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Thursday, April 25, 2024

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When President Rodrigo Duterte heard that the Maute group had attacked Marawi City, he cut short his trip to the Russian Federation to fly back home. He was lucky that he was able to still talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin before he boarded his plane.

Many admired the swiftness with which the President decided to come home to personally deal with the problem, even as the real effects of his decision was to declare martial law in Mindanao. What most of us overlooked, however, was the fact that it was only he who had returned. Many of the members of his delegation were left behind.

Understandably so, the team would carry on what Mr. Duterte had set out to do. They would meet their counterparts and discuss this or that issue. Their personal presence would not be needed in dealing with the Maute problem back home.

But was their personal presence needed in Russia, to begin with? Some more than others, we surmise.

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We are actually no strangers to such bloated delegations. Remember that photo taken of lawmakers in a plane bound for Laos? No less than the speaker of the House of Representatives had his guest on board—and we are sure she did not perform any act on behalf of the country.

Under the previous administration, when the country brought its case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, there were also accusations that the team was bigger than it was supposed to be. Just a few officials familiar with our territorial claims were needed, but some others went along for the ride under official cover.

Many years ago, under the Arroyo administration, we heard about the generals who brought along their wives to what was supposed to be an official trip. The downfall was that one of the wives actually broadcast her sense of entitlement—and revealed what had been the practice, all these years.

Mr. Duterte ran and won by a considerable plurality because he promised real change. We see how he relentlessly battles, rightly or wrongly, the ills he believes must be fought. We have also seen him remove from office some of his allies not beyond reproach for allegedly irregular acts. We need to see more of his talk against corruption fleshed out.

We know it is the Office of the President that knows better who is supposed to come along on official trips. But perhaps the public would be better assured Mr. Duterte is serious about his push for good governance and about proving he really is all about change if he would open up his list to scrutiny. The expenses—and the joke—are on us, after all.

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