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THERE are things that we seem to be unsure of as a nation, and that is the answer to the question — are we better off now than we were four years ago? Clearly, the answer there would have been yes. Unfortunately, there are some, if the surveys are to be believed, around 3 percent who disapprove of PRRD’s work and 11 percent undecided. A staggering 85 percent trust and approval rating was achieved by the chief executive, a first among all post-EDSA presidents and at such a point in the term of office.

Duterte is not perfect. He loves to joke around even in presidential addresses. He is not from Luzon. Hence, he behaves differently. He is not one of them. Check out his behavior, his mannerisms, his expressions, his ways of dressing up, no presidential demeanor at all. He is just a mayor who never wanted to go out of Davao City because it meant a repackaging, less authenticity and dealing with the oligarchs on their terms. But when the going got tough, he made the jump, hard as it was. But the voters saw in him what was not present in all: he is uncouth, Bisaya, mayor, with a strong political will, brought Davao from the throes of anarchy to what it is today. He saw in them their image of a true leader. And when the mandate has been duly given, no Bikoy or the propaganda line of 25,000 deaths can undo that single democratic act.

Thirty-two issues were highlighted by PRRD in his fourth SONA: fight against illegal drugs, corruption, restoration of the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, as well as plunder; PhilHealth fraud; contributions of GOCCs; reform of Customs; Hotline 8888; Boracay cleanup; Manila Bay rehabilitation; third telco; Bangsamoro; communist rebellion; education from K-12 to ALS; sports development; MSMEs; rescheduling the barangay elections from May 2020 to October 2022; creation of OFW, water and disaster resiliency departments; WPS; fishing deal with China; Reed Bank allision; poverty reduction; wage hike; tax reform; delivery of government services; water shortage; land use policy; Metro Manila traffic; agriculture; coconut levy fund; energy sources; and national security.

What was interesting was the time he spent stressing the obvious to the members of Congress: corruption. Not having the Congress under his control when he started out in 2016, today PRRD has control of both houses. His speaker has been elected and seemingly, the 15-21 agreement holds at the House. In the Senate, 10 of the 12 proclaimed winners in the May 2019 elections have taken their oaths and chairmanships have been approved. In the 93 minutes of his speech, Duterte kept calling out corruption and alluding to the enemy being us. When he included plunder in the restoration of the death penalty, the audience was eerily quiet. When he joked about the epicenter of earthquake being Congress, the laughter was a guarded one. When he referred to the 63 Custom employees and probably it is better to ask them to report to Congress, another silence.

It was a president saying to Congress, in no uncertain terms, that they were part of the problem. The “in your face” barrage to Congress will hopefully result in a less greedy, more for-country legislature in the remaining three years of his term. Imagine if we had a parliament? Then we can have a unified body addressing the issues of the day without much delay and politics because the agenda would be one: clear, precise and time-bound.

The following day, PRRD met with the various local governments, directing them to do their jobs and giving them 45 days to clear their jurisdictions from illegal structures blocking roads and thoroughfares, essentially restoring order and setting the ease of doing business protocols, particularly on the three-day release of permits, licenses and renewals. Again, this is the only time in his term that PRRD can call out his local chief executives. We hope to see the catharsis he mentioned: “Catharsis is what we, individually and collectively, need to do today — not tomorrow but today. Self-purgation followed by the resolve to do what is right and proper, is good for the nation’s health.” Imagine if we had a federal form of government, the head of government at the national level would not have to do these things because the regional heads would have to act or they get booted out. They would always have an excuse, pointing to central government for delay, money and for not being able to perform their jobs.

Fortunately, from among the local government officials, a new breed got into the mix. Imagine an Isko Moreno, Vico Sotto and Francis Zamora coming in from NCR. Then there are Benjie Magalong of Baguio, Ed Labella of Cebu City and hoping the other two cities, Mandaue (Jonas Cortes) and Lapu Lapu (Ayong Chan) would also shake things up in no uncertain terms. Isabela, Basilan Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman is also leading the offensive in Mindanao, among others. The Duterte effect should rub on the city mayors because clearly it is a path for growth and development.

An elected public official would have to build his first 100 days under the budget of the previous one. If there is no budget left, how would the new local chief executive move? Simple, the formula is there: go after the low-hanging fruit and exercise one’s political will to enforce the laws. Those will get you to do many things and contrast you from the former. This will also give the local chief executive’s team enough time to make sense of the financial records left scattered by the predecessor.

We often talk of economic reform. Pushing the envelope in terms of developing the market. We talk of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution. We keep on insisting that to move forward is to open the economy. If we do, can the present system sustain it? And how do we deal with “the enemy is us” metaphor? It is the extractive nature of our politics that make us weak. We cannot sustain our economic gains if our politics remain to be like what we have today. But the shift to parliament-federal cannot be merely a term issue as suggested by the Speaker. When you start with extending-cutting terms, you destroy the whole advocacy for parliament-federal.

And when the single biggest challenge of our time is not mentioned in the fourth SONA, you wonder if the champion for federalism has just thrown in the towel and closed the door. And the afterthought was really damning.000
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