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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, October 11, 2016
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

100 Days


After having grown tired of listening to him talk about stuff that ultimately means nothing as his apologists and spokespeople usually come up with totally different interpretations, for the controversial and often unnecessarily bombastic statements of the President of the Philippines, I decided to not take the words and bluster of Mr. Rodrigo Duterte seriously anymore.

That is why I stopped making comments regarding our president. He says one thing, his apologists say another. He says “putang ina”, his spokespeople insist that it didn't mean anything serious because he didn't include the requisite “mo” that would've made the tasteless phrase into a direct insult. He says “go to hell,” we are told to use our “creative imagination.” He says he is kicking the Americans out, his defense secretary says not yet. We are not supposed to take literally the words of the most powerful man in the country when he compares himself to Hitler and says he will gladly slaughter 3 million addicts. When he raises his middle finger, we shouldn't interpret it as a dirty finger. Faced with so much contradiction and misinterpretations, anyone who doesn't want to court further controversy in a country that has become dreadfully polarized and divided, will just stay away from the topic.

Ihave been content with the conscious decision to stay away from the topic of the President's mouth and everything that spews out of it. No matter how tempting it has been to resist the constant urge to react, often with incredulity, I believe I have been quite successful in resisting the temptation of trying to interpret and comment on the words of someone who always claims to be misinterpreted. I'd rather leave that job to people who are either more intelligent or braver than me.

However, with the Duterte administration recently celebrating its 100-day milestone, I thought I'd give it a shot and comment on how the Duterte experience has been so far.

The thing that confuses me most about Mr. Duterte after observing his presidency for 100 days is how such a supposedly great leader doesn't seem to be interested in unifying his country after winning the election. It would seem that the president of 101 million Filipinos has become comfortable with pandering to the sensibilities of his core, the 16 million voters who put him in power, rather working on earning the respect and support of the 61.5 percent of the Filipino voters who didn't vote for him. The Philippines has never been so divided as it is now and Rodrigo Duterte doesn't seem to care. In fact, it would seem that he is consciously fuelling the deep divisions and cracks have been developing and worsening ever since the ugly and hate-fueled campaign period started, the period that many Filipinoshoped would end with his win.

Why is the divide and conquer strategy that worked swimmingly during the campaign still being used 100 days into the presidency when all Filipinos from all sides of the fence could be united in nation building instead of engaging in the vitriolic and counterproductive hobby of breaking each other down?

How effectively does Mr. Duterte think he can rule this country if he continues to alienate the 26 million Filipino voters who didn't vote for him? Does he really think that a much-ballyhoed 91 percent trust rating in July and a net satisfaction rating of +64 in September that is merely 4 points higher than his supposedly useless predecessor's score for the same period give him enough license and political capital to allow him to be irresponsible with his words as he foams at the mouth, spews curse words, and rants like a mad mayor? Why isn't he working on growing his support base and positively engaging more of his countrymen so he can make real partners of change instead of making those Filipinos want to hide in shame or automatically zone out every time opens his mouth in public?

As one of those people who seriously considered voting for him, Mr. Duterte's lack of interest in unifying his country bothers me terribly because I naturally assumed that I wouldn't mind it if he won. After all, he seems like the kind of guy who could really change this country for the better. But more than 100 days after taking power, the Duterte that I thought I wouldn't mind winning is totally different from the Duterte that this country got. I expected a president and got a mayor. I expected a president who could unify the Filipino people and rally them towards a lofty and noble goal but got someone who seems to be unable to stomach criticism. I expected someone who wouldn't be vindictive and whose government wouldn't tolerate vindictiveness, but every time I open Facebook and read the news, all I see is vindictiveness from the highest levels of government all the way to common people. Many of us who were hoping for a metamorphosis that would silence doubts and dispel fears are, 100 days later, still waiting.

We are stuck with Rodrigo Duterte for the next six years, whether you like him or not. The way things have gone so far, it looks like complaining about his leadership style won't help the same way picking a fight with anybody who doesn't like his unconventional and abrasive style isn't helping him either. It doesn't matter if you see yourself as Dutertard, Yellowtard, or simply a frustrated Filipino with a strong opinion, we are all in this together and where our country will be in six years will ultimately depend on how we are led and where we allow ourselves to be led.

To be honest, the first 100 days of President Duterte have been a challenge to observe. The language and demeanor he carries as a leader of 101 million Filipinos is unnerving and his braggadocio does not instill confidence. I don't know how long or how far our country's strong economic fundamentals can absorb and carry his reckless statements, his lack of statesmanship and pitiful diplomatic skills. As a father of growing children, both of whom will be teenagers by the time he steps down, I don't like how Filipino values and culture are adapting to justify and tolerate the disgusting actions of a president who isn't even trying to control his language. I don't like how the looming atmosphere of fear and intimidation that has been stifling the voices that used to be able to express their opinions freely.

I am hoping that the next 100 days sees Mr. Duterte mellow down and buckle down for the long and arduous task of building a nation without needing to destroy everything that gets in his way. Maybe he can even lead by example in brokering a peace deal between his Dutertards and the real and imaginary Yellowtards who could be helping him, instead of feeling left out, in the same way he got the communists into a cease fire.*

Reactions, comments & excuses: mail@carloleonardia.com
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