President Rodrigo Duterte was reported to have told his son, newly-resigned Davao City Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte, “Do what is right.” There was that recent drama between father Paolo and daughter Isabel that become quite public, an angry and personal exchange. Paolo pointed to that incident as the reason for his resignation. Everybody then waited for President Duterte’s response, which was “Do what is right.”
I am assuming that, indeed, Paolo will resign. It sounded so much that his resignation was exactly what he thought was the right thing for him to do. His father’s advice ought to affirm Paolo’s decision to resign.
As for me, I found a good advice that can serve as the topic in my last article for 2017. “Do the right thing” is a solid and powerful advice that can be given to anyone. As President of the Republic, as father to Paolo, Rodrigo R. Duterte said four words that could not have been more succinct, simple yet profound. Of course, among the politically partisan, especially those opposed to the father and son, there are many commentaries, both speculative and accusatory. I will not go into that. The truth is quite personal to the two concerned and I do not like to guess.
Good advice, however, is always worth my attention. To be told to do what is right by one’s father or by one’s superior is an enduring gem. It is worth reflecting on, it is worth remembering. There will be some instances in our lives when we may know intuitively what is right but may need the courage to pursue it. When our father or boss would tell us, “Do the right thing,” we most probably will find the resolve to follow our conscience.
To do what is right means we must first know the difference between right and wrong. It is not our father or superior telling us what is right, it is ourselves. It is someone more powerful or with greater authority that is assuring us that we must do what is right versus any other alternative. This advice and assurance strengthen the adherence to do what is right in situations when it may be difficult or dangerous to do so. That it is coming from the President himself makes it even more affirming. Any subordinate in government is receiving a presidential advice that also serves as a mandate – do what is right.
The simplicity of the advice from a father or a superior in an organization in today’s environment is particularly heartening. What is right requires our recognition and adherence to the truth. The truth is foundational to what is right. To be unable to discern what is true is to be unable to discern anything correctly, including what is right. Any person giving and receiving the advice to do what is right is also giving and receiving the exhortation to know the truth from the false. There is simply no separating one from the other – what is right cannot be based on anything that is false.
The year is ending and a new year is about to unfold in a few days. It is truly fitting that we bid 2017 with the thought that we just do what is right, and that all public officials, whether they are clerks in an agency, Secretaries of Departments, or Senators and Congressmen have just been reminded, through the President’s advice to his own son, that doing what is right remains the primordial value of public service. It is also a primordial value of human behavior, regardless of who one is. Society must be anchored on what is right as a prerequisite for it to be a society of laws.
As the New Year unfolds, we can begin with how we end 2017 – to keep in mind and among our resolutions that we strive to simply do what is right. It is not easy to find a greater personal and collective goal that is clear yet challenging. Poverty and corruption, greed and partisanship, bigotry and armed conflict, all these have blurred either our view of what is right or have deeply compromised our courage to do what is right. To do what is right is heroic, from every little correct act to the most difficult decision. Doing what is right is not about a random or one-time act, it is about establishing and maintaining a habit. That is why it is heroic.
It has not been a year of peace, not a year of prosperity. Achievements have been many but disappointments have been plenty as well. I say this, not in comparison with other administrations, but in the context of this administration’s own goals for peace and prosperity. I say disappointments because I sense the disappointments of the President himself, his frustrations that he cannot force into fruition his dreams and wishes for the country and the people. But I also know that he will not give up pursuing his goals, especially about peace, about defeating the illegal drug trade, and dismantling the inherited poverty of Filipinos. I wish him success, and offer only one advice – do what is right.
More important than my own wish for the President is my wish for myself and our people. I echo that same wish – to do what is right. More important because a nation, and especially a democratic one, is not about only a President doing what is right but the people themselves building their own life and work ethic. To do what is right is all we need to do to rid ourselves of the perennial social cancers we all profess to hate, to make real the kind of meaningful change we clamor for.
Successes and failures, blessings and tragedies, we have had all these in 2017. We will have them still in 2018, but we will have enough control in shifting the odds in favor of successes and blessings. In our hands, so to speak, to do what is right.