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Know the President (5)

12:07 AM May 08, 2017

I said it once. I say it again.

Focus more on the President’s actions than on his words. That way, one can understand him better. For there are times when the President will crack a joke in the middle of a speech though his mien be serious, the purpose being either to break the tension and put everyone at ease or to give way to the impish part of his being. No matter what the age, no one truly outgrows totally the impishness of one’s childhood. It shows every now and then. And in the unlikeliest of times, too.

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Understanding him better by looking more at his actions and concentrating less on his words is like separating the chaff from the grain, the dross from the ore. It is not easy. It is confusing. However, after more than 15 years of public service under his leadership, I have come to learn when he is serious and when he is not. It is all in his body language and in his manner of speaking. Watch his movements when he talks. In time one will be able to discern what the President means simply by matching his movements with his words.

There is this report about a New People’s Army amazon who was severely wounded in a fire fight with government military forces in Davao Oriental. Word reached then Mayor Duterte that this NPA amazon was going to die if not given medical assistance. Somehow, Mayor Duterte managed to reach the wounded woman and had her brought to the hospital in Davao City for treatment. She survived her injuries.

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Mayor Duterte was roundly criticized for what he did. His critics said he committed treason because he gave aid and comfort to an enemy of the state. The mayor brushed aside the criticisms by saying that he did not care as much about the ideological color or political persuasion of a person as he did about the help that he could extend to someone who was dying.

Maybe we should add one more thing to that. Let me say that one act of mercy to a perceived enemy during a time of great need is worth more than a thousand guns and a hundred thousand bullets. It’s like turning the other cheek. War has always been and will always be the last option.

Every Christmas Day when he was mayor, President Duterte set aside time, despite his tight schedule, to be with children suffering from cancer, kidney problems and other diseases confined in the hospitals’ children’s wards to distribute gifts, food, and other goodies. Bringing cheer to an otherwise joyless existence even for only one day each year was, to him, a call he could not allow to pass unanswered. I know because I was there several Christmases to help in the distribution of the Christmas goodies. Seeing the excitement on the children’s faces was truly heartwarming. But seeing their wretched condition was, too, heart-breaking. It was bitter-sweet. How long a life can each of these children live? Why do they suffer so much? Those were the questions that hounded the mind. And we can only venture the answer that God has a purpose for everything, and only He truly knows what that purpose is. And we do not question His wisdom.

But I do remember the lines of a poem by Helen Steiner Rice:
“God knows what’s best for us,
So why should we complain.
We always want the sunshine
But He knows there must be rain.

“We love the sound of laughter
And the merriment of cheer
But our hearts would lose their tenderness
If we never shed a tear.”

Going back to the President, why does he have this special care and concern for the children? Perhaps the answer can be found in a poem titled “The Promise of a Child,” which I wrote some years ago:

“There is no sound more beautiful
Than the laughter of a child
Nor a diamond more brilliant
Than the sparkle in his eyes

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“A seed of hope and promise
Of a better, happier world
And what he needs the most from us
Are caring hands, the love, the warmth against the cold

“For every child’s a gift from God
So precious, priceless but so frail
He has to be cared for with a passion
That one can find in love and nowhere else

“And in his smile etched ‘cross his face
I see such happiness and joy
I see the world at peace, at rest
I see my God and I rejoice forever more.”

Jesus Melchor V. Quitain is undersecretary, Office of the President.

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