A foreigner friend of mine who works for his government asked me last night, “So what’s the real score about [Rodrigo] Duterte?”
I said he’s probably read the survey figures: close to seventy percent of Filipinos remain strongly supportive of President Duterte. Fair enough, it’s almost a ten percent drop from his approval rating some ten months ago. But, let’s be honest, he remains even more popular than most Philippine presidents all throughout their terms in office.
A drop in popularity rating is expected. It took less than a week for the people of Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago to change their tune from “Hosanna in the highest” to “Crucify him!” This one fact of life I learned: you cannot please everybody. When you start doing your job, and doing it well – you are bound to make enemies and risk losing your popularity.
There are many things that I do not like about the president, but there are also many things I like about what he is doing. I remain uncomfortable about his crass language and incessant swearing. I strongly disagree with him on the issue of death penalty and his support for lowering the age of criminal responsibility. As many Catholics, I get upset at his wholesale tirades against the Church. But as they say, that is who he is.
At the same time, one cannot deny that for the last ten months he has been doing a great job. Peace and order has been given the attention that it deserves. Crime rates are down significantly. His trips abroad are bringing the investments badly needed at home. Infrastructure is going to be on a boom. The long overdue peace talks, despite the bumps, are making a lot of progress. Any tinge of corruption, even for high Cabinet officials, meets a swift and decisive response. Our economy, despite the rest of the region slowing down at the dollar’s resurge, continue to be one of the most resilient in the last year. I do not recall any previous president doing so much in so little time.
Yet some people pretend that we elected a saint as a president. There will always be quirks in his character that will turn off people. The cursing and the swearing? The late president Manuel Quezon was said to generously lace his language with cursing and swearing, albeit in Spanish as they used to in the old days.
The relaxed or even “unpresidential” protocol – don’t we recall with admiration how the late president Ramon Magsaysay opened the gates of Malacanang to the people. Weren’t there before more people being murdered, kidnapped, robbed on the streets, in their homes and workplaces – than any concocted number of deaths that even without any solid basis, we have attributed to Duterte?
This is the truth that we don’t usually mention: every president we had since Ferdinand Marcos had issues with human rights. Even the first Aquino administration, despite being placed in power by a bloodless revolution that ended a decade-old dictatorship, had skirmishes with peasants at Mendiola, a few meters away from Malacanang.
The only administration that I remember that really upheld human rights was that of President Joseph Estrada. He respected the people’s right to demonstrate their grievances. As a result, a few days after, his administration was terminated prematurely.
There is no perfect president. That is why Duterte needs our respect and support. There will always be nuances in his or her character or misdemeanor that we will never learn to accept. But that’s no way to define a president.
Don’t you think it’s unfair to judge a person by his mistakes and merely overlook all the good that he has achieved?
Don’t you think its reasonable to also take into account all the positive accomplishments that he has made thus far, the confidence and pride he has inspired and the leadership that he steers in moving the country forward?
Should we reward his efforts with wanton criticisms more about what was said rather than what was done? Sure, every Filipino has a right to criticize, and I will defend one’s right to do so, even if his or her opinion is different from mine. But never forget that our rights have correlating responsibilities.
Despite Duterte’s best efforts, in the future, I am sure the president is bound to commit mistakes. But that will happen with him trying and wanting to do more for the Filipino people. And yet isn’t it all our responsibility to help him become even better?
Never has been there a president that has been so disinterested with the power and more committed to the responsibility that comes with the presidency. That is why, despite the instances where I disagree with him, I learn to trust him on how to steer our nation forward.
What is sad is that there are people who would rather see him fail, or obstruct the good he is doing, to favour their political positions or put forward their own selfish interests. If one cannot be part of the solution, at least can’t they not be part of the problem?
We get the leaders that we deserve. If you think President Duterte is not good enough for you, then try to be better. Work harder than he does. Point out his misgivings, but put forward alternatives. Outdo the good he has done, there is no need to pull him down.
If you think you can do a better job running the country, wait for the next election, since obviously, you just lost the last one and you would know where the rest of the country stands. If you have better ideas on how to govern this nation – speak and share your opinion without that “political self-righteousness” where you can do no wrong.
If all you do is make adverse comment on social media and there is nothing good that you will ever say, and you do not even lifting a finger to help the community you live in, then, with all due respect, please shut up.
Close to seventy percent of Filipinos who support the president cannot be all wrong. Of this I am certain, this president is a man who loves his country with his life. Besides, when people love and hate you for the same reasons, doesn’t it usually mean you’re doing the right thing?
When will we ever learn to be one nation and quit forgetting that we are all Filipinos?
As for my foreigner friend, I told him – we’re all fine, and the Philippines has never been better.
Philip Jude Acidre is a political consultant and member of the Association of Political Consultants in Asia and senior partner of Praxis Associates PH
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