BEFORE proposing solutions, some pretty scary, the President explains the problem in his Inaugural. Then he explains the solution and the immediate obstacle it faces. He says, “There are many amongst us who advance the assessment”—hold it there, that’s an elegant way of putting it, advance the assessment—“that the problems bedeviling our country today, which need to be addressed with urgency, are corruption, both in the high and low echelons of government—” hold it there again; note how he interrupts the rapid flow with the key qualification, “high and low.”
He continues with “criminality in the streets, the rampant sale of illegal drugs in all strata of Philippine society and the breakdown of law and order.” Note, “in all strata.” That means the coked-out rich and the shabooed scum. You can’t fool this guy. A druggie is a druggie with or without a necktie. “True,” he says of that prognosis.
“True but not exclusively so,” he insists. “For I see these ills as mere symptoms of a virulent social disease that creeps and cuts”—nice alliteration there—“into the moral fiber of Philippine society. I sense a problem deeper and more serious than any of those mentioned or all of all them put together. But of course”—here he interrupts the flow again, like a lawyer seeking emphasis—“it is not to say that we will ignore them; because they have to be stopped by all means the law allows.” And right there he slides in a major theme that will surface again a few paragraphs later on: the theme that he can be trusted to skirt but never to stray beyond the confines of the law.
So what is the root problem? He says it is the “erosion of faith and trust in government.” In short, the problem is metaphysical. Boom! Deep. He did warn us that he is capable of metamorphosis—his word. “The erosion of faith and trust in government—that is the real problem that confronts us.”
He goes on, “Resulting therefrom”—again mark the lawyerly language—“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 the people’s lives better, safer, and healthier.”
Now that doesn’t sound right. He seems to have gotten it in reverse and therefore wrong. The historical order is, first, the erosion of faith and trust in faithless and untrustworthy public servants, among them judges and justices; and the erosion of confidence in the very competence of public officials to improve people’s lives. This crisis of faithlessness, combined with the crisis of moral incompetence, leads to loss of faith and trust in the very possibility of good government. Indeed, that is the historical progression—or regression: from particular failures of particular officials to a general collapse of faith in government.
But Duterte suggests that the erosion continues—from a general lack of faith in government to yet another turn in the cycle of loss of faith in officials, making it harder for good men to break the cycle or encouraging them to be cynical and ride the tide of corruption; ending again in a greater loss of faith in government.
It is into this pervasive and deepening despair that the new government is stepping in. So Duterte does not expect the benefit of the doubt nor a leap of faith in him; let alone his appointees. Instead, by sheer will power and personal example, he will reverse this trend; and by fidelity he will earn again the people’s faith and trust in government.
But where did he get this notion of widespread despair? He got it from where he has been all this time, among the people; and by listening to their “murmurings”. He got it from us. That is why we respond so quickly to what he says. And so he says, “Indeed ours is a problem that dampens the human spirit.” But he concludes this part of his speech with, “But all is not lost.”
On that promising note he ends his summation, in a single paragraph, of 30 years of disappointment since EDSA.
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