President Rodrigo Duterte will address the nation this afternoon. We greet the announcement with a mix of hope, trepidation—and realism.
More than two years ago, the Duterte presidency took off on a promising start. The maverick President painted himself as the opposite of the leaders we had been used to in the past. He was honest, irreverent, single-minded. He appeared resolute and able to get things done. Sixteen million Filipinos—a decisive plurality—decided to take a chance on the mayor from Davao City.
The past two years, however, have plunged the nation to divisiveness and discontent. While his trust ratings have remained relatively high according to surveys, Mr. Duterte’s words, actions and decisions especially with regard to the war on drugs have invited criticism and even condemnation from some sectors both here and abroad.
Promises to stamp out corruption have been marred by a strange habit of reappointing officials whom he has already removed for some irregularity or another.
More importantly, the country is grappling with gut issues of high prices and scarce basic commodities. Filipinos will put up with politics but may not be as tolerant once their quality of life is compromised.
President Duterte must have sensed these rumblings. After all, his own trust ratings have suffered of late.
Palace spokesmen say he will talk about alleged destabilization plots. This is why there is some anxiety over what he would say. Will he, as he is wont to do, curse at and malign his enemies again? Will he blame other people, even God, for our woes? Will he make a declaration about the future of our government, a pronouncement that will confirm what many fear?
What we’d like to hear, however, are the words of a genuine leader.
A good chief executive will acknowledge the problems but will not stop at tough words against his adversaries. Instead, a good leader will outline the steps he would take to solve the nation’s ills. He will inspire confidence among the people because of his firm grasp of the situation, his sound judgment and calm reasoning.
The address comes just before a powerful typhoon that appears headed to Northern Luzon—a very real threat. May the weather not occasion parallels on what is to come. After all, if there were any destabilization attempts present anywhere, it would be a result of this administration’s own unenlightened choices rather than the act of groups with vested interests.