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Why Filipinos trust Duterte

It is still very early into his administration, of course, but President Rodrigo Roa Duterte should be very encouraged by the Pulse Asia survey showing that a whopping 91% of Filipinos trust him as their leader.

Eight percent of the respondents were undecided whether to trust the new President or not, while 0.2% have little trust. This means that nearly all Filipinos trust the new Chief Executive. He got higher rating, quite understandably, in Mindanao with 97%. After all, he is the first from Mindanao to occupy the highest position in government.

This is a very significant development as President Duterte begins to fulfill his promises to the nation. The confidence of citizens in their government is very critical in the latter’s ability to function effectively. If you are a leader, how will you lead if your people do not have confidence in you? That is the bedrock of democracy.

This trust and confidence is also important in securing the cooperation of citizens on the programs government seeks to implement. Trust, in other words, precedes citizen participation.

It does not require a political analyst to figure out why President Duterte enjoys a very high trust rating. Coming off an impressive victory in the May, 2016, polls, the former Davao City mayor hit the ground running and began addressing the important issues of the nation.

Many underestimate the power of his message on drugs and criminality preferring to focus on the usual issues of employment, the economy, political reforms, among others. These are important, I agree, but the issue of peace and order and drugs resonate in the consciousness of ordinary people.

He is addressing gut issues that are important in the daily lives of people. He is attempting to solve problems that people can relate to, something that they see and feel.

During the elections, I wrote in this column that there are five important issues the next president would face: peace and order, drugs, the Communist insurgency, the Muslim rebellion, and the China issue.

President Duterte has faced these five issues head-on.

One of his first acts, even as a presumptive President, is to proclaim an unrelenting war against crime and drugs. In most cases, one leads to the other. Perhaps, convinced of his tough stance, thousands of drug users and pushers began trooping to their barangay and municipal officials to voluntarily surrender and seek rehabilitation.

This is a huge achievement.

This is by no means the end of the problem, of course. The problem on drugs and criminality are rooted deeply in our society that the surrender of a number of criminals cannot solve the entire problem.

But I suggest that it is a huge first step towards solving this menace of society. If you are a parent who worries about your daughter who works in a call center and who comes home in the wee hours of the morning, you should be happy with this government effort.

Likewise, if you are a resident of a city where home robbery and murder are normal occurrences, you would welcome this strong stance against crime by the President and the Police Chief he appointed.

Another caveat, of course, is the issue of violation of due process and human rights. I will discuss this at length in a future column but let me just say that I believe it is possible to balance both – an aggressive anti-drug and anti-crime campaign as President Duterte is doing and a respect for fundamental human rights. I hope the police and other law enforcement agencies can sit down with human rights agencies and sort out a framework for cooperation.

After all, don’t we all want to rid our society of drugs and crime? Don’t we all want a society that respects human dignity?

President Duterte has also taken steps to address the issue of peace in Mindanao and the Communist insurgency.

He has started talks with the Communists and have offered them positions in government. This has jumpstarted a peace negotiation that was practically non-existent in the past years.

He has also publicly declared his commitment to genuine autonomy in Mindanao. He has committed to transitioning to a Federal system of government with the primary purpose of giving Mindanao the autonomy it deserves.

Finally, the Duterte administration, in my opinion, has skillfully balanced the euphoria brought about by the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of our claim and the need to open the option of diplomacy and negotiation with China.

The President has just been in office less than a month so it is premature to proclaim success but I admit that I am impressed so far. He has handled his initial days in office just like a seasoned public servant.

The key is to preserve that trust and to use that political capital to push forward his agenda for which he was overwhelmingly voted upon by our people.

For comments/feedback e-mail to: mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.Mannyvillar.com.ph. (Senator Manny Villar)