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Hitting the ground running

So far, President Rody Duterte seems to be doing almost everything right. Prior to assuming the presidency last June 30, he convened the two-day Mindanao business summit where he laid out his economic agenda.

The plan drew praises from the business community, even from some of his pre-election critics.

On inauguration day, he delivered what I consider one of the best Philippine inaugural speeches ever. Short but packing a lot of punch. Change is coming but “in order to be significant, it must start with us and in us.”

He acknowledged the presence of his mentor, former President Fidel V. Ramos, who, he explained in later interviews, was the very first leader to travel to Mindanao to convince him to run for President.

He explained the guiding philosophies of his administration, directly quoting from his role models in governance, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

He reiterated his wars against corruption, criminality and drugs – all symptoms of a deeper malaise which is the erosion of faith and trust in government’s capacity to serve the people.

He called on those in government to cut red tape and stop bending or changing the rules in the middle of the game.

At the end of his speech, he immediately inducted into office the incoming members of the cabinet. Within the day, he convened the first cabinet meeting where each was given presidential marching orders. I understand he will also be convening very soon the first Legislative-Executive Advisory Council (or LEDAC) to discuss his legislative agenda.

In the evening, President Rody spent time with the people of Isla Putting Bato, in Tondo. During the campaign, he told the crowd, he made them a lot of promises. He has come back to tell them that he will make good on all of those promises.

The following day, the newly-sworn in officials under President Duterte assumed their offices eager to come up, in Finance Secretary Dominguez’ words, with creative solutions towards nation-building. The economic managers, for instance, are unanimous in their plan to spend resources in much needed programs, especially infrastructure – in stark contrast to the under-spending in the last two years of the Aquino administration.

In the Bureau of Internal Revenue, it is back to basics for Commissioner Billy Dulay. No gifts please. The “no gifts policy” has long been in the books for public servants. But it has become practically a dead letter because of years of non-observance.

From all walks came various common-sense solutions to some of our problems: Eg. 1.) To ease traffic congestion, enforce a 24 hour work shift in public works projects.

2. ) To reduce absenteeism in Congress, enforce a no work-no pay policy.

So far, the campaign against drugs is very much on track. As President Rody promised, the fight will be relentless and it will be sustained. Pushers and users surrendered in droves in various parts of the country. During its first week, the government scored two big hauls of shabu (one in Cagayan, another in Las Piñas-Parañaque) worth billions of pesos. As promised, President Rody even publicly named 5 police generals allegedly coddling drug dealers.

I just beg to disagree with the pronouncement of PNP Chief “Bato” de la Rosa that cops involved in drugs would be sent to Sulu. That is just like sweeping the dust under the rug or transferring the problem from point of origin to Sulu. The problem must be stopped right at the roots. Punish them and shame them, if “Bato” must, but this must be done right at the communities where the alleged offenses occurred. The better to serve its purpose as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

Assigning the rotten eggs to Sulu will be an utter disservice to our brave and loyal men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Sulu and elsewhere in Mindanao. We send our best out there, not drug addicts or drug protectors.

Serving in Mindanao should be considered a badge of courage. This badge should never ever be tainted with shame.

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(Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye)