The 71-year-old Rodrigo Duterte from Davao garnered nearly 16 million votes, a six-million margin above the second placer Mar Roxas of the formidable Liberal Party.
Roxas stood in front of his supporters and the country and wished Duterte well, the man he called a dictator and whom he attempted to gang up on two days before the elections. He said: “Digong, I wish you success.” In those three seconds when Roxas uttered those five words, there probably was a flashback of twenty three years worth of preparation for the grandson of the venerable President Manuel Roxas, and the last six years that Mar prepared to one day take his place as another Manuel Roxas in Malacanang.
But he ended up on that podium at the LP Headquarters in Cubao telling the nation “it is not the time for tears” and accepting that the dream shall all just come to its end.
The same went for Grace Poe, third placer in polls, and who we thought would sweep the elections, just like she did when she topped the Senatorial race in 2013. She went from exhuming bodies of strangers to taking DNA tests to fighting critics in court just to be able to run. “I’m short and have a flat nose,” she would declare gleefully in local sorties, trying to find different ways to dispel the American girl narrative her foes have propagated.
When Roxas was supposedly trying to get her to withdraw to unite against a Duterte presidency, a calm Grace Poe faced media to say: “Ngayon pa ba ako uurong?” (Why will I withdraw now?) But she, too, has conceded to the man from Davao City. “I congratulate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and I promise to join in the healing of our nation.”
And so now we begin the next six years.
Perhaps we shall begin with an acknowledgment that Duterte is nothing like Donald Trump. Donald Trump was a businessman, in the industries of modeling, beauty pageants and resorts and just one day decided he wants to be the President of the United States.
On the other hand, Duterte has won 11 elections, including the Presidency. He has served as mayor, vice mayor and congressman of Davao where he is adored and treated like a god. He has come face to face with criminals and has admitted to killing them. He has dealt with a hostage-taking crisis, and is one of the few men allowed into the camp of the New People’s Army and comes home unscathed along with a hostage.
He has a direct line to the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and is treated like a visitor by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Many presidents in the past have courted him to serve their cabinet.
President Duterte is nothing like Donald Trump, but it will also do us good to begin to acknowledge where some draw their comparison, and realize that the man we have chosen has grey areas we need to watch over — from his rape joke, to the complicated web of accusations of whether or not the Davao Death Squad (DDS) really exists and if they have killed innocent men.
Does the DDS link into the massive problem of torture cases among the police? And how does this factor into a culture of impunity that we so fiercely condemn?
There are questions, and there is a need for answers.
So perhaps we can begin the next six years by vowing to protect a democracy where people can ask questions, and where answers can and will be found.
We can begin to acknowledge that the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights are conducting investigations, and that we shall allow them to continue this investigation in the same way that we have poked our noses into the investigation of corruption against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who we don’t even want out of the hospital though she claims she’s really sick.
We are cruel and unforgiving when we discover we have been wronged. We call Janet Napoles names and bully her teenage daughter, and swore to the saints we kiss we will never allow her out of jail. She claims she’s innocent but no one ever earns back our trust with just words.
And so when President Duterte denies the existence of millions of alleged undeclared wealth in supposed bank accounts, we owe it to our personal history to take his words with a grain of salt.
Really, Gloria? Really, PNoy? Really, Janet?
We should begin the next six years with remembering how much we fought the idea of extending Noynoy Aquino’s term. No matter how many times he said there is nothing in the world he wants more than to rest after 2016, we were vicious in reminding him and his legions of men that he cannot disrespect the constitution just to stay in power.
We shall remember that in the same way we should remember that President Duterte has mentioned more than once than in his “revolutionary government” the constitution would be abolished. Would he be a dictator, we asked. He answered: “Ganoon na nga,” (Apparently, yes).
The trouble with this narrative is that we are often confused about who exactly he wants to be. Does he want to be a dictator, or does he want to be revolutionary? Are we looking at a martial law parallelism or are we treading a path to socialism?
We should also start to reconcile where he is on policy issues, and where we are and whether we agree with him at all. In the issue of territorial dispute, our pride has not faltered. The Spratly Islands are ours, we always say, and that the Chinese are bullies.
Yet Duterte has suggested in the past that he wants to revert to bilateral talks.
Later on he backtracked and gave the nod to the ongoing arbitration, but because he is Duterte, he couldn’t help himself but declare that he’s going to jet ski the hell out of the West Philippine Sea and offer himself to China. “They can do what they want with me. Because I will not risk the lives of our men.” So, what exactly does he mean? Will we negotiate with China, fight them, or continue the standoff while we sue them in International Court?
In the discussion of progressive legislation, Duterte has mentioned in the past that he supports the LGBT and their right to love anyone they want, yet in some interviews he tempers this speech and ends up invoking God and his will. So, does he or does he not support same-sex marriage? With Duterte, we almost always don’t know.
It is this kind of laborious rhetoric that perhaps makes others uneasy.
But he always follows his convoluted statements with a promise to do his job quickly, efficiently and with best results. It is from this that the slogan “Just Du It (do it)” was born. “I will do it!” the man exclaims and the crowd is roused to its feet, never mind if they don’t understand half of his policies.
It’s been a while anyway. It’s been a while since someone came along, someone really different, someone that fits right smack into a story of people eager to find its superhero. This conflict goes both ways too — because Duterte’s critics also often cannot reconcile his many complexities.
Women groups filed a complaint against him for the rape comment and for kissing women in sorties, yet it is often ignored that his local policies in Davao make him even more pro-women than the two women he ran against.
In the course of the campaign, we spent so much time talking about his potty mouth and sidelined what is perhaps the most important narrative in his candidacy: federalism.
For years we have complained about the congestion of Metro Manila, and the fact that government projects are only visible where they should be seen, not reaching where they should. It was Duterte who promised to decentralize power and resources and if successful, it will be Duterte who will have made families stay together because migration, internal or overseas, would have become unnecessary.
Federalism is also his solution to the crisis in Mindanao. He says that only federalism can bring true progress to the poverty-stricken region and like a domino effect, would be the only thing that can end war.
And so again the question is, would he push for federalism alone, or would he also continue the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)? We also don’t know. He has gone from throwing full support to expressing hesitation. We don’t know whether he will revise the BBL to include the Moro National Liberation Front, like he once said, and whether this means Nur Misuari will be absolved of criminal charges related to the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
We also don’t know how he will approach the recommendation of charges against members of the MILF related to the Mamasapano encounter. But all these do not matter when he says, “I will do it!”
So perhaps we shall begin the next six years with acknowledging that as a people that has always guarded our nation from those who rule us, the Duterte Presidency requires the same vigilance. It is a tenacious attitude that perhaps grew so intensely on us in the many years we tried to escape the grip of many oppressors.
But is Duterte an oppressor? Clearly, 16 million people in this country do not think so. It is important to start trusting that 16 million of our fellow Filipinos did not make a mistake.
Nothing ever good comes from sustained distrust especially when nothing more can be done to change what has already happened. We can only do our jobs from this point on, while closely watching if Rodrigo Duterte is doing his. Here’s an open letter from a concerned citizen about disadvantaged people that our President can help.
Let us begin the next six years with accepting that we have already chosen our President. And that the rest is not only up to him, it is up to us.