AT noontime of June 30, 2022, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, also known by his initials PRRD, will bid us adieu to become private citizen Digong. I am not fit to do a review of his term as the 16th president. I would rather discuss how he touched the lives of many of our fellow Filipinos. And as to how one may describe his impact on our lives depends on where one sits politically or the objectivity lens one may scrutinize him with.
Let me disclose for the first time that I did not vote for him in the May 2016 national elections. That is the only partisan political act I am allowed to do as a Marine and an erstwhile member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). But as to who I voted for (and who my fellow service members chose) does not matter that much. Because the one who garners the majority vote becomes our president and my commander-in-chief whom I will protect and defend with my life from all enemies of the State — foreign or domestic.
And it came to pass. The candidate who got 16.6 million votes of the 81 percent voter turnout was a former prosecutor and the first from Mindanao to become President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Time magazine in its April 29, 2016 issue described him as a "loudmouth mayor" of Davao City. He was featured twice on the cover of the same magazine that labeled him "The Punisher" and among the world's "strongmen on the rise." But for the common tao in the Philippines, he is "the messiah" who will deliver the country from criminality and corruption in the government. He was voted to rid the nation of drug syndicates thus earning for himself the moniker "Duterte Harry" seeing how Davao City was adjudged as among the safest cities in Southeast Asia.
Six years passed us by swiftly and the former mayor Digong, then "Pandemic President" who led the country in the fight against one of the world's worst health emergencies, is about to step down from Malacañang. He will be remembered as the president who placed the interest of Filipinos first and foremost by his brinkmanship in many instances. In an unprecedented move during his State of the Nation Address, he demanded the return by the United States of one of the symbols of Filipino gallantry and heroism against their colonizers. It was through President Duterte's bold stand that the three bells of Balangiga were finally brought back to the Philippines after 117 years that the American government refused every demand for their return. Pragmatism over criticism pushed him into concessions with China so our folks can fish at Bajo de Masinloc first and the assertion of our maritime entitlements second.
President Duterte will be regarded as the most loved and respected commander-in-chief by the men and women of the AFP whom he fondly calls "my soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines." He holds the record visits to the never-before-visited and remotest of military camps. He frequents the frontlines: Marawi, Sulu and other troubled provinces in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. He risks his own safety and at the expense of his personal comfort just to boost the morale of the troops. He was there to immediately and personally condole with the families of soldiers who perished in the line of duty — making sure that their needs were attended to. He ensured that military and police personnel will have decent housing and competitive pay and allowances. These manifest care and compassion inspired his soldiers and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country, knowing that the families they will leave behind will be reared. He capacitated the AFP by providing the greatest number of state-of-the-art equipment, armaments, ships and aircraft that surpassed those procured under the Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino 3rd administrations combined.
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It was during his term and by his iron political will that great strides were made toward ending the decades-long conflicts through whole-of-nation and whole-of-government approaches that brought to their dying breath the terrorist group Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front and seriously degraded the Abu Sayyaf Group. He pursued the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, paving the way to ending the conflict for self-rule in the southernmost part of the country.
But PRRD's six-year term was a long and excruciating wait for illegal drugs traders, corrupt government officials and greedy oligarchs whose happy days he ended or vastly reduced. To them, the sanggano, swearing, cursing and masochist Duterte must be hailed to the International Criminal Court. He must be made to languish in jail to pay for his crimes, or for encouraging the commission of crimes in his bloody war against illegal drugs and criminality, and for other violations of human rights. He is perceived as a pathetic defeatist when it comes to Chinese presence in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). Indeed, we cannot please everybody.
Also at noon of June 30, 2022, the Filipino nation and I will say goodbye to the president whom I did not vote for. But among those I have served and defended, he is, thus far, the best we ever had — a commander-in-chief par excellence. He concludes his term with trust and satisfaction survey ratings that say and say consistently: "excellent" and "very good"! The Social Weather Station (SWS) survey in September 2016, before his first 100 days in office, rated him "excellent" with a net trust rating of 76 percent and 72 percent in December of the same year. Fast forward, in the SWS satisfaction survey in December 2021, PRRD was rated "very good" at +60.8 percent. And in the March 5-10 2022 OCTA Research's "Tugon ng Masa" survey, President Duterte received a "very good" satisfaction rating of 67 percent and trust rating of 69 percent.
And for these feats unparalleled by any other presidents, I salute him. Hail to the Chief! Salamat, PRRD!
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