FORMER Davao City mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte took his oath as the 16th president of the Philippines Thursday, saying people hungry for change must start with themselves—and showed them how by delivering an inaugural address minus the expletives that marked his ascent to the presidency.
Speaking on live TV before government officials and members of the diplomatic corps, Duterte said that people hungry for change must also “change” themselves.
“These were battle cries articulated by me in behalf of the people hungry for genuine and meaningful change. But the change, if it is to be permanent and significant, must start with us and in us,” Duterte said.
“To borrow the language of F. Sionil Jose, we have become our own worst enemies. And we must have the courage and the will to change ourselves,” he added.
Known for his hardline stance, Duterte said that no matter how strong he is, “he can succeed at anything of national importance or significance unless he has the support and cooperation of the people he is tasked to lead and sworn to serve.”
The President added that lost and faded values should be revitalized.
“Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished—these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines,” Duterte said.
“The ride will be rough. But come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest,” he added.
In the same speech, Duterte said that Congress and the Commission on Human Rights should let him do his own business and fulfill his mandate.
“In this fight, I ask Congress and the Commission on Human Rights and all others who are similarly situated to allow us a level of governance that is consistent to our mandate. The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained,” Duterte said shortly after taking oath as President.
“You mind your work and I will mind mine,” he added.
The President’s legislative platform includes asking Congress to reimpose capital punishment, policies to lower corporate and personal income taxes, and to create a bill enabling a constitutional convention for a shift to federalism.
He assured both Congress and the CHR, however, that he knows the limits of the presidency.
“As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the President. I know what is legal and what is not,” he said.
“My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising,” he added.
Duterte on Thursday also emphasized that the erosion of faith and trust in government is the “real” problem confronting the incoming administration—bigger than corruption and criminality.
“Erosion of faith and trust in the government—that is the real problem that confronts us. Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier,” Duterte said.
He also assured the public that he was elected to the presidency to serve the entire country.
“I was not elected to serve the interests of any one person or any group or any one class. I serve every one and not only one,” he said.
“I have no friends to serve, I have no enemies to harm,” he added.
The first elected president from Mindanao, Duterte took his oath at noon on June 30 as President Benigno Aquino III left the Palace.
Duterte, who has been known for arriving late, was on time as he fetched Aquino in Malacañang Palace.
After an ecumenical prayer and the singing of Duterte’s campaign jingle “Ipaglalaban Ko” by singer Freddie Aguilar, Supreme Court Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes administered the oath while his youngest daughter, 12-year-old Veronica “Kitty” Duterte, held the bible of the new president’s late mother.
Duterte’s family and supporters flew in from Davao to witness the event, including his former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman and current partner, Honeylet Avanceña, together with his other children, Paolo, Sara and Sebastian.
Also present during the inauguration were House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Senate President Franklin Drilon, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, members of the diplomatic corps, and Cabinet members who were sworn in later in the ceremony.
Duterte received a 21-gun salute and a band played the Mabuhay March, the anthem of the presidency.
A diplomatic reception was held in honor of the President, with Duterte having a ceremonial toast with Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Pinto with members of the diplomatic corps in lieu of a vin’d honneur.
A modest lunch was served, which only included five dishes on its menu: lumpiang ubod (coconut pith spring roll), pandesal with kesong puti (white cheese made from unskimmed carabao’s milk) and Vigan longganisa (sausage from Northern Ilocandia) grilled on the spot, monggo soup mixed with smoked fish and alugbati (malabar spinach) in demitasse cups, fried saba (banana) slices, and Durian tartlet.
Before going to Malacañang, Duterte stayed at The Linden Suites in Ortigas, Pasig City together with Avanceña and youngest daughter Veronica while his former wife, Elizabeth, stayed with Davao Mayor Sara, Vice Mayor Paulo and son Sebastian at the City of Dreams in Parañaque.
The President immediately went to work after he met with the Cabinet.
Duterte, the country’s 16th president, is the first to take his oath of office in Malacañang since the restoration of democracy in 1986.
In Davao City, hundreds of people gathered at the Bankerohan public market to witness Duterte’s inauguration.
Romedel Garing, tenant of Mallengke, said that she was very pleased to witness the inauguration, and said Duterte brought pride and honor to all Davaoeños.
“I feel famous because I am from Davao and the president came from our city,” Garing said.
She added that she did not mind leaving her store unattended so that she could witness the historic event.
The security guard at the market, Alfie Ambaig, said the excitement was palpable.
“I can feel the excitement of everybody,” Ambaig said. “The people started arriving at 8 a.m.”
Nobody complained about the heat because they were too focused on the inauguration, he added.
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