Lessons learned in 365 days

The first 365 days of Rodrigo R. Duterte as President is not as bad as the six years of Benigno S. Aquino III presidency. This is my answer to friends and readers who had been prodding me to give my assessment of how the Duterte administration performed in the first year of incumbency.

Let me qualify that. There were two important agenda in the Duterte campaign. Elimination of illegal drug syndicates and curbing corruption in the government bureaucracy. That sterling diplomatic shift is a bonus.

The Catholic clerics especially those identified with the oligarchy (oh yes you can spot them) can howl over the number of deaths resulting from the drug war which President Duterte launched on day one of his presidency. To add spice to their sermons, they all charge the death statistics to extrajudicial killing. It is of course a blatant lie (in my Notre Dame days that is mortal sin which guarantees the liar a place in hell) for which reason the sermons do not diminish the trust rating of President Duterte at all.

Of course, there were unfortunate victims who were killed in a cross fire or on account of mistaken identity. In the risky encounter with armed suspects things happen the way these should not. In the unending war against terrorism in the Middle east, protagonists commit carnage on innocent people including their own. The American invading forces call it collateral damage. There, you deal with wholesale slaughter. It’s not to defend Duterte and General Bato Dela Rosa, but you can count with your fingers the number of innocent victims killed. And mind you there are more policemen killed in the war against drugs than the unfortunate victims that had been accounted so far.

Well, Duterte and his drug busters miscalculated the number of people who are peddling and hooked to drugs. Who would even think that the biggest and most sophisticated drug distribution center of drug is right in the air-conditioned corridors of Muntinlupa? All the while we thought that when candidate Mar Roxas claimed that he knew where to purchase shabu in Makati or in Davao he was actually telling the truth and that he knew where the distribution and retail stores where. And who would ever think that a Justice Secretary was implicated and is now behind bar. Include the steamy romance that is interwoven in this and you have a spectacular saga that can make a box office hit.

Given the number of over a million who gave up on their drug addiction and wanting to be rehabilitated and one can either be only a disciple of Bishop Soc Villegas or as blind as the “out of tune” Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

On the matter of corruption, President Duterte had to deal with people he inherited from the corrupt-to-the core regime of Aquino and his own appointees. I expect more heads to roll. It’s not only the defective MRT that he has to repair and parts to replace, there are remnants of the Aquino regime that still cannot break their habits and had therefore to be replace pronto.

I have to give a high mark to Duterte’s art of diplomacy that radically shifted from the docile submission to the powerful and mighty to a level of respect and cognizance of one’s sovereignty. He may not have the refinement of diplomatic language for which he drew flak from those who unabashedly claim they are masters of, but the results should convince even the worst of the critics and skeptics that Duterte did mighty well.

So well did he skipper his diplomatic voyage to unchartered routes that the country now expects a bonanza from these travels. Only an unbelieving or envious insignificant others would call Duterte’s diplomatic saga a junket. When billions of dollars in grants, soft loans and standby funds and investments are committed and feasibility are done then calls for bids are in the process, expect constructions to follow. In the words of BCDA President Vince Dizon and DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, it’s Build! Build! Build!

In fact DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade must be worrying now as there will be dearth of qualified workers who will be building railways, maintaining trains and operating them. Did I hear him say, as early as now he is contemplating to put up a “Railway Academy”. We should. We should stop relying on a  train maintenance firm which was organized only yesterday with a capitalization of a sari-sari store. Remember the Bitangcol caper? The “kamag-anak at kabarilan” rackets extend to the subordinates who can share the largesse in the past regime.

The Marawi siege will soon be over. Our soldiers and policemen valiantly fought to neutralize the Maute and ISIS terrorists that had planned to take control of the once idyllic Islamic City of Marawi. Soon the reconstruction will begin.

For all the losses to life and property, the Marawi war gives us a bitter lesson, among these:

1. Do not patronize with the extremists for we already knew that in the Middle Eastern countries most of their victims are Muslims themselves.

2. There was failure of intelligence on the part of the police and military.

3. The civilians took everything for granted which simply means they are not aware of what terrorism is all about. Well, if the likes of Riza Hontiveros, Edcel Lagman and CHR (Commission on Human Rights) officials are in limbo about what ISIS is all about what do we expect the unsuspecting community can do?

4. It appears that some of the high-powered firearms and ammunition are government issued. The culprit should be executed by firing squad. After all martial law is still in effect.

5. The AFP and police capability in dealing with terrorists should send shivers to the NPAs. In their hideouts in the boondocks there are no buildings to destroy. Drop a bomb and all that is needed is to replant trees. Soon more fighter jets will arrive thus adding to the war machines of the government. If peace cannot be achieved by the tedious and long process of negotiation the other solution is military.

Of course we need not go to that extent Jess Dureza, the indefatigable peace maker, would rather ink a stable peace agreement with the NPAs. There’s no more need to extort in order to live. Sign up for a free course on railway maintenance and operations. I am not joking about the aerial bombing and the job possibilities under the Duterte government. (Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)