The recent outburst by President Rodrigo Duterte against US President Barack Obama has led to a strain in the relationship between our country and our long time ally.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time given the bullying that China has been doing in the West Philippine Sea as it continues to ignore the ruling made by the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal which gave exclusive sovereign rights on the West Philippine Sea to our country.
Obama not only cancelled his scheduled meeting with Duterte at the sidelines of the recently concluded ASEAN Summit but some reports have also come out saying that Obama didn’t even bother to shake Duterte’s hands after shaking the hands of other leaders present in the East Asia Summit.
In fairness to our President, he has already expressed his regrets regarding the earlier statements he made concerning Obama.
Given that this is his first international trip, let us give room for Duterte to learn the ropes of dealing with leaders of other nations. Hopefully, this will be a good learning experience for him and his administration who may have not realized the huge implications of this diplomatic faux pas to our country’s economy and relationships with other countries.
An important lesson learned here is that our President should realize that he is no longer running an electoral campaign but he is now governing and leading our country thus, he should think first before making a statement since all his statements will now be treated as a matter of national policy.
More humility, less hubris
For Duterte’s supporters who continue to bash Obama and the US online, they may have to think twice.
The US is one of the largest investors in our country’s economy and imagine the implications if it decides to cut ties with our country and pull out all of its investments. This would mean many companies may have to downsize their operations and even close shop altogether.
If this happens, it would leave many of our fellow Filipinos joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Can Duterte and his rabid supporters provide jobs for all of them? Who will now put food on their family’s table if this happens?
In addition to this, the US has been a loyal ally in our fight against China’s incursion into the West Philippine Sea. Without the US to support us, China would be more emboldened to continue setting up their military structures in the region.
In short, it doesn’t help us at all if we will continue to strain our relationship with the US and its leaders. What is needed from Duterte and our leaders is more humility and less hubris.
The good about Duterte
The good thing about Duterte is that it is clear that he loves our country and our people so much. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that all his statements whether good or bad have come from a deep longing for genuine and lasting change to happen in our country.
In his first two months in office, I have personally seen how Duterte would go out of his way to show concern and empathy to the families of policemen and the military who were injured or killed in the line of fire.
Whether or not you agree with his methods, his war on drugs comes from his desire to save the future of our youth and to make sure that our country does not become a narco-state.
As the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo has always said, “The most important ingredient in leadership is character. Most of the competencies can be learned, but character is what’s inside you.”
This is perhaps why despite his faults, many Filipinos continue to trust Duterte, they see him as a leader who genuinely loves our country and they have pinned their hopes in him.
The challenge now is for him to hasten his learning curve and to translate this high level of trust into concrete action that would help move our country and millions of Filipino families out of poverty.
In the end, good intentions and inspiring sound bites are good but what will ultimately determine the success of the Duterte administration is whether or not the lives of our fellow Filipinos have dramatically improved compared to what it was when he first assumed office last June.
As a Filipino who also loves this country, I am hoping and praying that he will succeed and live up to his promises to bring about lasting change in the lives of every Filipino. Our country deserves nothing less.
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Harvey S. Keh is the Executive Director of the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.