President Rodrigo Duterte marks his 100th day in office on October 7, and truth to tell, they seem like a lifetime to many Filipinos.
A lifetime to Joseph Escaño, whose 5-year-old daughter Danica was shot dead as armed men aimed at her grandfather in their home in the wetlands of Dagupan, the youngest casualty in the government’s deadly war on drugs.
A lifetime to an American ambassador, who is now remembered as the gay diplomat outed no less than by a president of a gay-friendly nation.
A lifetime to Leila de Lima, who’s zoomed to notoriety in less than 3 months from being Bilibid’s drug queen to the House of Representatives’ sex video star, and whose biggest crime was to dig up the buried past of a long-forgotten death squad.
A lifetime to public servants and presidential spokespersons, who have spent most of their waking hours fighting fire than running a government.
We say this without bias (pun intended): These have been the most exhausting and saddest first 100 days of any Philippine president since democracy’s rebirth in 1986.
Whichever side you’re on and whatever values you hold dear, President Rodrigo Duterte has changed our national conversation and collective thinking. He has blurred our view of what’s right and what’s tolerable. His pronouncements, throwback moments, jokes, and guffaws preoccupy us as we wait in line at an MRT station, as we toil for our wages, as we care for our children, as we imagine a better future for them.
He consumes us in a way we can’t even begin to explain. He commands and inspires the staunch support and blind loyalty of many. He scares others no end. And he either baffles or upsets the rest of the world.
But surely we must look beyond his rhetoric (or hyperbole, as his explainers would describe it)?
After all, for example, while he was busy dissing De Lima in Manila on August 17, the government and the communist New People’s Army prepared for a historic meeting that forged an indefinite ceasefire between both sides, raising hopes for ending Asia’s longest running insurgency.
True, Duterte’s heart is in the right place: it hates drugs, it seeks a more inclusive system of federalism, it shuns extravagance, among others.
In his Cabinet, too, are honest public servants who work outside the spotlight, crafting remarkable programs meant to help the poor, spending taxpayers’ money on the services we need, cutting red tape along the way.
We’re told that in meetings with his official family, the President listens. He leans on people who know their business. He is far from the bluster and frothing mouth we see on our screens.
But this is not what the public sees.
The reality is that the good is drowned in the noise triggered by the President. The voices of peace are defeated by angry soundbites thrown from the presidential pulpit. The hard work is flushed by blasphemous language and erroneous drug lists courtesy of this country’s most powerful man.
The past 100 days for the entire government have been days of dogged, quiet public service.
The past 100 days for President Rodrigo Duterte have been days of calling attention to himself, not the labors of his fellow public servants.
It is not fair. Not to them. Not to the voters who chose him over the rest. Not to a country that for years has been the toast of Asia – warts and all.
The President needs to redirect national energy away from his whims, his dark humor, his veiled threats, and his often misplaced version of the past.
He needs to start governing. Today, not any day later. – Rappler.com