By Jun Ledesma

Testing the patience of Digong

The political opposition had made it a childish habit to conjure issues and scenarios and put the blame on President Rodrigo Duterte to demonize him. On the heels of his State of the Nation Address (SONA), there is a perceptible crescendo of critical items and decibels this time coming not only from this moribund cabal of political oppositions but also from the leftist organizations most of which parades as foundations. Of late, we have seen posts on the social media that obviously indicate that the anti-Duterte and anti- martial law coterie had employed creative writers to arrest their free fall.

But you cannot quarrel with what figures indicate. In the most recent SWS (social weather station) survey done to measure the public satisfaction rating on Duterte, any attempt at denigrating the President will  simply not wash. The survey was done at the height of the Marawi crisis and the imposition of Martial Law. The result of the survey is hovering almost in the area of “Excellence”. Despite the unrelenting assaults on Duterte’s administration and on his state of health the trust on the President has not diminished and in fact had reached an all-time high.

The porcine and haggard looking Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman went on TV and the social media accusing the Duterte administration of doing nothing. Edcel thought that Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol was not listening. Manny, who at one time was a hard-punching journalist, hit back at the congressman short of telling him in the face that he is a liar. A fuming Agriculture Secretary asserted that the blabbering Lagman was even present when he distributed motorized fishing boats and farm implements to the congressman’s political constituents. But saying he does not want to pick a fight, Piñol dubbed Lagman a hypocrite instead. It’s good the congressman, who had been accused by Albay Bishop Hernando Burce for plunder before the Ombudsman, did not react on Piñol’s challenge otherwise he could have a taste of what a part time pugilist could do with his solar plexus.

Sen. Riza Hontiveros and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, who have been vocal against martial law and warned of its consequences on women, have been dealt with severely by the womenfolk themselves. The SWS survey showed that President Duterte drew a huge support for the things he had so far done from the women sector. So the phantoms which Hontiveros and Brosas invoked are nothing but phantoms. What a repudiation to the garrulous duo. Never mind Sen. Leila de Lima. She has been consigned to where she rightly belongs.

The first 365 days of Duterte in office is replete with challenges and successes. He navigated the Philippines in turbulent path of foreign affairs and security issues. He earned flaks from the flanks of those who claim they are masters of the diplomatic lingo. Our President who had been mercilessly dubbed by desperate and salivating fools in the opposite spectrum as “taga bundok” never minded the denigration. He has no pretensions, he does not have the finesse which former President Erap unabashedly claims he has, his speeches have always been littered with a generous amount of expletives to include rape jokes.

But Davao City’s Digong makes things happen. In his foray into the arena of foreign affairs and security treaties, he took a route where his predecessors fear to tread. This was impugned by domestic and foreign critics. They do not like his un-presidential language.  When former US President Barack Obama cautioned him about human rights violations in dealing with drug menace in the country, Duterte lashed back at the head of the most powerful nation in the world. He did the same thing to other heads of states which had the temerity to give him a lecture on how to handle the problems of crime in the Philippines. While he delivers his scathing remarks against many Western leaders without a tint of hesitation and compunction other Asian leaders were actually listening and watching in amusement and awe. Duterte places himself and his administration at stake when he implied that he can endure being cut off from the umbilical cord of America. The long-time ally of the Philippines, the US had warned and in fact made true that it will not sell the firearms needed to augment the AFP armory to combat its war on drugs and other criminal syndicate to include terrorism in the country. That did not stop Digong.

Call it adventurism but at the end of the journey, President Duterte, who hails from the boondocks of Mindanao, achieved what he wants done for the country: to be treated as co-equal in the community of nations. He must have lost some domineering friends but he earned new ones and their respect  to boost.  In fact he got a call  and invitation from newly elected US President Donald Trump to visit America. Alas in his initial journey to China he was accorded by Pres. Xi Jinping a red-carpet reception  and  full military honors. In a series of bilateral talks he had with Xi President Duterte obtained over -billion in committed soft loans, grants, standby funds and business deals.  

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was so mesmerized by Duterte. He heard unbelievable attributes about his frugal lifestyle that is simply too incredible given the profligacy of hungry detergents among Filipino politicians. The unbelieving Prime Minister flew directly to Davao City and asked that he be escorted to the house of the President. What he saw: a bungalow in a low-cost subdivision, a narrow bedroom and a simple bed with a mosquito net and I think a reception room that doubles as a dining room as well. PM Abe must have been touched by what he saw, he pledged to extend USD10-billion for projects in Davao.

Duterte’s state visit to Russia was abbreviated because of the siege of Marawi by Maute ISIS. Before he even flew back he declared Martial Law in Mindanao and the island provinces of Jolo, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan. Like the problem of drugs Duterte never knew the extent and how deeply ensconced were the terrorists in Marawi. The Aquino regime either ignored and simply regarded the menacing growth and immensity of the tentacles of the drug syndicate and the beastly ISIS terrorists that had rooted deeply in the erstwhile idyllic Islamic City of Marawi. Add to that are the deteriorating if not deteriorated railway systems and a bureaucracy that were reeking with corruption unprecedented in Philippine history.

These are the iniquities that the administration of Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte had inherited and had to fix. Add to that the problems of communist insurgency. I admire the patience of our peace negotiators, Secretary Jess Dureza and Secretary Bebot Bello. Duterte had fulfilled his promise to let the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)  participate in running the government by appointing their nominees to various cabinet positions. There is in fact a classic irony in this protracted conflict between the government and the CPP, for while communism had been decriminalized and party members are given positions in this administration, its military arm, the New Peoples Army, touts Duterte it will negotiate peace today and then tomorrow openly declares it will intensify its assault on the government forces and on not a few private establishments.

Ayes there’s the rub. In his home turf Davao, the Chamber members openly expressed their concern over the harassments by the NPAs who demand revolutionary taxes from them. The peace process had hit a snag following Joma Sison declaration to raise their offensive against the military following the siege of Marawi and the declaration of martial law. In consonance the left-leaning organization had likewise intensify their condemnation of martial law even as over 350 Maute ISIS had been neutralized, 80 plus of our own soldiers killed and nearly 40 civilian dead, some by grizzly decapitation, in an urban war that is still going on in Marawi. This armed conflict marks also the first time that the air assets of the AFP are used extensively. It is however assuring that in this deadly war against terrorists our leader has demonstrated that where the sovereignty and security of the nation are challenged by internal forces aided by external terror groups the full might of the AFP will address those threats with or without martial law.

Do not test the patience of Digong. (Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.