6/30/2016
Continuity

When it became clear that Rodrigo Duterte was going to be president, the country was essentially split. There's the half, give or take, who celebrated the win, claiming that change has indeed come to the Philippines, that only good things could come to it now that the mayor from Davao is going to be in charge. There's the half, give or take, who despaired the losses that's definitely coming our way - investors losing confidence, successes losing traction, freedoms losing its existence altogether.

It all really came down to one choice. Do you want things to continue as it is, or do you want to change things radically?

A significant chunk of the country - while Duterte received over 40% of the popular vote, which is big in itself, it is still not a majority - voted for change, a change away from the failures of Noynoy Aquino, a change away from all that he stood for. After all, they say, why would you keep a government that's insensitive to the plight of the poor, one that bungled the response to Mamasapano, Zamboanga, Yolanda, and Luneta, one that brought the full force of the law down to its opponents, but not on its allies? Are you that stupid, they sometimes imply, to stick with that?

But anyway, they - or at least a loud chunk of that significant chunk - say, you're now on the wrong side of history. You keep whining about what the country will lose now that Duterte is in power. You keep complaining that the country is now led by a chauvinist, misogynist pig with no manners, no sense of decorum. Let me switch voices for a bit - you keep ranting on your keyboards, while actually doing nothing for your country. Look at us! We are not just complaining. We are being part of the change. Look at you. Now, look at us. Who's the bad guy now?

Setting aside concerns about what Duterte will do once he assumes power at noon today, let's be frank - there will still be continuity.

Back in 2010, when Noynoy was just a senator riding the wave of sympathy over his mother's death, and hoping to translate it to a political victory, many cars were plastered with stickers of yellow ribbons, or whatever variety of it. It told everyone that the person in that car is for change - a change away from corruption, a change away from inequality, a change towards a brighter future.

Six years later, many car were plastered with stickers of fists, or Duterte's name, or whatever variety of it. It told everyone that the person in that car is for change - a change away from corruption, a change away from inequality, a change towards a brighter future.

When Noynoy became president, his supporters rallied blindly behind him. How could he do any wrong? He's an Aquino! He's the son of democracy icons! He's not Gloria Macapagal Arroyo! And so they defended him as legitimate questions over his governance came up. He himself suggested it: either you're on his side or not, and if you're not, you're on the wrong side of history.

When Duterte's victory became evident, his supporters rallied blindly behind him. How could he do any wrong? He's a Duterte! He made Davao into what it is today! He's not Noynoy Aquino! And so they defended him as legitimate questions over his human rights record and his attitudes towards certain segments of society came up. You have to adjust to him, they said. You're just being an elitist. Get over it. You're on the wrong side of history, anyway. Look. We have the car stickers to prove it!

Sure, I concede that I am being cynical. But is it really wrong to assume the worst? Sure, they will say being cynical is one step too far, that you have to actually be skeptical of everything they say. But it does not take a president's six years in office for things to turn around completely. Has Noynoy done any good? Of course, he has. Is everything he did good? Of course not. Why do we still glorify him as an infallible supreme being? Why are we doing the same for Duterte?

There will still be continuity at noon today, once Mayor Duterte becomes President Duterte. It's just the government that's changing. Sure, that counts for a lot - what a country's government does defines what everybody else around the world sees - but businesses are still here. We're still here. We still keep the cogs rolling. We have always kept the cogs rolling. It's not like things instantly became better when Noynoy became president; it's not like there will be a hole on the earth that will swallow these islands once Duterte takes over. Continuity never meant people of the same stripe taking over. Only the politicians are changing. Culture does not even change that fast. Just ask the outgoing guy.

What we have to change, though, is the belief that whoever's on top is our savior. We should change the cult of personality that forms around our president. We have to question everything. We praise when they deserve praise. We criticize when they deserve criticism. We stand guard when someone spouts bullshit like "freedom of speech is nice, but we deserve freedom from poverty more." And please, please, let's stick to assertions we can prove.

I have been critical of Noynoy for the past six years, admittedly not for the right reasons at the beginning. I still remain critical today, but, still, thank you. No, that's not the "everything you did is great!" kind of thank you. You still deserve thanks for serving the country for six years.

Digong, good luck. You will need it. Like your predecessors, you inherit a country that's stronger and weaker in different ways. It's up to you to steer the ship. And I, like many others, will be watching you closely. But please, please let us watch you closely.

And your responses...

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