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From one father to another

Just to make myself clear, I did not vote for Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential election, and even if we turn back the hands of time I still won’t. Heck, I won’t vote for him even if he runs for kagawad in my community.

The fact is that I put a premium on youth, and to me someone who is 71 should be sent to pasture instead of thinking of leading this nation of millennials for the next six years. A man of that age doesn’t even stand a chance of getting hired for a regular government job when the retirement age is so much less. Let us leave the mantle of leadership to the young and capable, and tell the senior citizens among us to watch the sunset from their rocking chairs instead.

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I no longer wish for myself a safe and prosperous country. I have lived long enough to say that I have seen it all—the crime and grime and extreme poverty that shock citizens of other countries but in the Philippines are a common fact of life. You simply get used to that fact in time.

I no longer dream for myself a just and humane country like I used to with such passion. Again, because I have managed to survive life this far, with all its inequities, and remained standing. That, realistically, should be more than enough. By the time I was past my youth it had become perfectly clear and acceptable to me that some of us are born entitled to the best that life can give, and others will never have it the same way until the day they die. I have since stopped searching for straight answers to questions about morality and justice in a society where people love to say “it all depends.”

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Having said that, I must also say that I am a father, and if I still have the slightest bit of time left for wishing and dreaming, it should be meant for my children. I care seriously, even more so at this point in my life, about the future of my sons and daughters. I pray every day for them to be able to walk the streets at night without being harmed and without getting groped inside a crowded LRT train while heading home from school. I pray desperately that there will be enough jobs waiting for them when the time comes that I can no longer provide for what they need. How I wish they can have it better than what modest means my generation had to live with.

People equate Duterte’s victory to a clamor for change. But realistically, it was more like a desperate cry for help that the suffering masses unleashed at the polls in choosing a most unlikely candidate. Where previously it paid to be highly educated and politically correct, this time the voters didn’t mind taking chances with someone who didn’t fit the norm—someone pedestrian instead of prim and proper. Criticized for lacking a clear-cut economic platform—and indeed Duterte’s interest in the economy seemed equal only to his very basic understanding of social graces—he made up for this in a big way by running his campaign on a peace-and-order agenda. His in-your-face style of reminding the voters at every turn that no one is safe in this violent world, that his battle is about keeping our children safe and alive, struck a sensitive chord in our collective psyche.

The message moved even the most jaded among us, even those, including myself, who seemed to no longer care to dream, much less allow themselves the luxury of believing in economic stability, sustainable growth, food sufficiency, and every political prospect we have all heard before. In the end, the intellectual discourses of the other candidates paled beside the impact of fear—fear for the lives of our children and other loved ones—that Duterte’s speeches consistently delivered, and always with aplomb. Sometimes, in his exuberance, he appeared to descend to the level of the criminal mind, as when he made remarks totally out of line about a rape-murder, which rightfully drew brickbats from critics, but only momentarily. Instead of derailing his presidential run, the same shocking incident seemed to cement his connection with the fed-up and reckless masses.

Duterte’s idea of a man worthy to become president—someone who is willing to kill and be killed—might sound extreme, but the message resonates very powerfully especially among fathers, and, for that matter, anyone who is faced with the daunting responsibility of protecting the family.

If only for my fatherly fears and insecurities, I have to grudgingly start wishing again, for the soon-to-be president to succeed. I just have to acknowledge that the new leadership will have a part to play in keeping our children alive and safe. It should rid us of some of our cynicism. If someone can look into the future and tell me that my children were meant to be like their grumpy old man when they themselves grow old, I will still say let them be. At least they can get to experience life in all its frustrating entirety, like I have. This is still something worth looking forward to with a feeling of gratitude, if one remembers the many young and promising lives cut short by senseless, violent crime.

The next president, who is a father himself, has expressed perfectly what I am trying to say. If this is the only thing that I can appreciate about him, it should be more than enough.

The demands of his old role of padre de familia have become a hundred million times more daunting, with his new role of father to an entire nation. He needs all the help and support that he can get.

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From one father to another, I sincerely wish Rodrigo Duterte the best of luck.

Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.” He obtained his law and prelaw degrees from Manuel L. Quezon University and the University of Santo Tomas, respectively.

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TAGS: change, Father, president, Rodrigo Duterte
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