OpinYon Back-Page Stories: Duterte’s ever-changing persona

By Rose dela Cruz

TO THE general public, projecting President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as a humble, low-key personality who would fall in line (as in his dinner last Sunday at the Palace with his fellow Bedans) or rolling his long sleeves barong with matching maong pants is something very cute and endearing, especially to the common masses (masa).

But on the other hand, Duterte speaking that he wouldn’t mind being likened to an African dictator like Idi Amin, under whose watch hundreds of thousands of people were killed, could make people shudder at the thought that their deepest fears during his campaign that he could be a dictator could after all have a basis.

Just recently, Facebook was awash with stories and blogs (with matching photos) of Duterte on his motorbike and then removing his helmet before the guards of Muntinlupa, where he was said to have motored to check things out for himself and saw vendors blocking the roads.

The same reports said he even called on Mayor Fresnedi ordering him to clear the streets of vendors and bring them inside the market.

Though these reports were denied officially also on FB by Muntinlupa officials, through GMA news online, they have reaped praises and prayers for the President to be cautious as this is exposing him to undue harm. They said the president must do this so that LGUs will be on their toes at all times in clearing their jurisdictions of mess and mayhem on the roads and in offices.

Of course, the immediate reaction of those in-the-know of presidential operations discarded the news as unofficial and without veracity as it is impossible for the president to be allowed outside the palace unescorted by Presidential Security Group personnel.

Yet people from Davao, where he was a mayor for seven terms or 21 years, not including his stint as prosecutor, are very much aware of how this beloved and feared chief executive of one of the most progressive cities in the country goes around incognito driving his cab or motoring to any point of the province.

1st SONA

The confusing image being projected of the three-week old president will somehow be clarified when he speaks before Congress this July 25 for his first State of the Nation address to explain to the people exactly how he would govern and his priorities in governance.

Obviously, he would stick to his original goal or mission of ridding the country of crime, corruption and the menace of drugs.

Already he is being put to task by human rights groups and advocates about the double standards being used in handling drug pushers with the big fish being given the greatest leeway to clear themselves before the police and the National Bureau of Investigation, while the smaller fries are just being summarily liquidated without any due process.

Then again, public opinion has been leaning quite favorably with Duterte in his drive against criminality—though the tactic used to arrive at peace is hugely debated on—with some even praising him that crime has somewhat lessened in just a few weeks.

Of late, Duterte has also been ordering all public servants (especially those in the front line, or receptionists and record receivers) to be courteous in dealing with the public, especially the poor constituents, as they “are being paid for their jobs by the taxpayers.”

This is really a welcome respite for the taxpaying public, who had been getting improper treatment from government agencies.

Positive changes

Gauging by the pronouncements of Duterte’s officials from the departments of transportation, public works and highways, environment, ICT and agriculture as well as airport authorities of how they would better the lives of people are being eagerly awaited.

After all, they waited six long years for traffic to ease; for better train services (which never materialized as trains always bogged down); for more efficient services at the airport (as against the laglag bala and other shenanigans in the past six years) and better connectivity from faster internet services as well as bigger investments in food production and better storage facilities and genuine land distribution.

Foreign policies

With the Philippines having won the arbitration case over the West Philippine Sea conflict with China, the President has to proceed cautiously and not utter any provocative statement against China or Philippine allies, which already had been showing maritime and air support to protect the disputed navigational body.

At his recent meeting with the ambassador of France, where he was being asked to honor the Philippines’ signature to the declaration reducing carbon emissions by 22 member countries, Duterte said he would not do so as he was not the one who signed it.

He argued pretty well that foreign countries “could not tell us to reduce industrialization to be able to cut carbon emissions as we are just beginning to industrialize.”

This could not be taken well by foreign governments, especially those which have been supporting the country after every episode of typhoon or earthquake devastations from climate change. They might hesitate to assist the country next time such calamities strike again.

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Thursday, 24 January 2019
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