Towards a Presidency of and for the People

We wait with anticipation the induction of President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte as the 16th President of the Philippines. His resounding victory and majority support earned at the polls marks one of many firsts in the Philippines. Most poignant for many of our countrymen is his being the first ever president to come from outside Luzon, hailing from the marginalized and embattled Philippine south. The President-elect’s game-changing grassroots-based campaign and appeal that fueled his dominating victory, holds a hopeful promise for many Filipinos that they’ve gained a leadership that will liberate us all from the apparent ineffective and apathetic governance that became such a dominant theme during the campaign.

We congratulate the incoming president and administration on this historic success. We also laud the fact that with regards the various peace initiatives we in the civil society sector remain engaged in, the nascent administration has endeavored to hit the ground running, reconnecting, reassuring and bolstering ties to the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF). The upcoming meeting this month between representatives of the government and the NDF, aimed at resuming the suspended peace talks, will hopefully lead to a break to the stalemate that has hindered any further progress to these talks since 2013. This is another hopeful sign of a re-energized leadership committed to change.

As it soon assumes the reins of government, we encourage the new government to continue building on the grassroots nature and support generated by President-elect Duterte’s campaign and leadership. We encourage the incoming administration to learn from and develop its grassroots-based engagements further, involving more and multiple sectors and stakeholders in the ongoing peace processes and discourse. We have all seen how this broad and common-based approach helped stabilize the MILF peace process, collectively building the popular impetus for finding political settlements to the conflict. We see this success further in a peace agreement that has held these past years, despite facing major challenges. We now implore the GPH-NDF panels to also incorporate similar mechanisms into their own processes, up-scaling the initiatives to involve and engage as broad a segment of the local and international communities as possible.

The problems we now face may indeed be daunting, but these are surmountable granted we have the firmness of leadership, the clarity of direction and a unity of purpose that the new government seeks to galvanize. In as much as President-elect Duterte sourced his power and victory from a broad spectrum of people, we hope that he will continue with this and reciprocate this relationship further by empowering the people as involved partners in his administration’s efforts towards peace and development for the Philippines. In this we are one in our vision of our collective future.

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