BUT the Filipino electorate had seen them all and threatened by the unabated rise of corruption and crime opted to elect a candidate once dubbed by Time Magazine as the “Punisher” who rid his city of syndicated crime, drug pushers and imposed smoking ban, speed limits under his uncompromising leadership. For the first time in the electoral derby in the country, all the 19 towns and cities in the national capital region (except for Makati which is the bastion of the oligarchy) elected a candidate from the far flung city of Davao.
President Duterte had a lot to fix. He thought that he can address the drug problem in the country within three to six months but he admitted he was wrong. He discovered that seven police generals were protecting the drug syndicates and politicians to include barangay captains were part of the intricate drug syndicate in the country. Even the national penitentiary was part of the drug distribution network and a senator who had a stint of dalliance with high profile inmates when she was Justice Secretary was later sent by the courts to confinement. The opposition as well as the HRW called it political harassment.
Duterte too had to fix the country’s foreign affairs which have long been tied to the umbilical cord of America. In international fora, he asserted that the Philippines should be treated as a sovereign nation and other countries, to include the USA, has no right to admonish its leaders of what must be done to address the enormity of its internal problems. That is why former United States President Barrack Obama got a mouthful of the vile language of the Filipino president. But that is a thing of the past now. President Duterte and US President Donald Trump are phone pals.
Tension in the West Philippines Sea is gone after Duterte and China President Xi Jinping met in a bilateral talks. President Duterte on his own made a spectacular forays in foreign diplomacy. He had made friends. He established ties with other powerful nations and their leaders on official and personal basis. Russian Vladimir Putin promised to provide him the arms he needed, while Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended billions of dollars in grants and soft loans. Abe too visited the home of Duterte in a low cost subdivision in Davao City and had a peep of his rustic sleeping quarters. In turn, in his recent visit to Japan Duterte had the special honor to meet Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
So welcome guests and delegates to the new Philippines. The drug laboratories operating with impunity in the country have all been dismantled. The drug syndicates had been neutralized. Several policemen lost their lives and nearly 3,000 members of the drug cartel were killed. Over one million drug pushers and addicts are now confined in rehabilitation centers. A costly price to pay but too small a cost to save the next generation from the evil and menace of drugs if left unabated.
On the terrorist front, ISIS and its leaders had been effectively neutralized. Our valiant soldiers, Air Force and police forces routed them. But we have a city to rebuild and we need all the help that we can muster. The city is in virtual ruins because in the length of time that the ISIS took root in Marawi they constructed a network of tunnels and established positions that no ordinary urban warfare can effectively address. On the other hand, ceasefire agreements with the MILF and the MNLF are holding effectively with the leaders of both fronts able to meet with the President in Malacañang and the President in their respective turfs.
Having addressed much of the problems left behind by his predecessor, President Duterte is now ready to take up the next challenge. Build, Build, Build. The gargantuan task includes a number of railways to be bid and for the construction to start next year. This will address the traffic congestions in Metro Manila and the lack of efficient transport system in Luzon, Visayas (Cebu City) and Mindanao starting with Tagum, Davao and Digos segment of the Mindanao Railway System. Several bridges across the Pasig river and all over the country and rehabilitation of airports and seaports too.
If you hear of negative sound bites from the moribund opposition and some sectors in the clergy consider how the nation reacts. Last Sunday, a garrulous Catholic Bishop Socrates Villegas called for a protest march in EDSA. Less than 10,000 showed up. The political opposition were there too. They have simply lost their credibility.
A new era in the Philippine history has started and mark it the Philippines under President Rodrigo R. Duterte.