President Duterte to Filipinos: Trust me and join this rough ride toward change

MANILA–You mind your work and I will mind mine,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in his “no-fanfare” inauguration on Thursday after he was sworn in as the Philippines’ 16th President.

Phillippine President Rodrigo Duterte stands during the swearing-in ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila

Phillippine President Rodrigo Duterte stands during the swearing-in ceremony at the Malacanang Palace in Manila

Duterte has been criticized by various human rights organizations including the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for his unconventional methods of fighting crime.

He was accused of killing over a thousand of suspected criminals in the 20 years he ruled as Mayor of Davao City, a small town in southern Philippines.

While he has committed to waging war against graft and corruption, criminality in the streets and rampant sale of illegal drugs, Duterte said those are mere symptoms “of a virulent social disease that creeps and cuts into the moral fiber of Philippine society.”

“But of course, it is not to say that we will ignore them because they have to be stopped by all means that the law allows.”

Duterte said the biggest problem of the Philippines is the people’s erosion of faith and trust in government.

“Erosion of faith and trust in government – that is the real problem that confronts us. Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make people’s lives better, safer and healthier. Indeed, ours is a problem that dampens the human spirit,” Duterte said.

Without consolidating people’s faith and trust, Duterte said, no leader can succeed at anything.

“It is the people from whom democratic governments draw strength and this administration is no exception. That is why we have to listen to the murmurings of the people, feel their pulse, supply their needs and fortify their faith and trust in us whom they elected to public office,” said Duterte assuring that all is not lost.

Unorthodox method of solving problems

Duterte explained that he has seen how corruption creeps in the government and how crime and illegal drugs have destroyed individuals and families.

He said: “I have seen how corruption bled the government of funds which were allocated for uplifting the poor from the mire that they are in. I have seen how illegal drugs destroyed individuals and ruined family relationships.

“I have seen how criminality, by means all foul, snatched from the innocent and the unsuspecting, years and years of accumulated savings. Years of toil and then, suddenly, they are back to where they started. Look at this from that perspective and tell me that I am wrong.”

He told his critics to allow his administration to work on solving the country’s problems in accordance with their mandate under the Constitution. He stressed that the government’s fight will be relentless.

Duterte said that being a lawyer and a former prosecutor, he knows his limits — what is legal and what is not.

“My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine. Malasakit, tunay na pagbabago. Tinud-anay nga kausaban (compassion, real change)… These are battle cries articulated by me on behalf of those who are hungry for genuine and meaningful change,” he said.

“Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished – these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey toward a better Philippines. The ride will be rough. But come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest,” Duterte said as he started his six-year term as chief executive.

No honeymoon for new leaders

There will be no “honeymoon period” or adjustment period for new leaders.

In his speech, Duterte immediately gave instructions to his department secretaries.

His first order of the day was to cut bureaucracy in the government by reducing requirements and processing time of all applications for government permits and other documents.

“I order all department secretaries and heads of agencies to remove redundant requirements. Compliance with one department or agency shall be accepted as sufficient for all,” he said adding this will make the atmosphere better for investors.

His second order to officials was to refrain from changing or bending rules to accommodate government contracts, projects and transactions.

“Changing the rules when the game is on-going is wrong. I abhor secrecy and instead advocate transparency in all government contracts, projects and business transactions from submission of proposals to negotiation to perfection and finally, to consummation. Do them and we will work together. Do not do them, we will part sooner than later,” Duterte said.

Immediately after the inauguration ceremony, he called his first Cabinet meeting.

Breaking traditions

Duterte and his Vice-President Leni Robredo broke traditions by holding separate inaugurations.

Duterte took his oath of office before his law school fraternity brother, Supreme Court Associate Bienvenido Reyes. He is the second Philippine President who opted not to take oath before the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice.

Robredo took her oath of office before a barangay chairman (town hall officer).

While Duterte’s predecessors had the inauguration ceremony at bigger venues like Quirino Grandstand, Barasoain Church and Cebu City that accommodated thousands of people, the 71-year President opted to have his inauguration inside Malacañang Palace with less than 500 guests.

As for food, instead of popping champagne bottles and cheese were Duterte’s favorites including coconut pith spring rolls, banana fritters, white cheese made from unskimmed carabao’s milk and durian tartlets. For drinks, it was a choice between pine-mango cooler and the local orange called dalandan.

For Robredo’s inauguration, which was attended by around 300 guests, buchi (rice balls), sotanghon (Chinese vermicelli or cellophane noodles), pandesal, maja blanca, pichi-pichi, and Choc Nut were served.

Command conference

On Friday, Duterte will hold a command conference in Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

He is expected to give his marching orders and other specifics to start his war against criminality.

“I was not elected to serve the interests of any one person or any group or any one class. I serve every one and not only one. That is why I have adapted as an article of faith the following lines written by someone whose name I could no longer recall. ”

He quoted him: “I have no friends to serve, I have no enemies to harm … I am here because I love my country and I love the people of the Philippines. I am here, why? Because I am ready to start my work for the nation.”

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