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Finish Strong: Part 2

As the 18th Congress begins its work, President Rodrigo Duterte also begins to lay down and consolidate the legacies he wants to leave after his term expires. And I am not talking about some narcissistic monuments or some empty titles. I am sure President Digong is the first one to shun meaningless and empty titles.

 

I have been with the President on a number of occasions and he strikes me as someone who is not obsessed with accolades and honors. He does not even want to be addressed as “His Excellency” or “Honorable.” Come to think of it, THAT is the honorable thing to do for a true public servant.

 

As he has expressed over and over again, he simply wants to leave behind a nation that is prosperous, peaceful, and orderly, free from drugs and corruption, and is respected by the global community.

 

As I have already discussed the need to finish what the administration has started with the “Build, Build, Build” program in last week’s column, I will discuss the other items in the agenda for the Duterte administration in its final three years.

 

The best way to stop the economic progress we are currently experiencing is to create threats to our peace and order situation. That is why the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was very important. The numerous flagship infrastructure projects in Mindanao require a stable peace and order situation. Simply put, we cannot lay down train tracks if armed groups attack.

 

What the administration should focus on in these last three years is to continue supporting the BARMM administration. They should have the necessary fiscal and political resources to solve the many problems plaguing the region. The government needs to invest in BARMM because this is the model for post-conflict development.

 

The same is true with the campaign against illegal drugs. Despite what critics say, the anti-drugs campaign has been welcomed by our people. This is because they feel safer in their communities. Of course, the illegal drug trade cannot be completely eradicated, and the fact is that there is still a small portion of our police force who engage in shenanigans. But overall, public satisfaction with the campaign against illegal drugs has been high. The best proof is the overwhelming victory for Duterte allies in the midterm polls.

 

The Duterte administration should continue to flex its political will in ridding its agencies of corrupt and non-performing officials. The President has already fired a number of officials, some of them were close supporters. Duterte has adopted a twin strategy on this — exposing and firing corrupt officials, and appointing men and women of know probity and effectiveness.

 

The last half of the Duterte administrations should also focus on strengthening the global position of the Philippines as an independent and sovereign state. Duterte and his foreign affairs team have done this by improving our ties with non-traditional allies like China and Russia as well as neighbors Japan and the ASEAN. This has allowed us to be more independent of the United States. The government has also strongly resisted attempts to interfere in our affairs. We need to continue this.

 

And if I may add, the next three years should be spent strengthening protection mechanisms for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The Duterte administration should exert its independence and sovereign will in ensuring that Filipino workers abroad are treated equally and humanely.

 

What needs to be done is to build on what has already been accomplished but more importantly, to make sure that these gains are sustained even after the term of Duterte. One of the problems that we have had in the past is that when a new president is sworn in, it is easy to undo what has been than in the past even when they are effective. Can Duterte finish strong? Can he sustain the gains of his first three years?

 

For the sake of the country, let’s pray that he can.