Just do it
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2016 - 12:00am

With the results of the May 9 elections showing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was chosen by more than 16 million Filipino voters to become the country’s next President, the outgoing 16th Congress began yesterday its constitutional duty to officially proclaim him as the winner.

Duterte has sealed his claim for the presidency with a very wide margin over his nearest rival. It’s a given Duterte will be proclaimed.

In his most recent media interview, Duterte said he is not inclined to fly to Manila to attend his proclamation by Congress. He said he would remain in Davao City until next month. This would be in time for the formal turnover rites at Malacañang Palace on June 30 with outgoing President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. On the other hand, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo’s lead by a slim margin over Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the vice presidential race will be the apple of discord when lawmakers resume today the canvassing of votes.

The Senate and the House of Representatives sitting as the National Board of Canvassers has only until June 11, when the 16th Congress is scheduled to adjourn sine die, or the lawmakers officially end their respective terms of office, except for the 12 senators whose terms will end on June 2019 yet. Among these senators are Sen. Grace Poe who lost to Duterte in the presidential race, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano (Duterte’s runningmate), Chiz Escudero, Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV who all lost the vice presidential race.

In the meantime, the incoming President is cooling his heels at his home in Davao City. At the comfort of his home, the President-elect is slowly forming his Cabinet and scouting for the rest of presidential appointees to help him run the government in the next six years.

While waiting for his formal assumption at Malacañang, the President-elect has been holding his court at his un-official “office” at the Matina Enclave where he receives his guests, friends, potential appointees and other callers. Members of the media have been restricted to Matina Enclave after Duterte held his first press conference there a week after he won the May 9 elections.

Reporters from national media who have flown to Davao City are having nightmare covering the President-elect,  whose style of governance is very new to them, if not unorthodox. Trying to catch the 71-year-old Duterte, local and foreign media stake out at known restaurants and watering holes in Davao City.

The last two press conferences – held impromptu during ungodly hours and way past deadline time of many newspapers ­– were held last week at After-Dark Resto/Bar. The latest was conducted at Legazpi Suites.

To aptly describe the incoming President, Duterte lives up to his preferred title as “Mayor of the Philippines.”

World leaders led by US President Barack Obama have recognized Duterte as the President-elect even though he has yet to be officially proclaimed by Congress. In fact, President Obama personally congratulated Duterte in a phone call last week.

In couched words to Duterte, Mr. Obama reportedly reminded the president-elect to respect human rights. It was an obvious reference to allegations that Duterte was behind the summary execution of drug traffickers and other criminals by the so-called Davao Death Squad.

In turn, Duterte revealed his stand on the South China Sea dispute of the Philippines with China during his conversation with Mr. Obama while reiterating the two countries will remain as staunch allies.

“I assured him (Obama) that we will continue with our mutual interest and that we are allied with the Western (world) in this issue on China Sea. But I gave him an inkling that, well, I would agree to just go with you,” Duterte told reporters.

“But if it goes on still waters, I said, there’s no wind to move the sail, I might opt to go bilateral,” he added. In reply, Duterte said Obama urged him: “You should wait for the result of the arbitration.”

The Philippines is expecting the ruling on the arbitration case this year. In the case filed in January 2014, the Philippine government challenged the validity of China’s “nine-dash” claims and the Chinese reclamation of areas within the country’s territorial waters under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

Duterte already met with ambassadors from countries like Japan, Israel, China and Russia and received official greetings from various governments, Australia among them.

Like the Philippines, Taiwan and Austria have just elected their respective new presidents. Austrians voted 72-year-old economics professor Alexader Van der Bellen as their new president. Taiwan, on the other hand, proclaimed Dr. Chen Chien-jen as their country’s first-ever elected woman president.

In his first speech last Monday as president-elect, Agence France Presse reported Van der Bellen vowed to unite the divided nation, seeking to win the trust of the 2.2 million people who voted for his rival Norbert Hofer by a thin margin of 31,000 votes.

“There has been a lot of talk about this country’s rifts. But I think they can also interpret the split as a sign that we are two sides of the same coin and each side is as important as the other. Together, we make up Austria,” he pointed out.

In her inaugural address, the Taiwanese woman president who won the election held last Jan. 16 appealed for unity of her countrymen. “A president should not only unite her own supporters; she should unite the entire country. To stand united for change – that is my earnest hope for this country,” she urged.

After his victory was clearly established, president-elect Duterte extended his hands of reconciliation. He started the “healing” process with his call for unity in our country deeply wracked also by vindictiveness over the sins of the past administrations.

The “Mayor of the Philippines” vowed to make “change.” How he will do it will not likely be spelled out in his inaugural address, which he promised to keep very brief, at five minutes long only. But for us, no promises needed, just do it.

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