President Rodrigo Duterte’s message to political opponents and parties in his speech on Wednesday (March 21) extended the most conciliatory and friendly words he has ever sent in the direction of rivals since his accession to office on June 30, 2016.
But his speech was so general, it left so many things out, making it difficult to judge what he sought to achieve by the gesture. Many of his addressees would be baffled as to how they should reply.
The President seized the opportunity to send the message during the national convention of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Committee (MRRD-NEC), one of the key organizations of his successful presidential campaign in 2016, and which remains active today in supporting his presidency.
The committee has never been disbanded. It is cohesive and aspires to grow bigger, and it quickly mobilizes to stage rallies in support of the President whenever there is talk of an opposition move to stage a demonstration against him and launch a major effort to unify opposition groups against the government.
In the speech, the President offered a “partnership” to rival political parties for the sake of the nation, saying that no progress can be achieved if they will always bicker.
He said: “Kalimutan na natin ‘yung mga partido-partido. Partnership na lang tayo [Let’s forget about the political parties. Let’s have a partnership instead.”
He reasoned: “Kasi kung mag-ano tayo walang mangyari eh. Mag-distance kayo eh kasi ‘yung isa, malapit ‘yung isa. Huwag na lang yan. Tulungan na lang tayo [Because if we bicker, nothing will happen. If you keep a distance while the others are close, let’s not do that. Let’s just help each other].”
Continuing on his theme, Dutere declared that he does not harbor ill will toward his opponents in the last presidential elections. He said he does not mind that some people supported other candidates during the elections, since he has already won the presidency.
“I have already won, so I keep quiet now. I don’t care if you did not help me, if you were for Jojo Binay, Grace Poe, or Mar Roxas. That’s over,” he said, referring to the other 2016 presidential candidates.
If some rivals decide to join the administration party, the President said he welcomes such development as part of the reality of politics. He frankly acknowledged that the PDP-Laban party used to be a “moribund party” prior to his candidacy for president.
Turning reflective, he said: “That is the culture of politics everywhere, na kung sino ‘yung manalo, maglipat doon [t[that whoever or whichever party wins, that’s where the rest will flock to]It is the same at the national and local levels, that regardless of who wins, politicians will make a move toward the winner because they want to help. It is the same with the presidency. It’s not really opportunism. It is rather the politics of our times.”
The President’s call for cooperation sounded both sincere and reasonable, but he left out of his remarks specifics and proposals for political parties and political rivals to chew and act on.
He did not specify what policies and programs he seeks cooperation on. He did not specify a goal toward which the parties and politicians can strive to go together.
For this reason we believe his conciliatory speech needs to be completed by a follow-through address that will deliver specifics and identify objectives.
When that is done, when the President sketches out the full contour of what he is thinking and what he wants, then will be the time for the ranks of the opposition to respond.
Then the nation will know whether President Duterte has acted here truly as a statesman and endeavored earnestly to become the President of all our people.