ROUGH CUTS| The new President’s golden opportunity

TODAY, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ends his term as the chief executive of Davao City and takes his oath as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines in a tradition-breaking ceremony at Malacanang instead of at the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta grounds.

He will also be sworn in not by the Supreme Court Chief Justice but by an associate Justice of the highest court of the land who is a fellow graduate of his at San Beda College of Law. Duterte’s oath-taking will also be separate from that of Vice President Leni Robredo. And according to reports, there will be no “vin d’ honneur” ceremonies as practiced in inaugurations of past presidents. Instead a simple “diplomatic gathering” will be held.

Of course, incoming Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella cautioned the media not to take literally what the new President said about serving “maruya” or banana cue during the affair. He said it was Duterte’s way of emphasizing his desire to have the affair as frugal as possible.

Well, we agree with Pastor Ernie. We know the new President quite well since we have the opportunity to cover him in the long years that we have been in the media in Davao City. We know when his tantrum is about to reach to a boil through his body language, through his voice and through the quiver of his lips and the sharpness of his stares.

We know as well his simplicity by the way he dresses, his favorite dining places, the company he keeps, and of course the food he eats.

That is why we are not anymore surprised when the mayor announced weeks back that he will forego with the usual pompous inauguration at the Quirino grand stand and the kingly “vin d’honneur” party after the swearing ceremonies.

But what would possibly be closely watched during the Malacanang affair today is how the mayor will comport himself in the presence of people who may not have the same mores as his, specifically the country’s social elites who are mostly the captains of Philippines industries. They are the people who will be Duterte’s highly observant and cautious partners in steering the country’s economy under the new President’s watch.

The probinsyano President will also be hobnobbing for the first time in one setting the representatives of the global community who will also be keeping watchful eyes on his demeanor knowing what the mayor has been known for especially during the campaign period when he engaged some ambassadors in no-holds barred reactions to some issues raised by the latter.

In fact, it is this brashness of the mayor that many journalists from Manila and abroad think would make him an “international embarrassment,” as one German television reporter told us during a casual engagement right here in Davao City.

Of course, being a Davaoeno like the new President we felt disgusted with such an observation. But then that is his perception of the new President which according to him is shared by other western journalists and those from Manila. That is his freedom that we cannot take away from him and the rest who share with his belief.

We covered our disgust with the German journalist’s opinion by curtly telling him that the new President is an educated person and he sure knows his audience and how to act accordingly. We also told the television journalist that if he wishes to get a first-hand and possibly unbiased comment to the “international embarrassment” observation by some sectors of the international and local media, he can directly interview the ambassador of Germany who made a courtesy call on Duterte only that same week. He fell silent with a faint smile on his face.

So, today is the new President’s biggest opportunity to prove to the Filipino people and the international community as well, that he is himself; one who could be everybody’s man in every appropriate occasion.

Today is the best time for Duterte to show to the world that he can play everybody’s game without totally abandoning his regular discipline.

After all refinement, like diplomacy, is the art of knowing what not to act and what not to say in a given situation.

What is important though is that in today’s presidential oath-taking the new President is able to communicate his message on how he would respond to the people’s very high expectation of his administration and what it would mean for him and to the country if he fails.

Posted in Opinion