNP has to do it scientifically. Parse the data. There are 3,000 deaths due to campaign against illegal drugs and 1,300 are deaths due to police operations. Identify the perpetrators and inform the public on the status of cases of the 1,300 and get justice served. The PNP-IAS has to work double time because the integrity of the PNP as an institution in this war against illegal drugs, is at stake.
Part of the plan will have to be on the rehabilitation of the 800,000. They are not just footnotes. Your enemies drive home the point on the deaths but how about the living? Give them a face. Let them tell their stories. They surrendered because they want to change.
In crafting the plan, the DILG will have to be involved because you would need the local government units (LGUs). Yes, some are tainted but why not put light on those who are not. Declare LGUs who are drug-free. Incentivize them. You know their talk and walk. Why not begin with Jan 2017 as the new baseline? Make sense of the data for the past months. Information from the six months can be used to put to shame LGUs with high incidence of use? Why not combine it with a “three strikes” protocol for members of the PNP?
Don’t say it is not state-sponsored, show it is not!
Communication is part and parcel of governance. Hyperbole has no place on the presidential dais. Cussing, to show your exasperation, is welcomed but a daily dosage of it distorts the message and when the message is not delivered well, we end up in a state of huh! and duh!.
Mr. President, you are “communicator-in-chief”, among others. When you open that mic to deliver speeches or issue statements, or plain tell stories (a seeming penchant of yours), it carries the weight of government policy. So, when you cuss, that becomes part and parcel of policy and the institution of the presidency is colored by it.
The end-of-year, one-on-one with media was a good sign that 2017 would be more engaging. You can be direct, straightforward but do not lose the end of purpose in talking to the people out there. They are your audience and not the media. Do you know that people actually listen and hold on to every word you say? So, if it is subject to interpretation and translation, you lose the power of effective messaging. But you are a good storyteller. You won the elections and that is enough proof of your grasp of narratives.
After six months, it appears that Niccolo is a fave, though you often mentioned Abe. I hasten to add, Machiavellianism is “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”. “Better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both,” right? But as we march forward, with courage and honor, to the days and nights of 2017, be reminded of Alfred, when he wrote:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.