ON this day, June 30, six years ago, the newly elected president Benigno Simeon Aquino III arrived in Malacañang, where he met with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. From Malacañang, the two leaders rode together to the Independence Grandstand at Rizal Park. President Arroyo then departed in her own car and the new President Aquino took to the stage to take his oath of office as the 15th President of the country.
Today, June 30, 2016, our new leader, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, goes to Malacañang for the traditional meeting with the outgoing president in a symbolic display of unity in the peaceful transition of government authority.
Unlike most of the previous June 30 oath-taking rites for a new president, there will be no grand ceremony at the Independence Grandstand. Duterte will take his oath as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang, then deliver his inaugural speech before some 600 officials and guests.
With this break with tradition, President Duterte begins an administration that promises great changes in governance and in the life of the people. It was this idea of change that drove the election campaign of the Davao City mayor who was quickly supported by a party, the PDP-Laban, that shared his goals, and by the people who were drawn to his promise of change.
Today’s ceremony is the first manifestation of that driving force of change that we should see at work in the coming weeks and months and years. Major changes are expected in police operations against crime, particularly drugs; in the efforts to bring peace to those parts of our land now threatened by secessionist and rebel forces; in our relations with other nations over disputes that threaten regional peace; in the pursuit of solutions to long-standing problems such as poverty, unemployment, traffic jams, inadequate health services, not enough schoolrooms, the need for more power for industry, and greater support for agriculture.
There will be changes in basic governance, from the lowest to the highest level. Duterte once said he would like to be called “mayor of the Philippines” – one who would be hands-on in administering the nation’s affairs and in solving its problems. He expects all other officials to do likewise.
But all these efforts for change cannot be left alone to President Duterte and the other officials of the incoming administration. The people too must be part of the change. For too long we have been indifferent and tolerant of official wrongdoing out of apathy, even, at times, out of selfish expectations. We must now be more alert, more sensitive, more ready to question what we believe is not right in our government as well as in our society. At the same time, we must be ready to support needed reforms, efforts to solve old problems, programs that will truly benefit the entire nation.
Today, the new administration begins, signaling a great change in the life of our nation, and we must resolve to be part of it.