OPINION: Good afternoon, Mr. President, are you awake already?

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Jul 15 2016 12:05 AM

It has become traditional and customary that the first one hundred days of a Presidency is the yardstick for an incoming administration’s successes and accomplishments (or the absence and/or lack thereof), for which reason, the courtesy of a media ‘honeymoon’ is rendered unto him.

The pre-inaugural SWS 79% trust rating now enjoyed by the President attests to such a ‘honeymoon’ extending to and granted by the general public as well.

There can be no doubt about it. President Duterte deserves slack. Elbow room while still groping in unfamiliar environment. Unless, he himself makes it difficult for critics as well as rabid adherents not to see the “emperor” disrobing in public!

It was prominently spoken during his inaugural that: “We must have the courage and the will to change ourselves.” Earlier, he likewise promised a personal ‘metamorphosis.’

His incoming chief economist, Mr. Ernesto Pernia, also intoned that “Filipinos should be ‘impatient’ like President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in demanding reforms…We need behavioral change.”

These statements are reasonable guideposts with which to track the President’s official demeanor. They also have the capability of haunting him.

If the promised morphing is indeed already in the works, it is not evident. Yet. We hope. Are we getting antsy and impatient? We are trying not to be. Is it possible that this President who we earnestly want to succeed in behalf of the people is in fact so self-absorbed and boneheaded in intentionally being “different,” (as in psychological non-conformism) as to be indifferent and insensitive?

The first one hundred days need not fleet by. Let us engage him now.

It is quite facile to conclude that President Duterte was truly elected on the basis of a masterful populist manipulation of his apparently engaging brash and bluster, anchored upon the promise of blood and violence against drug-related crime.

Both bases have become the trade mark of this Presidency. It is very evident that Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte was not elected President on the basis of good manners and right conduct. Neither on the basis of moral and ethical standards. His 39.01% electoral plurality would have none of that. And they have proven it.

THE ECHO OF SILENCE

The Filipino nation has just experienced a monumentally significant landmark which the whole country celebrated in ecstatic jubilation, joined by much of the world. And rightly so. Of course, I speak of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) declaration that “China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights.” A historic victory for the Philippines!

Instead, The President and Malacanang were noticeably mum, almost in bereavement. The eerie silence of the sepulcher! Why?

Without meaning to be petty much less picky, the international arbitral tribunal’s verdict would have been a singular opportunity for President Duterte to display grace and gallantry, even a perfunctory expression of magnanimity and gratitude.

What is so difficult about saying “Thank you” and “Job well done”? A two-minute phone call to his predecessor would have worked popular magic! (and saved this space for a more pleasant discourse.)

Former President Benigno Aquino III was the chief architect of our country’s foreign policy position vis-a-vis China’s wanton expansionism that encroached into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. He and his team won. They won big for the country. Really big. And where were you, Mr. President? Still snoring?

Not a whit of appreciation for the Philippine team’s (President Aquino, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, Justice Antonio Carpio, et al) admirably marshalled courage, fortitude and sagacity in the pursuit of a nation’s patrimony and honor.

President Duterte’s discourteous disregard of the Arbitral court’s judgement and role in recognizing Philippine sovereignty characterized by his failure to say “Thank You,” is unprecedented in the annals of international comity and diplomacy. It is unFilipino not to say “Salamat.” It is ungrateful. This conscious, abject deficiency in noblesse oblige is inexcusable because it is bereft of civility that is incumbent upon the presiding leader of every civilized nation. “Lo cortes no quita lo valiente.” (Courtesy does not detract from bravery.)

On the contrary, former President Aquino’s statement was simple and sincere: “A victory for all...international law has been made clearer...that espouses equality and amity” among nations, markedly and appropriately thanking the Permanent Court of Arbitration. And words of acknowledgement and gratitude to all participants, contributors and consultants who he named individually, the foreign attorneys and experts included, without neglecting to cite Presidents Ramos’ and Estrada’s counsel and “unequivocal support.” That was “urbanidad!”

THE CHINESE CHOO-CHOO TRAIN

I am not given to outlandish ‘conspiracy theories.’ I think they are cheap and aberrant. But when Malacanang says that it is mulling over/preparing “the right response at the right time” with reference to our very own international landmark “Victory at Sea” judgment, which was not unforeseen in the first place, I am able to discern false temporizing to finesse over the President’s unpreparedness. Buying face and buying time. Were they caught with their pants down?

Which brings me to the inevitability of recalling an unrequited request by Ms. Raissa Robles, blogger extraordinaire, in her May 8 issue. “Mayor Duterte, please disclose what you told Chinese officials about the South China Sea.” Raissa was referencing a meeting between Mayor Duterte and the Chinese Consul General, Song Ronghua, at their Cebu Consulate in late October 2015. In a proto-official engagement such as that supposed confidential visit, what consideration or enticement from the Chinese might have evoked a “shoot-from-the-hip” response/commitment on the part of then candidate, President-wannabe Duterte? If at all?

READ: Dear Mayor Duterte, pls disclose what you told Chinese officials
 

I seem to recall that the candidate’s position vis-a-vis our official stand over China’s encroachments was not exactly in sync with that of our government’s policy. In fact, his was ambivalent. Was it perhaps because of a proferred railway system for Mindanao? After all, as a candidate, Mayor Duterte did vocalize his potential Sinic orientation in the same breath as when he first spoke of a Mindanao railroad system, courtesy of Beijing.

OPTING FOR BAD MANNERS

Within the foregoing context, it is easy for me to understand that a personal expression of elation and jubilation from President Duterte over the International Tribunal’s favorable decision, as well as expressing gratitude and appreciation there for, would have displeased the President’s Mainland Chinese ‘padrinos.’

Is it not then reminiscent of his earlier reluctance to acknowledge and officially relate to his Vice President, Leni Robredo, because, as he himself said, it might displease his bosom buddy, the ‘bobong’ Bongbong Marcos? In such a moral struggle, the President may have inadvertently opted for bad manners! Poor judgement, too!

It is an uncomfortably nagging thought that I end the week with. This victorious ‘presidentiable,’ handed the opportunity, failed at being presidential! And all for the lame inability to say “Thank you, Permanent Court of Arbitration! Thank you, Noynoy!”             

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.