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‘Confession’

Uriel C. Quilinguing .

TRUE enough, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s 4th State of the Nation Address was still on his administration’s war against illegal drugs, and on graft and corruption.

Other than that, he transformed the Batasang Pambansa into a lecture hall and explained his personal foreign policy on the disputed West Philippine Sea — allowing the Chinese to fish within the country’s exclusive economic zone.  

Somehow, he succeeded in getting his audience—congressmen, senators and foreign diplomats—to react and give him a round of applause when he said, “There is no ifs and buts, that is ours.” 

That, after he wagged his tail out of fear; his mouth zipped on Filipino fishermen who were left for dead at sea by a Chinese vessel that rammed their pump boat. But for now—and nobody knows until when—the Chinese are “in possession” of the islands and the sea which belong to us.

Then Duterte went on ranting over his administration’s failure in its campaign against illegal drugs, and graft and corruption, hence he ordered Congress to reinstate death penalty for those convicted of drugs and plunder. Death penalty could be the knockout punch to stamp his administration’s legacy.

Unlike the first three, he capitalized the platform to focus on the bureaucracy which he heads as its chief executive. With few exceptions, he said he is surrounded by corrupt officials and inept government executives.

Here are some quotes from the President:

“I am grossly disappointed…” in reference to the ghost medical claims at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

“I am here to rectify my own errors…” when the President described most government workers as those who “talk too much, act little and too slow.”

To Pag-ibig (Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno Fund), LTO (Land Transportation Office), BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), LRA (Land Registration Authority), and SSS (Social Security System), Duterte ordered them: “Simplify! Make your services responsive!”

He gave them, so with all government offices, maximum of three days to act to official transactions, granting all documentary requirements are complete. Delays would mean something is fishy.  

This three-day policy, however, would mean an amendment of the 15 working days, as stipulated under Section 5 of Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees of 1989.

The President should have known, having been a local chief executive for more than two decades that “Public officials and employees shall extend prompt, courteous, and adequate service to the public. They shall provide information of their policies and procedures in clear and understandable language, ensure openness of information, public consultations and hearings, whenever appropriate, encourage suggestions simplifying and systematize policy, rules and procedures, avoid red tape…” [Section 4(e), R.A. 6713] 

Last July 22’s Sona appeared President Duterte’s confession, a public admission that he had “sinned” in the last three years, that he was sorry for the consequences of what he did, and that which he should have done but didn’t.  And he went on, like a new convert who had remorse of conscience, saying that “there is time for everything” in an unexpected reference to a biblical line from the book of the Ecclesiastes.

American journalist Paul Wilkes, who wrote extensively on individual spirituality and the role of religion in public and personal lives, characterized confession as a “pillar of mental health” because of its ability to relieve anxieties associated with keeping secrets. 

The last three years of Duterte’s presidency slowly uncovered the character of the man, much of which were kept always under raps the last 23 years as Davao City’s strong man.

If Duterte’s 93-minute “confessional text” was made in the confessional, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Vatican’s envoy to the Philippines could have given him absolution. The absolution could have given him the much needed release from guilt and, perhaps, be exonerated from his “sins.”

(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club. He is also a former editor in chief of this paper. For reactions, send them to uriel_quilinguing@yahoo.com.)

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