It is all really just tradition and sentimentality that fuels “debate” surrounding the controversial inauguration ceremony of soon-to-be President Rodrigo Duterte. But of course the President and the Vice President should be inaugurated in the same ceremony held at the same place. It is of paramount imperative that the out-going president walk up to the pulpit with the in-coming president. It’s tradition after all that serves a symbolic show of unity and continuity.
The last thing Filipinos need are symbols and tradition. Symbols and tradition have been the currency of political discourse over the last 30 years. Have these served Philippine society well? That depends on your definition of success.
The colour Yellow and that yellow ribbon were symbols that dominated the last six years, for example. Did these symbols contribute real value to the nation? Hardly. They have degenerated from being symbols of hope to symbols of exclusion. Rather than represent the nation, symbols of Yellowism have represented vested interests and narrow agendas.
Out-going president Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III himself, selectively upheld all the traditions of his inauguration. He issued the highest form of insult to the Philippines’ judiciary by snubbing the late Renato Corona who was, at the time, the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He rode together with then out-going President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the ceremony then strode up onto the inauguration stage with her in the spirit of that unity this tradition was supposed to symbolise. Then shortly after taking his seat in Malacanang, Aquino then summarily threw Arroyo in prison and kept her there for the next six years.
In the context of Aquino’s less-than-magnanimous conduct during his ascent to power six years ago, Duterte’s minor changes to the programme look like mere tinkering to those traditions in comparison.
By dispensing with all of these nice but, ultimately, meaningless traditions and symbols of “unity”, Duterte can pretty much get on with the job of doing what a President does unencumbered by pretensions. To be more specific, Duterte does not need to smile for the cameras when he throws Aquino in prison, and he does not need to wear a mask of civility in what are likely to be those extremely rare times he’d stop for a chat over lugaw with “vice president” Leni Robredo.
The roads to true unity, after all, do not lead up to the offices of the Vice President or the porky halls of the Senate and House of Representatives. Those roads lead to the Filipino people. As such, Durterte should not be wasting time schmoozing with an out-going incumbent nor with a turncoat whose claim to the vice presidency remains largely debatable.
Look no further for evidence of Duterte’s ability to schmooze directly with his people than his wildly-successful miting de avance at the Luneta in early May of this year. That there is the unity he commands sealed in an awesome display of power on a single day.
There is no “lost opportunity” in the coming inauguration done the Duterte way. There is only an opening of doors of opportunity to an administration bereft of any pretension as it sets out to lead Filipinos to their future. This time, for real.
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