You can metamorphosize from being a tough, street-talking maton into a tough, statesman-like maton. Newly-minted President Rodrigo Duterte proved that yesterday in his inaugural speech — one that caused a lot of keen observers to both hold their breath and let out sighs of relief at the beginnings and ends of every sentence the new president uttered.
My relief was different from those who, at the beginning, cringed at the possibility of a profanity-laced inaugural speech. My relief was more around seeing Duterte stay in character; his change in language a mere messaging layer re-config that, thanks to the virtuousity of his speechwriters and the manner with which he delivered it, did not mask but, instead, enhanced his personal essence.
In short, Duterte delivered via his inaugural speech, essentially the same message he had delivered throughout his campaign.
Is this consistency a good thing? Absolutely.
Consistency, after all, is the foundation of trust. A government that is not consistent — one that applies the law selectively, changes the rules mid-game, and arbitrarily changes its messaging to suit circumstances — quickly loses the trust of the people it seeks to govern. And it is the current lack of trust in government the Philippines suffers from today that Durerte laments in his first public address as President.
Thus, it is a shift from arbitrary to consistent governance that Duterte seeks at a fundamental level. That is my key takeaway from his inaugural address. The issue therefore is not about how harsh the measures Duterte plans to make use of to effect his vision are. The issue is whether or not he can consistently sustain their application to the delivery of his promised changes.
Only those who are able to step back far enough and regard the full picture of what the Duterte administration is all about can see the promising future ahead. Those who fail to see its strategic clarity are those doomed to quibble and nitpick on inconsequential detail — items on state banquet menus, the words or two “misquoted” in speeches, and certain names associated with hopelessly debatable historical tales.
In an era of ubiquitous technology, myth-and superstition-busting science, and a mounting aspiration to regard the world more with a secular rather than religious lens, it will be the small-minded lot in a society that will increasingly be marginalised. The future of the Philippines belongs to Filipinos who think rather than simply believe.