Ahead of end-June, a proliferation of posts on various social media platforms expressed thanks to the “man who did everything for us all.” A huge billboard stands on a prominent area in Metro Manila with a big “thank you” to President Duterte emblazoned on it, as he was expected to give his last Independence Day message last Sunday, the 124th commemoration of the country’s independence from Spanish colonizers.
Should we be grateful for the past six years under Mr. Duterte? Or should we just say, “Thanks, Mr. President, but no thanks”? There are many reasons why we cannot be wholly grateful to him.
He should instead be thankful to the 16 million voters for making Malacañang his home for the last six years, not the other way around. As president, he received the highest salary of an elected Philippine government official, so whatever he did as president was paid for, with some perks and other emoluments that not all government employees enjoy. His salary was sourced from the taxes that we all paid, as part of our collective responsibility as law-abiding citizens of this country.
He also had the entire national security forces at his beck and call, and even regarded them as if they were “his own,” in remarks like “my police force,” “my soldiers.” Our taxes, too, paid for the salaries of all these security forces that he claimed to be his own.
Secondly, he promised to solve many pressing social problems the country faced, like the illegal drug use among many youngsters, even among adults in the country. (He once accused President-elect Marcos Jr. of being a drug user, on top of being a “weak leader” in one of his stream-of-consciousness, reckless pronouncements on national television.) He repeatedly said he will address the country’s drug problem within three months of his term, a promise that he now admits he did not fulfill. He said he erred in thinking he would be able to do it quickly, that he controls almost everything in this country as its president. His deadly “war on drugs” is already a nightmare in terms of death toll (more than 20,000 according to rights groups), including innocent children and senior citizens who became collateral damage. The death toll of his drug war continues to increase even in the last few months of his term.
As for our country’s perennial problem of corruption? In many pronouncements, he said very clearly that he disdains it, and expressed how he hates even “a whiff” of it. While he was able to steer himself away from blatant corrupt acts while in office, his close friends (even family) and cronies were involved in one corruption scandal after another. The saddest part of this episode in his presidential drama is that all his corrupt cronies and close associates remain scot-free, including his sycophantic man-Friday and caregiver, disguised as a senator of the republic. Even those tagged in the Pharmally scandal involving the payment of huge amounts of money for expired and substandard materials used in the fight against COVID-19 now walk freely.
His consistent expressions of misogyny and of looking at women derisively as sex objects are blots on his already dark slate as president. Once he complained of the water crisis because his girlfriend would smell and, therefore, he cannot “use” her. Ironically, he signed the Safe Spaces Act (Republic Act No. 11313 or the “bawal bastos” law), which provides sanctions for several forms of gender-based sexual harassment in public spaces. These acts include misogynistic and sexist remarks, catcalling, homophobic statements, and other similar acts. For me, he is the topmost violator of this law.
To cap it off, his expletive spewing is already (negatively) distinctive in the history of Philippine presidential behavior.
For all these, I say, “thanks but no thanks, Mr. President.” I heave a sigh of relief that we are now free from all these, but I am deeply apprehensive of what happens in the next six years under Marcos Jr. as president.
(To be continued)
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