Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 6 July 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte’s inaugural speech was brief, simple and meaningful. There is no soaring rhetoric, no prose masquerading as poetry. It focused on the essentials, on actionable programs and intents.

It is summed up in the last words spoken, a new president eager to begin his job with substantial and audacious actions: “I am here, why? Because I am ready to start my work for the nation.

I deconstructed the speech, excluding foreign policy and the peace process involving the communist insurgency and the Muslim rebellion.

My commentaries are in normal types, the italics are from the speech.

Democratic governance. No leader … can succeed at anything of national importance or significance unless he has the support and cooperation of the people he is tasked to lead and sworn to serve.

It is the people from whom democratic governments draw strength and this administration is no exception.

That is why we have 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.

These lines rings like Lincoln’s government for the people, by the people and of the people.

The country’s social cancer. [T]he problems that bedevil our country today … are corruption, both in the high and low echelons of government, criminality in the streets, and the rampant sale of illegal drugs in all strata of Philippine society and the breakdown of law and order….

For I see these ills as mere symptoms of a virulent social disease that creeps and cuts into the moral fiber of Philippine society. I sense a problem deeper and more serious than any of those mentioned or all of them put together.

Solving the true problem. Erosion of faith and trust in government – that is the real problem that confronts us. Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier.

I know that there are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal.

(1) I have seen how corruption bled the government of funds, which were allocated for the use in uplifting the poor from the mire that they are in;

(2) I have seen how illegal drugs destroyed individuals and ruined family relationships;

(3) I have seen how criminality, by means all foul, snatched from the innocent and the unsuspecting, the years and years of accumulated savings. Years of toil and then, suddenly, they are back to where they started.

The President’s view of his task. Look at this from that perspective and tell me that I am wrong.

In this fight, I ask Congress and the Commission on Human Rights and all others who are similarly situated to allow us a level of governance that is consistent to our mandate. The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained. As a lawyer and a former prosecutor,

I know the limits of the power and authority of the president.  I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine.

True and meaningful change. “Malasakit;” “Tunay na Pagbabago; Tinud-anay (real) nga Kausaban (change)” – these are words which catapulted me to the presidency.

This is probably the first time that non-Tagalog words of common application in another native dialect [Cebuano] were ever uttered by a Philippine president in an inaugural speech since the national language law (1937).

Reminding us that “genuine and meaningful change” will be a rough ride, he enjoins every Filipino to “come and join me just the same, …shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest.”

Cornerstone of social and economic policies. When he ran for the presidency, candidate Duterte confessed: “I am a socialist. My sympathies are for the poor.”

In his inaugural address, he offers two major quotations to describe “my economic and financial, political policies … though couched in general terms. Read between the lines. I need not go into specifics now.”

He did not lift from Karl Marx, not from Mao Tse-tung, nor even the less dogmatic Deng Hsao-ping.  From Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1934), he quoted: “The test of government is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have little.”

This is the economic equivalent of Ramon Magsaysay’s “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

From Lincoln: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong; You cannot help the poor by discouraging the rich; You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer; You cannot further the brotherhood by inciting class hatred among men.”

This quote reaffirms wise economic market principles and sensible social policies. However, it  is widely mis-attributed to Abraham Lincoln, an error even Ronald Reagan has committed.

Very urgent and cannot wait for tomorrow. Impatiently, he said, there are specifics and policies that cannot wait for tomorrow.

I direct all department secretaries and the heads of agencies to reduce requirements and the processing time of all applications, from the submission to the release.

I order all department secretaries and heads of agencies to remove redundant requirements and compliance with one department or agency, shall be accepted as sufficient for all.

I order all department secretaries and heads of agencies to refrain from changing and bending the rules of government contracts, transactions and projects already approved and awaiting implementation.

Changing the rules when the game is ongoing is wrong.  I abhor secrecy and instead advocate transparency in all government contracts, projects and business transactions from submission of proposals to negotiation to perfection and finally, to consummation.

Many positive things can happen if these presidential orders are achieved quickly:

(1) These orders are a wake-up call to improve the services to common citizens and to ease Doing Business processes in the country. The recent works of the National Competitiveness Commission in removing redundant and unnecessary procedures are tailor-made to help in the effort.

(2) The credibility of the government in honoring contracts with third parties will improve immensely and speed up investment and growth.