It’s been three years since the start of Rodrigo Duterte’s administration – now where do we find ourselves as a country?
The President mentioned a lot of accomplishments during his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), as well as several plans he wants to push for until the end of his term.
And despite the generally favorable reception, every SONA raises the question in everyone’s mind: are we truly on the way to a #BetterPhilippines? What is the state of our nation, and what should we do about it?
So much has been done
If the first three years of the Duterte presidency were any indication, we have a lot to look forward to in the next three.
While never short of controversy, the achievements of the current administration are undeniable.
The most impressive is perhaps the result of the Philippine government’s focus on infrastructure development, through the Build Build Build program. This effort has resulted in a total of 9,845 kilometers of roads built, 2,709 bridges constructed or improved, and 4,536 flood mitigation structures completed. On top of this, 2 new airports have been constructed, and 15 have been rehabilitated.
All of this within three years – leading many to call this the “Golden Age of Infrastructure” for the Philippines.
A lot of landmark legislation has also been passed in this short period, with major improvements to our healthcare system. The Universal Healthcare Act and the 105-day expanded maternity leave have both been received well on both sides of the political fence.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law was also welcomed warmly by our Muslim brothers and sisters. But also by all Filipinos across the islands, recognizing its necessity to finally resolve the decades-long conflict in the South.
While these accomplishments only scratch the surface, they prove that this administration is indeed relentless in getting the job done. Good things are happening in the country, and a lot of it can be charged to the President’s political will.
Plenty of work to do
Despite all the change that has come, we remain faced with a lot of things to keep working on.
The President mentioned a lot of things that need to be improved and instituted. Modernizing our fire protection systems, creating a Department of Water Resources, or instituting a midnight curfew for bars and establishments were some ideas that he floated during his speech.
Corruption is also still an issue, as he acknowledged. He expressed his frustration, but also his commitment to continue fighting it, even going as far as naming some government agencies that he wants to focus on.
The greatest change then, perhaps, is more internal – concerning our mindset and our culture:
“I have identified the enemy who dumped us into this quagmire we are in,” said Duterte. “The enemy is us. We are our own tormentors.”
The continued widespread corruption, the predatory behavior we seem to engage in towards our own people, is pervasive in our society. Duterte mentions that even “language has softened the act,” by referring to bribes colloquially as something “for the boys.”
In his own words, “no amount of euphemism can trivialize, or normalize betrayal of public trust.”
Perhaps he is right when he said that what we need as a people is catharsis – releasing pent up emotions in order to “purge” what has been plaguing us as a people.
“Self-purgation, followed by the resolve to do what is right and proper, is good for the nation’s health,” he said, and it holds much weight no matter the color of your politics.
“Ang problema kasi ng Pilipino, kayo rin kasi, sinasabi ko na sa inyo, be assertive. At pag kayo hiningian more than the required payment at humingi pa sa inyo, mag eskandalo kayo. Make a scene.”
When he mentioned this, the president was referring to government offices and those that take advantage of the public by charging more than what is right. He said that if someone overcharges you, “make a scene” and demand what is right, and he will defend you.
He is implicit about this, pressing on the burden of change on each and every one of us; on all things, not just the example he gave. Real change happens only when we assert what is right and demand what is just.
The real state of our nation is this: change has happened, but there are a lot of things left to make better, and the onus is on us.
The best way to remind ourselves is in the Filipino word for change: pagbabago. When translated in English, find emphasis on the fact that ‘change’ means “making something new” (from the root word bago). What we should remember is that this change is a continuous process of renewal.
Tatlong Taon ng Pagbabago is the best phrase to sum up where we currently are as a nation. Three years of change, and three more years of making our country new. And beyond that? We have our work cut out for us.
“I dream of glowing days ahead for every Filipino. I dream of a Philippines better than the one I grew up with,” said Duterte. That is a sentiment that every single Filipino can rally behind. A #BetterPhilippines starts with us demanding what we deserve, and putting in the work.