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Our ‘Tatay Digong’

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At Large

Our ‘Tatay Digong’

Time was when the President of any country was recognized as the “Father” (or “Mother”) of the Nation.

Indeed, a favorite way of referring to President Duterte, mostly by his avid followers, is “Tatay (or Daddy) Digong.” Parenthetically, Cory Aquino was known to one and all as “Tita (Auntie) Cory,” and I’m sure sociologists, linguistic authorities and political scientists, if they cared to, would have a picnic breaking down what this distinction means.

Anyway, to go back to “Tatay Digong,” I’m rather disturbed by the implications of the term, since I don’t think, judging from his statements and actions, that he makes for a truly desirable role model, which is an important part of what being a father is.

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A father is judged first and foremost by his ability to feed and look after his family. Indeed, the yardstick for good fatherhood has, in the past, largely been confined to a man’s being a “good provider” — someone who earns a living and provides for his wife’s and children’s every need. It must be said, however, that throughout history and whatever society, mothers often helped share the burden of “providing” for their families, even if personal and social circumstances prevented them from broadcasting this fact.

But apart from, to use a cliché, bringing home the bacon, fathers were also expected to provide moral direction to their children, set a good example, and lay down the standards of ethical behavior which their children are expected to follow. In this way, fathers and mothers are important social builders, shaping generations of productive and loyal citizens, building the nation.

Foremost of these expectations of fatherhood is being faithful to marital vows, to sincerely working on the partnership on which a man embarked on his wedding day. As a beloved old professor of mine once intoned: “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

It’s no small role, then, being the “father of the nation.”

By many measures, though, our President is failing in this task. Quite apart from being a foul-mouthed, iconoclastic leader who seems to take great pleasure from thumbing his nose at convention, he is proving to be an inadequate leader, if by leadership we mean setting the highest standards of behavior and performance in public office.

I was struck by this entry by one Candy Cruz Datu in an admittedly anti-Duterte website, for its succinct summary of the ways in which our President is failing us as a political leader, much less a “father.”

She writes: “Duterte is no longer merely a mayor, and he is no longer dealing with just the Davao press. He cannot come and go or disappear at whim, or tell us he was sick and tired then in the same breath reveal that he traveled incognito to a secret location in Mindanao. This is an issue of leadership and he is displaying a lamentable lack of it. If the 16 million [voters] wonder why the rest of us are frustrated by this presidency, it is because we have a leader who fails to unite us, who fails to inspire us, and who fails to provide the peace of mind and sense of security that we desperately need.”

Especially at this point in our life as a nation. We are currently facing one of the worst armed challenges to our nation, with hundreds of civilians losing their homes and soldiers losing their lives (along with the terrorists). What sort of leader would choose to disappear, to “rest” in his sick bed as he explained, in the middle of such a crisis?

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Of course, as some of his allies insist, the President is entitled to some down time and private moments, especially when suffering from illness. But he has consistently denied being troubled by any ailment (except those he has publicly discussed) and even today still refuses to issue (or tell his doctors to issue) a full medical disclosure.

We are not ghouls salivating at the prospect of his imminent demise. In fact, and I mean this with all sincerity, we are praying for his wellbeing, and wish him good health to continue doing his sworn duty. But oh, he is making it so hard for the rest of us to give him the fealty any father deserves!

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TAGS: At Large, fatherhood, Inquirer Opinion, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte
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