Today is inauguration day, the official start of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency. Yet if we were looking at the past month or so since the May 10 elections, Duterte’s been blamed for most everything that has happened, including Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping spree, and the spate of killings since elections.
Never mind that these crimes are happening under the Aquino government.
Fear-mongering has become a social media pastime and mainstream media doesn’t help any: look at the aftermath of any of his speeches and press conferences since May 10, and you’ll find that the media itself will pick only the more controversial statements.
I wish we could all take a step back before sharing or saying anything, and be wary of becoming useful to those who continue to drop hints, if not call, for Duterte’s impeachment. This, even when he’s only beginning his presidency today.
I’m not for the wait-and-see attitude either, but I’d rather not be complicit in the utter refusal of the yellow army to accept that their candidate has lost, and Daang Matuwid is over.
A blind army
The incoming president’s noisiest critics have been on a roll: he has not done or said anything right, and is not worthy of any form of praise.
The pettiness is astounding. When he announced that he would do his oathtaking separate from the VP, with a very small number of guests and with a simple menu, it was called “cheap and small.” When it was revealed that the caterer for his inauguration was Via Mare, a connection was drawn between him and Imelda Marcos.
The spin continues. They assert that there is now a body count under the Duterte presidency, never mind that he only starts being president today.
And never mind that they choose to be blind to Daang Matuwid’s body count: from activists jailed and disappeared to the soldiers and civilians killed at that failed Mamasapano operation, from the Luneta hostage taking to Typhoon Haiyan and the government’s failed rescue and relief operations, from Lumad deaths to the OFWs we failed to save, from workers dying in unsafe factories under the most inhumane labor conditions to this recent spate of killings post-elections.
One wishes we didn’t need to remember this about the PNoy administration, but we are forced to do so by the same people who think we just had six years of “honest governance, prosperity, and freedom.”
When you hear them speak of Daang Matuwid in this way, you can’t help but wonder if we were all in the same country the past six years.
The issues so far
This yellow(ed) army has found allies in those who have already decided against this new president for different reasons.
If you’re anti-Marcos, then you cannot accept Duterte admitting to his friendship with the family, even when a list of politicos and government officials since the Cory administration down the line to PNoy’s would reveal that those friends and allies have always existed in government post-EDSA 1986.
If you have a sense of history at all, you will not stand for having Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, given the victims or rape and torture, the disappeared and murdered, of Martial Law. But the Libingan is primarily a burial site for soldiers, and Marcos is a soldier. That this makes sense is of course beside the point. I meanwhile can’t help but wonder what we could’ve done to make sure that 30 years since EDSA 1986, this would not and cannot happen. The blame is on us, too.
Many had written Duterte off since that rape joke, if not since that whistle. That rape joke was unacceptable – as all rape jokes are. I appreciated his apology and expect better now that he is president. About that whistle – I’ve experienced the same kind of ribbing from older men who were not out to harass or abuse me, and instead banked on familiarity so that they could joke around with me. I laugh at this playfulness because it is harmless, even as I know that it might signal danger in other contexts, for other women.
And then there is the human rights question. Despite admitting to being the Davao Death Squad, Duterte still won as president. Because I respect that win, I grapple with the innocent deaths under the DDS strategy alongside its effectivity as part of a peace and order program. I respect this win, which is why I also hope that the new president will come up with a strategy for peace and order that will not mean an utter disregard for human rights.
The challenge to rethink
Across all these issues, what I have appreciated is the fact that I am being forced to think and re-think what I believe to be offensive, what I think is most important, and why. Because unlike the presidents before him, Duterte is not saying the things I expect to hear, nor is he speaking with a script. I need to recalibrate my responses too, if only to keep up with the challenge of this new president.
I did not vote for Duterte, but I love nation enough to want him to do well. There is hope in the fact that he stands for many of the things I believe in, given some of the people he has appointed to his cabinet (Judy Taguiwalo, Rafael Mariano, Leonor Briones, Ben Diokno, Joel Maglunsod). I disagree with some of his choices, yet the new names and faces excite me as these are a far cry from the elite class that dominated the previous administration. He seems open to criticism, which is what we expect from someone who admits his limitations. He promises to fire anyone who is not doing right by nation, a far cry from Daang Matuwid’s faulty loyalty to friends and family.
Where others see the lack of a script as the beginning of a downward spiral, I tend to see it is as the beginning of an upward swing. At the very least we’re starting things off with more honesty than we can are used to, or can handle.
That’s better than kicking things off with a speech of empty promises, and an inauguration of pageantry and ritual that is mere spin.
Published in The Manila Times, Op-Ed section, June 30 2016.