The Duterte Challenge: Researching the Filipino in Us

Two months in office and President Rodrigo Duterte is herding the nation onto what political, social and economic authorities say is a series of much needed, timely and “no recent presidents dared to do before” acts. The ripples of this new leadership style is receiving widespread acceptance among various sectors of the social strata which indicates the Filipino’s willingness to support efforts that are propitious for a peaceful and productive life in the native land.

Public Awareness

Citizens can now access information in an almost infinite level as mass media continually grow through technological advances. Through these platforms people become aware of what the Duterte government does about its promise to resolve the illegal drug menace, seek peace in all fronts of dissent more importantly in Mindanao, curb corruption from the upper echelon of government and private institutions, resolve the West Philippine Sea/China Sea rift through a cautious and diplomatic strategy, and make unprecedented measures to strengthen the work force especially the armed forces of the Philippines. Gradually, a national development agenda is seen to be in the works. The President makes it clear in all his public speeches that protecting the welfare of the “masa” is paramount to all these efforts.

Public Opinion

Awareness having been set, what about the attitude of Filipinos toward all these? It appears that most Filipinos appreciate the protective environment that is being built. People think and express that no recent national leader has been as transparent with government actions, brutally frank but outright about his sentiments on issues central to his promises, and strongly determined in carrying out the actions he has initiated. Analysts and the man on the street agree that no President has done so much for the country in so little time. It is public knowledge that the war against illegal drugs inevitably makes some to carry the brunt more than others as in the case of families of casualties during police operations including families of law enforcers who died in the line of duty. Significant to all these, the President is believed and supported by the police and the armed forces since now, they say, they have a leader who will look after their needs, support and stay with them in the course of performing their duties. The working class is glad about reduction of personal taxes and protection from oppressive work contracts especially those that cover the overseas Filipinos. Business people laud the President’s actions to create better investment portfolios especially in developing infrastructure that includes a plan to resolve the sore and intolerable traffic in EDSA. Nonetheless, others along with a number of foreign media protest against alleged extrajudicial killings in the drug war, some take sour notice of the President’s use of foul language and careless expletives bringing to the fore questions that rally around ethical practice and the distinction of being a national leader in terms of conduct and presentation in public as befits the position. But haven’t we said we were through with leaders who sweet talk and do nothing for the greater number but do everything to protect their own vested interests? What imperfection would we rather look beyond? We know that no one, not even a president, can have it all. How do we work things out to become more acceptable to us as a people?

Progressing our National Identity

Awareness, attitude and what about action? There is no running away from contributing to the current state of things. The way we think and feel now towards the changing national environment should be translated into action and expressed in our daily lives. Now is the time to use the mental and emotional intelligences and make something concrete out of them. How do we do as a son, a daughter, a parent, a spouse in protecting and bringing healthy family relationships in the face of all challenges? How do we study as learners in order to achieve our goal of having a skill that we enjoy, is employable and income-generating? How do we change the way we work so we will be in a better bargaining position all the time? And yes, how do we become comfortable and even rich in this new enabling environment? How do we do as Filipinos? We may start revisiting who we are and even better the things we already judge as good. Can we bring the Filipino forward? Let us pray.

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