The Promise of Change and the Dawn of a New Era


Photo from the Official Gazette of the Philippines

Photo from the Official Gazette of the Philippines

30 June 2016 marks the end of rule of the Yellow King.

Following in his mother’s footsteps, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III was put into the limelight and became the reluctant President of the country in 2010 — ushering in a government that promises Tuwid Na Daan. Expectations were high. Where his predecessor’s administration was marred by corruption issues, Aquino vowed to curb this longstanding problem on the premise that “kung walang corrupt walang mahirap.”

For the past six years, we saw him impeach a Chief Justice and put into jail senators who were seen as impediments to his anti-corruption drive. Under Aquino, we saw the country grow by leaps and bounds particularly in the economic sector, thanks to good governance. Today, the Philippines is the second fastest growing economy in Asia.

However, the task of the President was daunting and we saw the Aquino administration struggle and deal with various scandals throughout his term. Although the economy improved, there was still widespread poverty. Traffic worsened. There was rampant criminality. Some deemed him incompetent in his handling of Luneta hostage-taking, Super Typhoon Yolanda and the Mamasapano incident.  

And so it was because of his low moments, the underdelivered promises and unsatisfying performance that made people clamor for another change.

This time, people turned to a Mindanaoan to deliver just that.

Running on the rhetoric of change, Rodrigo Roa Duterte won with a margin of six million votes (15.2%) — with support stemming from the grassroots level. Duterte ran on a narrative that resonated with the people — to make the entire Philippines clear of drugs and criminality. The tough talking, promdi, well-loved and feared Mayor of Davao promises the people that he will fix national problems the same way he has done it in his city.

At the beginning of the campaign, though, the odds were not always in his in favor.

He was running against a well-respected lawmaker elected in the international high court and had almost won the presidency decades ago; a vice president who had won the hearts of Filipinos who believed in his anti-poverty programs; an empowered woman who embodied grace, courage and intellect and once emerged number one in the past senatorial race; and a man who fought with a promise of continuing and even improving the Tuwid na Daan legacy.

In the end, Duterte overcame the odds and became the 16th President of this nation.

While the middle class and those at the fringes of society clamor for change and hope to feel the immediate benefits of the economic growth the previous administration has been boasting about, here comes Duterte, the perceived Messiah bearing the message, "Change is coming."

But Duterte is a study in contrast. He is an enigma.

This is the man who declares statements one day and retracts them the next day. He makes crude jokes. He claims he support LGBT rights but makes a pass at random women, even kissing them on the mouth in public. This is the man who vowed to keep justice and safety but admitted he had blood on his hands and is not afraid to shed more when the situation calls for it.

Some worry about the country's fate once ruled with another iron fist. Would we once again see the horrors of martial law in this new millennium? Is there hope for a fair and just society, free of extrajudicial killings and unfair rule of law? How would the newly elected president present the nation in front of the international arena after dismissing the United Nations, the United States, and even the Pope, with just a few thoughtless words?

Duterte won despite and in spite of himself.  

Because the people believed he embodies strong political will and says things exactly how he sees it. He is a politician that seemed to be cut from another cloth than his contemporaries. His decades-long experience in local governance is a testament to his leadership skills. He has transformed Davao into what it is now — one of the safest and progressive cities. Maybe he can transform the whole country.  

It is the hope of every President to leave the country in a better shape than when they came in.

Duterte, without a doubt, is inheriting a Philippines still plagued with a multitude of issues.  As with Aquino, expectations are high with the new administration. The responsibilities are now transferred and unmet expectations are now thrown to Duterte for him to fulfill.

We must pride ourselves for having a peaceful transition of power because it is proof that our democracy is working and we are on our way to attaining political maturity.

As we aspire for a better Filipino society in the coming six years, let us bear in mind that real and significant societal change cannot be achieved overnight just by the mere casting of votes on a particular man we hope to save the day. Change is not the responsibility of one man alone. Our nation is comprised of over a hundred million Filipinos, each occupying a space in our land, breathing the same air. The power to effect change lies not only on the seat in Malacañang. Within us is the capability to do something for the very country we hoped to change when we cast our votes last month.

Newly elected President Duterte said it best in his inaugural speech: “Change, if it is to be permanent and significant, must start with us and in us.”

The message is clear:

This person people perceive as powerful acknowledges that he is not capable of delivering his promise if he is to stand alone. He calls on you, whether you voted for him or not, to be with the government and be the change you want to see.

It is up to you to heed the call.

Will you?