Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2 July 2016


Most of us watched and listened as President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo were sworn into office and delivered their respective inaugural addresses. I attended Robredo’s swearing in. I watched Mr. Duterte’s on TV.Let’s talk about the similarities and differences between the two events. The President had 627 guests, according to his communications officer, composed of 150 personal guests and the rest “must invites” (i.e., members of the diplomatic corps, top government officials, and the like). The Vice President had no “must invites”—everyone there was a personal guest. And though 200 invitations were issued, there must have been about 600 present (an estimate, no official count), but no trouble resulted because of it. It was like a family affair.

Mr. Duterte’s ecumenical prayer had males representing all faiths. Robredo’s was more gender-sensitive, which I think is a sign of things to come: She had two males (the Muslim and the IP representative) and two females (the Christian and the Catholic). I think this is the first time the Catholic Church was represented by a nun (without a habit at that), in an event of this kind. Their prayer styles were markedly different from the men’s.

Mr. Duterte talked about bringing the government closer to the Filipino, and restoring faith and trust in it. In fact, his aim to “listen to the murmurings of the people, feel their pulse, supply their needs and fortify their faith and trust in us whom they elected to public office” was evocative of P-Noy’s listening to his “bosses,” the Filipino people.

The rest of his speech was in reassuring the international community and the nation that he would act like the President should—observing all international obligations and treaties, upholding strictly the rule of law. In other words, he was saying: This is the real me. Forget what you heard before.

We start from scratch now. And he gave as the basis for all his succeeding policies and actions, two quotes, from Roosevelt and from Lincoln, the first emphasizing the poor (“the test of government is whether we provide for those who have little”), the second emphasizing that helping the poor doesn’t mean impoverishing the rich, or those who pay the poor’s wages. In other words, he was reassuring both sides that they had nothing to fear from him. It will be a “win-win” situation.

Oh, boy: But what if the rich were exploiting the poor (as in several industries we know about) in the first place?  For example, in mining, where the corporations not only do not pay the government its fair share but also impose costs on the people (through the environmental damage that affects their livelihood). Making the corporations pay for those costs, and pay fairly for the natural resources they extract, will surely make them less rich, and very discouraged. Does that mean that Mr. Duterte won’t change the situation?

Robredo, not having gotten herself in trouble with outrageous election and postelection remarks, did not have to explain herself. But her promises were totally in line with the President’s “love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished.” Her office is open to everyone who wishes to work for the common cause. In her first 100 days, she will go to the poorest barangays of the country, and listen to the people, finding out how she can help.

It would seem then that with such similarities of purpose, President Duterte would welcome Vice President Robredo’s help, even without giving her a Cabinet position. One would think she would be a great asset to his administration. So if he really wants to do the best for the Filipino people, if he wants to be transparent, etc., etc., he should at least answer these questions:

Why, at this writing, has he not even spoken with her, if not after the elections, at least after their respective proclamations? And following this line, why did he refuse to have a common inauguration, as has been done in the past (please, the no-room-in-Malacañang reason does not compute; just before the Rizal Hall is a room almost as large as the Rizal, which could have accommodated everyone)?

The only reason one can think of for this boorish attitude toward the VP stems from what he said when asked why he wouldn’t give her a Cabinet post in the first place: He didn’t want to displease Bongbong Marcos, the losing VP candidate.

As a matter of fact, the TV camera panned on Marcos, presumably one of the personal guests, because he doesn’t qualify as a must-invite one. He was seated quite close to losing VP candidate Alan Cayetano, who had demolished him during the VP debate. Mr. Duterte invited Marcos, yet he couldn’t invite Robredo, who qualifies as a must-invite?

Why? What does Marcos have over Mr. Duterte? Is Mr. Duterte a Marcos (Ferdinand, that is) loyalist, with the loyalty transferred to the son? If this is the case, how seriously can we take his “I was not elected to serve the interests of any one person or any group or any one class”?

Actually the snub of the VP (and the Filipino people) has worked in her favor. She was able to give her own speech, televised nationally. And the people who crashed her inauguration wouldn’t have been able to do so in Malacañang.

Nevertheless, it struck a sour note in what should have been a national celebration.