Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has given a solemn speech where he has repeatedly stressed his feelings of exasperation at the immensity of the fight against corruption, graft and narcotics which he continues to wage but which he confessed will take longer than the three remaining years of his term to win. Duterte has said that only “idiots” would believe he will seek to extend his constitutionally mandated single term while in the past he has said that irrespective of the scope of constitutional change which he is currently pushing for – he will not seek a new political mandate for power under a new political system.
According to Duterte,
“I told the soldiers and policemen, guys, I want you to know that I am thinking of stepping down because I’m tired. I am not angry [with] anybody. My chase against graft and corruption seems to be endless, and it has contaminated almost all government departments and offices”.
Duterte reiterated however that his only hesitation in offering a formal resignation was the current lack of a suitable successor as he has said on multiple occasions that he feels the current controversially “elected” Vice President Leni Robredo is not up to the task of leadership.
Far from being the “dictator” that his Liberal opposition accuse him of being, Duterte was yet again essentially begging others to help him to fix the problem political system of the country so that one man’s tireless and apparently tiring crusade against graft, avarice, corruption in the tax offices, police, military and government does not end when his own term comes to an end either at its official cut–off date in 2022 or at an earlier time should Duterte formally step down.
For decades, Duterte served his people as Mayor of Davao City and as President he has already reduced narco-terrorism, fought for the liberation of Marawi – a city once occupied by the Daesh aligned Maute group, reformed taxation, established the infrastructural initiative ‘Build, Build, Build’, helped the economy to expand, made his country the number one investment destination in the world, modernised passport and ID laws, increased funding in the military while securing free weapons from Russia and other new anti-terror partners, helped to improve education, consecrated a new non-aligned foreign policy that has turned China into a meaningful partner that will work cooperatively with The Philippines in the South China Sea, while in the last weeks he saw the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law which looks to end centuries of conflict in Moro regions of Mindanao.
It is therefore clear that in three short years, President Duterte has accomplished more than most of his predecessors accomplished in six. In this sense, while admitting that the full scope of purging the state of corrupt elements and narco-terrorism will take longer than six years, he has set the stage for his final major reform to be the establishment of a new federal political system, all the while working to build on existing international partnerships and create new ones.
This helps to underscore the importance of building a sustainable political model for the future, ideally in the form of a federal-parliamentary system where multiple men and women of intelligence and integrity who are capable of political foresight can insure that the fate of the country is not dependant on a single individual let alone a single political dynasty.
It is already clear that history will mark Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the penultimate public servant – a humble and phenomenally sincere man whose only goal was to improve the fundamental condition of the nation and people while seeking and attaining no glory nor personal enrichment in the process. While Duterte will likely not step down immediately, it should not be a surprise that Duterte realises that the enormity of the challenges he set out to resolve are not within the scope of one any man’s ability to solve but that instead it will take a generation of patriotic men and women to follow his lead in order to build the kind of future Duterte seeks for his nation.
In this sense, Duterte’s clear personal confession of exhaustion in the face of many obstacles in the way of his reform should not be viewed as an attempt to garner pity but yet another attempt by Duterte to do what he calls “shaking the tree” and in so doing, waking people up to the seriousness of the challenges the country must face in order to realise its vast potential that has been squandered ever since a poorly written Constitution was implemented beginning in 1987.
Clear political reforms are necessary in order to complete Duterte’s vision for radical positive reform. Duterte has risen to the challenge that his country presented him and now he is effectively calling on others to join him in rising to these long term challenges. As the slain former US President John F. Kennedy stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country“.
Today, President Duterte has posed a similar question to his fellow Filipinos. The question remains: who will rise to the challenge and make it so that whenever Duterte does leave office, he does so in the confidence that his legacy will be carried forward rather than destroyed by those of the same kidney as his ignominious predecessors?