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President Duterte

Today, Congress is scheduled to perform its constitutional duty to canvass the votes for president and vice president cast in the May 9, 2016, elections.

While the race for vice president remains uncertain, with Rep. Leni Robredo and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. locked in a neck-and-neck battle, the outcome of the presidential contest had been known less than 24 hours after the last ballot was read by the vote counting machine (VCM).

Of course, Congress still needs to canvass the votes and officially proclaim the winner, but for all intents and purposes, the Filipino people have overwhelmingly given their mandate to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the 16th president of the republic.

Last week, the Nacionalista Party, the political party which I lead, expressed its support to the administration of President Duterte by signing a coalition for change agreement in Davao City.

The NP is committed to support the new administration’s reform agenda pertaining to maintaining social order, securing peace with the rebels, political reforms, and giving those who live in poverty the opportunity to uplift their conditions.

It is time for the nation to move on from the acrimonious campaign and begin to solve the problems our nation faces.

It is time for us to get behind the new administration and ensure the victory, not of the candidates this time, but of the Filipino nation.

It does not matter whether you voted for Duterte or not. The national interest should prevail over partisan politics. And after a bitter campaign period that saw candidates and their supporters throw insults and accusations at each other, it is time, as President Digong said, for the healing to begin.

We need to realize that our nation is faced with problems that require resolve. And continuously engaging in political skirmishes will only divide our nation instead of unifying our efforts to achieve much needed reforms.

The bickering must end, the task of changing the country must begin.

Supporting the new administration does not mean saying yes to its every move. Getting behind the newly elected president does not mean we close our eyes to whatever mistakes he might commit.

Criticisms and opposition are critical elements of a vibrant democracy. This is true. But it is also true that criticisms and opposition should be constructive and should not be employed to destroy reputation or steal power away.

Our coalition for change with President Duterte is a show of support for his programs of government. It signifies that we are willing to work with his party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on legislative and executive agenda.

More than this, our coalition agreement is a recognition of the mandate given to him by almost 16 million Filipino voters. Some critics argue that looking at the distribution of votes there are actually more Filipinos who did not vote for him (about 60%).

True. But it is equally true that of all those who presented themselves to the Filipino people, Duterte won the biggest number of votes, although a plurality. Stated in another way, of the five candidates, Duterte has the least number of voters who voted against him.

But this debate is moot. This is our system. And until we change this system of voting, we need to respect the rules of the game.

The presumptive president, as the media has dubbed him, has started the process of transitioning from candidate to president. His teams have started to vet appointees to his Cabinet. He has met with world leaders. And they have coordinated with the Aquino government for a peaceful transition.

At the end of the day, the benchmark for success in any elections is not just that the votes were cast in a peaceful and orderly manner, or that the votes were correctly counted, but also if it paves the way for a peaceful and democratic way of effecting a change in administration.

Now that we have exercised our sovereign right to choose our leaders, it is time to devote our efforts at making sure that we, as a nation, achieve our goals of prosperity and order.

And we cannot achieve that if we keep treating each day as if we are still in campaign mode.

I am very optimistic that the new administration under President Duterte will usher in significant reforms that would ensure equitable growth, political empowerment for the countryside and peace and order.

Let’s give him a chance to do what he promised to do.

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