Things to look forward to in a Duterte presidency

Shakira Sison

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Things to look forward to in a Duterte presidency

Manila Bulletin

Shakira Sison reflects on the possibilities and implications of the Duterte presidency

“Are you dismayed by the results of the elections?” My mother asked.

“Yes,” I said, “but that is the will of the people and they have decided this is the president they want. Duterte deserves everyone’s respect.”

“Let’s give him a chance,” my wife even said. 

Despite my fears and misgivings, I also had enough faith in the democratic process to let those who put him in place enjoy his leadership. I was quick to accept reality and even started looking forward to the term of the new president-elect, which includes the following possibilities and implications.

1) An empowered population

With an unprecedented 81% voting rate, those who voted for presumptive President Duterte were certain his would be a drastic change to the status quo. Because pre-election discussions were very heated, Duterte’s supporters had to defend him and rationalize their positions repeatedly, fueling their passion for their idol even more. He won because of his followers’ faith in him, and hopefully he won’t want to let them down.

Aside from that, it will be interesting to see how empowered and accountable his supporters will feel having placed him in power because of the rules he plans to implement. It would be great to have a brand new leader inspire people to take the initiative to be better citizens and follow the laws and regulations of their chosen one. Having a self-motivated and disciplined population when it comes to traffic rules, littering, and keeping peace and order in all communities would be something to look forward to.

2) A non-Catholic presidency

It’s a first that a presidential candidate didn’t have to woo the Catholic Church to win. In fact, the CBCP strongly disapproved of him. It’s interesting to see what kind of leadership we will have when the president-elect is not courting Catholic votes. Despite not swearing allegiance to a particular church, Duterte still got the backing of the powerful INC, which means that he is not in completely shunned by some Christian sects. The fact that he won shows that in this particular instance, the Catholic influence wasn’t effective in changing people’s minds. 

With a president who believes it is necessary to step away from his own religion to be an effective leader, it would be great to see the implementation of necessary policies without the obstruction of the Catholic church.

A divorce law is long overdue. Previous administrations have blocked contraception and reproductive health services due to CBCP influence. We need to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We need to secularize government offices and public schools. We also need to prioritize teaching sensitivity and respect for non-Catholic religions and religious sects. President-elect Duterte was in favor of same-sex marriage while he was mayor, but backpedaled during the campaign. If he isn’t as Catholic or as Catholic-pleasing as the others, we might be looking at progressive changes to our outdated laws and social services.

3) “Tunay na pagbabago (a real change)”

The message of change was so strong during his campaign that those who supported Duterte really believed he would bring a much needed revamp of government agencies, improving their efficiency, eliminating corruption, and imposing discipline in all aspects of governance. Aside from the total elimination of crime in the entire country, the incoming president also promised visible changes within weeks. I am very interested to see these developments as the months pass when more realistic projections can be made. 

Initial rules being circulated include a total ban on fireworks and firecrackers nationwide, a 1 am curfew for serving alcohol, and a 10 pm curfew for unescorted minors. Many are already welcoming these rules as a good way to keep children safe and limit alcohol-fueled incidents. I’m curious to see how they will be implemented and how well citizens will comply. 

4) A nation of watchdogs

While Duterte won by a wide margin over the other contenders, 61% of voters still believed someone else should have occupied the executive office. Fears about his promised dictatorship and record of extrajudicial executions have put the rest of the country on guard, making watchdogs of everyone to make sure the changes he brings to the country will not be accompanied by suffering. Because he disregarded human rights concerns and didn’t have a concrete presidential platform during his campaign, many Filipinos are on edge on what exactly his leadership brings to the table, and at what cost?

Will the population continue to be on their toes in making sure their new president does not fulfill his promise of a bloody dictatorship? Or will the positive changes brought by his administration rationalize his unconventional methods? With a fast-growing economy heavily dependent on foreign investments that rely on continuity and stability, I would really like to see if this balance will be maintained long-term.

5) A voice from the south 

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had never backed a presidential candidate before founding chair Nur Misuari endorsed Duterte in March. He did so because of Duterte’s intentions to pursue peace negotiations with Moro groups in Mindanao.

“I’ll talk to the MNLF about peace. I’ll talk to Nur Misuari about peace…Just give me time to reach a compromise. It will be one nation only,” he said during his last campaign speech.

It will also take an established leader from the south with a relationship with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to know what is needed to sort out the conflicts in that region. Given recent events and the sensitivity of the peace process, it would be good to have a president who can focus on those troubled areas and not just on major business districts and international relations.

6) Pure entertainment

No matter what happens, we have 6 years of an exciting presidency ahead of us. Despite the controversy, the one thing Duterte cannot possibly be is boring.

With a surplus of absurd retorts and a stockpile of offensive statements even before his term begins, it’s apparent that there will never be a dull moment in this administration. We will be a source of international entertainment worldwide. 

Congratulations, President-elect Duterte, for an excellent campaign and for shaking up the entire country. I hope you won’t let your devoted supporters down. Best of health and luck to you. God bless you and God bless the Philippines. –

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