By Jun Ledesma

Duterte warns and implores

The euphoria over President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2nd State of the Nation Address has reverberated outside the plenary hall of Congress and has not quieted down. The message, delivered in plain and simple terms, came from the emotion of the heart and mind of a man full of passion, dedication and wants to get things done tomorrow.

The statistics he read from the teleprompter were awe-inspiring but the part that I like best are the impromptu segments. Searing and penetrating every phrase is addressed to everybody inside the August Chamber and those outside who wail themselves like broken records shouting slogans that is reminiscent of radical student activism nearly half a century ago. Of course that includes those who were glued on TV and radio watching and listening from their homes.

From faraway Norway, Jose Ma. Sison did not miss a word that came from the mouth of his former student. He must have cringed from his swivel chair when Digong shot what could be the most debasing diatribe ever addressed to him: “lulu mo”. The English equivalents of this can be “f_ck you” or “you’re shit”. Out in the boondocks his NPA combatants hear it all. “You want to continue with peace negotiation, and then you ambush me”. And did I hear him say you cannot negotiate with a ghost!?

It was Duterte baring everything of what he is. Angry and frustrated he cannot deliver on his promise to eradicate drugs in three months, but humble enough to admit that he did not realize the gravity of the problem. But he warned those who still cannot give up their drug trade. He will not allow them any quarters but their graveyard. His campaign against corruption will be without let up and reminded those who still has the predilection for graft that he has not spared even those who are close to him.

But the most daring part of all is when he declared the end of peace negotiation with the CPP/NPA/NDF and trashed his aging and sick professor Joma. The audience responded with thunderous applause. Outside, the noisy rallyists were stunned. Even the garrulous Riza Hontiveros, Edcel Lagman and their cabal had been silent. Only the constantly “out-of-tune” Antonio Trillanes had a negative repartee but he was promptly bull-shitted by fellow senators Ping Lacson delivering the most debasing commentary against him. Trillanes who has not outgrown his juvenile frivolities, was conveniently absent.

Duterte was not sparing with his stab at his nemesis. “The Balangiga bells are ours. It is part of our national heritage”. But it is not about the bells if I were to read what lurks in his mind. There is a subliminal message that invoked the savagery committed by the American forces in Balangiga. It is about violence and human rights violations committed by Americans who incessantly denigrate the President and warned him on how he deals with drug-lords and criminals. If they return the Balangiga bells, that should be addressed to their conscience. What is important now is that the message was delivered crisp and sharp. The unwritten dialogue? You have no right to lecture us about human rights and violence for you have a history of such abuse from the time you set foot in American soil and slaughtered the Indians up to the time you set foot in Balangiga, Samar and in Sulu in the Philippines.

But if Duterte was unsparing with his repartees on critics, he too is unsparing with his praises. To China, he heaped gratitude to Pres. Xi Jinping for the billions of dollars committed to build infrastructures, trade and investments. While the US denied the Philippines arms to deal with local terrorist problems in the country, China gave these for free. And there lies the rub.

The last quarter of this year will trigger some of the mega-projects. Aware of how important is the last five-year period in his presidency to carry out massive infrastructure projects never before seen in the annals of Philippine history, President Duterte implores Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno to join him in his goal to realize all these by seriously looking at the negative impact of the courts’ Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the implementation of projects. He cited the case of TRO on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act which guarantees access to methods of contraception, fertility control sexual education and maternal care. The TRO had been running for two years now. Justice Sereno, whose court affirmed Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, was listening and watching the President with a smile. And I can only hope it is a sign of conformity.

Duterte also sought the understanding of the Commission on Audit. COA can really be a veritable hindrance to the fast implementation of projects. The President spoke on the basis of his experience as Mayor. Auditors, like traffic enforcers, can always spot violations if they wish. If you’re not over speeding you’re obstructing traffic. If you cannot be cited with that, they tell you you don’t have stickers on your license plates. If you reason out that Davao LTO has not issued you any, they shot back and say, “you’re in Cotabato and not in Davao”.

President Duterte harbors no grudges against those who say he lacks economic savvy. He recalled the time he was first elected as Mayor of Davao City to illustrate his point. I was not able to catch his words verbatim but it went like this: “I met with the late (Regional Development Council Chairman Jesus V.) Ayala. We had a covenant. I said, I will take care of the peace and order and he said, I will take care of business”. Davao City stands today as having the highest economic growth of 9 percent.

That was the model Duterte wants and all he asks from big business is to pay their taxes correctly. He will let go of the mining firms this time but he insists that farmers who had been displaced and deprived of their income have to be compensated. He challenged the big mining operators to now shift to processing the mineral to finish products. And then he roared, “pay your taxes correctly otherwise I will tax you to death”. From his seat among the Cabinet Members, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez is smiling as if to say, Duterte’s admonition will make his job easy.

(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.