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A government for the people

BY now, the nation must know the importance this administration attaches to the small people, poor people, in the way it proposes to solve problems, in the way it draws up project plans, in the way President Duterte is out to govern this country in the next six years.

His State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last Monday contained many of these plans for the nation as a whole – for economic development, health, education, food, housing, environment, culture – but in every one of them, the human element was emphasized.

Thus, in the ongoing anti-drugs campaign, he said, there must now be rehabilitation centers for all the victims of drug addiction all over the country, using even military camps. He appealed to Communist rebels to come for peace talks, for no cash assistance and no medals can compensate a family for the loss of a loved one.

For national development, there will be solid growth, low and stable inflation, dollar reserves, and robust fiscal position, but on the household level, thousands of jobs must be created that are suitable for the poor and less skilled members of the work force. There must be sufficient income for all Filipinos for the basic food and non-food needs of their families.

Mining and logging companies must strictly follow government rules; they cannot be allowed to destroy the environment. Small fishermen will have top priority in fishing in Laguna de Bay where today there is hardly any space left because of fish pens. There will be a Muslim broadcast channel, along with a lumad channel, which will give due attention to matters that are important to these native people of the country.

One thread goes through these varied plans and projects of the administration – the human element. Progress is important for the nation as a whole, but it becomes even more significant if it touches the individual lives of Filipinos.

In the early days of his administration, President Duterte said he would rather be called Mr. Mayor than Mr. President. A mayor is hands-on when it comes to solving problems. A mayor meets directly with people. In his SONA last Monday, he deplored that he may not be able to account for the behavior of all the people in government. He said he may be able to guarantee the honesty and competence of his cabinet secretaries, but on the lower levels, such as in procurement offices, he asked the public to help by reporting instances of graft and corruption.

We will continue to strive to increase our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which will elevate us in the eyes of the rest of the world. But the growth must reach the people below. It must not merely trickle down. It must envelop them and raise their lives. Our government must be, to borrow a phrase from Lincoln, a government for the people. This is the promise of the new administration and we are confident it will make good on that promise.