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The ‘new’ President

We really love our politics as much as we love basketball and showbiz.

Barely two weeks into the presidency of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, pundits, analysts, and experts have been offering assessments and criticisms left and right. Today, everyone is a political commentator.

As I have written in the past, let us give the new President a chance, some elbow room to implement the reforms he envisions for the country. I believe this, no matter who the new president is. Remember that I gave my full support to my electoral opponent Benigno s. Aquino III after he was proclaimed 15th president of the Republic.

In his inaugural speech, President Duterte said something that caught my attention. He said that the real problem that confronts the Filipino nation is the “erosion of faith and trust in government.”

I agree completely. We have become so cynical of government that we blame it for all the problems in society, even those which communities can solve themselves. We expect government to provide everything for us and we complain whenever we feel it is not doing its job.

Today, we equate government with inefficiency, corruption, and abuse. And while it is true that some government officials have been found guilty of these wrongdoings, I am constrained to quote from the inaugural speech once again:

“No leader, however strong, 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.”

We need to do our share. The Filipino people need to unite behind a common goal – a brighter future for our nation.

After all, regardless of who we supported during the elections, don’t we all agree that we need to fix our traffic problem? That we need to arrest the drug menace to prevent us from becoming a drug haven? That we need to seek peace and development in Mindanao? That we need to make sure government offices provide the most efficient services to the people?

We have a new President not just in the simple sense that we have replaced the previous one, but we really have a NEW President.

I say this as I observe from the sidelines the first few days of the Duterte presidency. We know that this is a simple man occupying a not-so-simple position in government. He seems to shun the trappings of power and privilege.

He came to an official function – the 69th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Air Force in barong, with sleeves rolled and “maong” (denim jeans). Some criticized his fashion choice as “unpresidential.” But what does it mean to be “presidential”, really? We voted for a president not on the basis of whether he can carry a suit but whether he can solve our problems.

Our creatively funny social media people have started calling it “maong Tagalog.”

In a related matter, prospective Speaker of the House of Representatives Pantaleon Alvarez also warned his colleagues against treating the State of the Nation Address (SONA) as a “fashion circus” rather than what it really is – the Chief Executive addressing the nation.

President Duterte also stopped the use of a private plane and took a commercial economy flight to Davao City last week. He went through the normal security check like any ordinary passenger.

My son Mark told me that President Duterte warned them during one of the Cabinet meetings that government officials should shun special treatment. As indeed they should. This is not a multinational corporation; this is the Republic of the People of the Philippines.

But to me, the clearest sign of this new President’s simplicity can be found in the straightforward and uncomplicated language he uses in expressing his thoughts. He has the gift to simplify complicated matters so ordinary folks can understand.

Some people are shocked by his bluntness. But think about it, wouldn’t you rather have someone who tells it to you straight rather than someone who hides his intentions behind technical or sophisticated language? I have not heard him utter convoluted diplomatic language. He seems to be the embodiment of the saying, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

These are, of course, simple observations that I have. Certainly, his popular campaign mantra, “change is coming,” does not merely refer to these tangential changes but also to many of our complex problems. He said we need a revolution.

Let us give him the chance, the time, to make the change happen.

(For comments or feedback, please send e-mail to mbv.secretariat@gmail.com or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph)
(Senator Manny Villar)

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