President Rodrigo Duterte can never be accused of being predictable.
Over time, people beyond Davao City where he served as mayor for a long time began to see his style of leadership and understand it — though not everyone could (or would) accept it.
As leader of the whole Philippines, most people can at least can agree that Duterte has been nontraditional — his ways flagrantly unexpected, his words even more so.
It had to take a Rodrigo Duterte to shake the narrative that had run Filipino lives for decades.
At the onset of his presidency, he dismissed Western hold on our consciousness, then proceeded to build ties with China and Russia, both of which had long been relegated in our historical education as different — distanced from the kind of democracy we mostly take for granted.
The twist was that Duterte’s presidential campaign had been hinged on fighting evil perpetrators — ones who preyed on weakness using illegal substances; ones who took advantage of power and position to enrich themselves; and ones who used aggression to claim what wasn’t theirs.
Fighting the drug war, zapping corruption and keeping our maritime rights intact have been the ongoing theme of his administration, then Covid-19 came.
Determined, Duterte used all his might to win these battles within the time frame accorded him by law. His efforts have been met with both applause and appalled reactions.
The International Criminal Court, early on, deemed his drug war as a human rights violation case. The United Nations (UN) sent representatives to investigate the matter, rankling the President.
Meanwhile, cleaning up government remained a constant challenge, mitigated by a pandemic that saw more opportunity for the corrupt to flourish.
As for the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue, President Duterte chose to approach the problem in a non-abrasive way — completely outside of the tough stance that made jetski-driven waves during his campaign as presidential candidate back in 2016.
Philippine fishermen, Palace then announced, are safe from unprecedented threats out in the open seas they had been plying for decades because of the Duterte administration’s friendly relations with Beijing.
Yet as other incursions continued to catch the ire of our Department of Foreign Affairs, the President did what most Filipinos had been calling for: He upheld the historic arbitral victory against Beijing’s maritime claims in the WPS.
Recently, he did so once more at the 76th session of the UN general assembly, in a speech where he commented on China’s refusal to acknowledge the 2016 ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“No amount of willful disregard by any country, however big and powerful, can diminish the arbitral award’s importance,” the President told the international body through a pre-recorded video message.
As reported in this paper, Duterte also emphasized that the 2016 arbitral award and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provide a “clear path towards a just, fair and win-win solution for all.”
A win-win scenario is all we should expect, given the President’s desire to leave a legacy of peace and progress in the Philippines.
In spite of his perceived contradictions, President Duterte has continued to hold mass support because of his fearless pronouncements.
In major international events like the recent UN assembly, he held his own by stating what need to be said while also keeping his own principles intact.
He continues to reject interference from outside forces when it comes to tackling problems in our nation.
“Meaningful change, to be enduring, must come from within. The imposition of one’s will over another — no matter how noble the intent — has never worked in the past. And it never will in the future,” he said.
Never one to mince words, President Duterte, most certainly, will continue to bring change where many likely least expect.