The President’s First 100 Days

For years, I went to them in Samar.

Having seen, first with a shock, then with a rage that grew each and every time I went there, just what they meant to those who who sat in power, I knew I had to go. That I couldn’t stop going.

Paltry as my offering was, I couldn’t turn my back on them. There were days when my rage was darkest when it did seem that all they had was me and my ragtag team of doctors, nurses, whoever pitched in because they, too, saw what I saw: that they had no one but us.

Because the government that was supposed to be there for them –to feed, shelter, clothe, give aid to and then help them get back on their feet as soon as possible—did nothing.

By Noynoy Aquino’s own partymate, our VP, Leni Robredo’s estimate, less than 1% of shelters that were supposed to be built was built.

I knew this. We who went there knew this outrage.

Despite the fancy graphs and pie charts and flashy, and sleek Powerpoint presentations of supposed stuff they had done for Samar that Mar Roxas bandied about during the last elections, I knew the truth because I wasn’t there once or twice or thrice.

I knew because I, an ordinary citizen—as my other teammates—all ordinary citizens–was there far more times than Mar Roxas or the President of the Republic of the Philippines—this man who had the power, the resources, the wherewithal to make things better for them and yet turned his back on them resolutely, without shame, without apology, no explanations save the trumped up reports that his minions believed because they wanted so desperately to believe the lies peddled to them by this band of charlatans.

And so I would warn family and friends, I can tolerate whatever lies you peddle about Mar and Noynoy. I will let it pass. Chalk it up to democracy. Lie about Samar though and I will be in your face faster than you can say “disente”. Because when I am there, I go a little crazy with grief and with rage.

This is the crazed grief I feel for the millions upon millions of our countrymen/countrywomen who live subhuman existences.

Those who live under the bridges, those who go through our garbage so they have something to feed themselves and their children, those who do backbreaking work with nothing to show for it –while the bastards they work for live like emperors.

Lately, I haven’t been feeling this crazy.

And I know why this is so.

It has to do with the man who stands at the helm. Our President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

His heart is for the poor, the oppressed. I see this so clearly.

In his first 100 days, he has brought home the Lumads. Brought home stranded OFWs.

In his first 100 days, we are seeing the start of the end of contractualization. 10,000 contractual workers—those who work with no benefits—have become regular workers with all the benefits due them that we all know they and their families need badly. More companies have promised to heed the President’s call to “STOP IT!” with the oppression of the marginalized.

Farmers, the backbone of our country—those, who, if we lived in a perfect world, ought to be the most prosperous beings on earth.

But because we live in a world of scum sucking bottom dwellers and all of them in government and hacienderos with round bellies, farmers till their land with nothing to show for it. Their children are malnourished, uneducated, wear shirts that have more holes than cloth.

And them? They live impoverished lives where the only abundance they know is an abundance of hunger, illness– broken bodies housing broken souls. Nothing but beasts of burden to the man who lives in the grand house.

Long and grievous has been our country’s agrarian reform history. A story of a people’s battle against oppression and tyranny and where so much of our country’s biggest problems finds its roots. A story with hardly any victories for the little guy.

But this man who ran for the presidency because he could no longer take the abuse of the Filipino people by those who sat in office, has made good his campaign promises of putting agrarian reform on the top of his priority list.

In his first 100 days in office, the president convened the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council that lay dormant for 10 yrs and just like that, no farmer can be kicked out of the land he tills.

Just like that, 3 big haciendas lost their contracts for violations against farmers.

Just like that, the floodgates of Land Bank opened to the little guy, in the form of loans worth 21 bilion that have been made available to farmers, with the President’s stern admonition to the Land Bank that they must be true to their mandate of being the bank for the Filipino farmer. And a moratorium has been called against the conversion of land used for farming.

This president has put the mantle of protection over our farmers. He is getting them out a little at a time, from that long, dark history of grievous assaults on them by the abusive hacendero and by a government that cares nothing for them.

At the helm of the DAR is a man who, all his life fought alongside our farmers. Paeng Mariano has opened the gates of the DAR and he has welcomed them with open arms –setting right a relationship that had long become dysfunctional. He has now become, as he should be, their champion. Instead of the big man’s champion as it has been for so long now.

The president’s DSWD counterpart, Judy Taguiwalo, is a woman who, like Paeng Mariano, has given her life to the fight for social justice. And she has done it by being on the ground, not from some high perch but right there where she can smell, touch, hear those who she fights for.

And so she knows, far more than any book, any ADB/WB study, just what the truth is about poverty. Which is why she is a marvel to watch at the task she’s been given.

So these 2 and the Department of Agriculture’s Sec. Manny Pinol and the President have come together so that now in our government’s CCT program, rice subsidies will be given as well.

And this rice will be sourced from our own farmers who have just been handed a jackpot of a loan by the Land Bank.

21 billion.

Just like that. They didn’t have to fight for this, didn’t have to demand it. No one was killed, no one was hurt.

21 billion was handed to them so they can meet the rice subsidies needed to feed those who need it the most. And because middle men have been eliminated, farmers will be paid more for their produce and the DSWD buy this rice at a cheaper price. And since a memorandum of agreement will be drawn between Land Bank and DSWD, loan payments of farmers will automatically be deducted from the purchase cost that DSWD pays.

Win win win win win.

Where before we were made to bear the pain of seeing Kidapawan farmers beg for food from a most heartless government and then to have this government call 3 kilos for 3 months a “solution” and then to have those farmers killed for those 3 kilos, now what I see is a President who has thrown the awesome mantle of protection over our farmers and he has extended all the powers vested on him so they lead empowered lives.

And for years, I saw how women bore children they couldn’t feed, clothe, shelter, educate.

For years, her body was an offering to the patriarchy –Church and government–that thought her nothing more than a baby making machine.

That we had some of the highest maternal mortality rates, teenage pregnancy rates, infant mortality rates mattered zilch to the Catholic hierarchy who had its firm grip on a government too scared to displease them and for whom only political expediency mattered.

And then just like that, reproductive health is now this government’s top priority. A government that has done what no other government has done and what should have been done a very long time ago: put the Catholic Church in their place.

And just like that, help is reaching those who need it the most—-impoverished women in the countryside are now being given that shot at a life that has some measure of empowerment –for what is determination over one’s reproductive choices but empowerment?

And this war on drugs—this menace that has ransomed our country for quite some time now— the President has taken it on like no other President before him has.

So now we see those presidents for what they are: indifferent, cowards, our own oppressors because the picture that’s emerging now is how they knew but turned a blind eye on this menace so that it grew into this monster that has eaten our children alive.

Well, I want this war fought with guts and cunning. With the best of what we can all give.

And I want this war won by the Filipino people.

I want this war won for my children. I want this war won for my children’s children. Children I will never know, never hold in my arms. Children I ache to leave a country to where they can lead their best, empowered lives.

The DOH budget, contrary to persistent rumors spread by those who hate him, has not been slashed. If it gets the nod of our legislators, at 144Billion, will be the biggest health budget our country will ever know.

And you ask me, what of our international relations? And I will tell you what is truly in my heart.

It matters to me.

But not as much as this child does.

I want this child to have more shirt than holes. I want this child to be fed and educated so well, he grows up discerning, smart, with critical thought as his ally.

I want this child to have the carefree childhood that is his birthright—to laugh, to play in the rain, to dance the way a happy child dances—with no cares in the world, to nap in a soft, warm, clean bed in a beautiful home nestled in the countryside where his parents work hard and have grand things to show for the lives of honest toil they lead.

International relations matter to me but for now, I would like for us to tend to our wounds. To heal our divisions even as we learn to hold the tensions of divergent views with a bit more intelligence and respect.

International relations matter to me but I am now ready to change our country’s narrative— a narrative of a subjugated people who bow to their oppressors.

Oppressors who bring their gifts of loans and aid that our children pay with the further shackling of their minds and the loss of dignity of a people who see their oppressors as saviors.

The passing on of chains to the next generation who cannot imagine, for one moment, a life led without Uncle Sam.

Forever, little brown Americans.

I am ready to let go of that narrative now.

I am ready to go to what I think calls to a lot of us: an empowered nation that forges her own destiny, no longer a puppet on a string.

Awake, fully awake.

Ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the global community, sovereign, unbowed.

I look at this President and I think he is just the man to take us there.

So, on his first 100 days in office, my heart soars with wild hope for our country.

I don’t see him as our savior.

We ALONE can save our selves. By bettering ourselves, by asking of ourselves what we’ve never asked of ourselves and by extending each other a hand so no one gets left behind.

And by giving this man the support he needs to put us on high ground.

These are my thoughts about the President’s first 100 days in office.

Todos saludos, Mr President!

And thank you for all you have, thus far, done for us.

Trixie Cruz-Angeles Ditas Valenzuela Mark Lopez Ethel Pineda Butch Cabanban Mona Empedrad Chitralada Moresco Chito L. Pagsanghan Sarah Raymundo Sass Den Haag Joy Dava Schindel Annabelle Schneider Yya Yen Mae Dolendo Yucelverney Dauphine Matienzo Estrada III Kathleen Falgui Rafa Partosa Beep Tan Jarantilla Bem R. Diaz Nana Alejandrino Krizette Laureta Chu Corina Yatco Guerrero Elise Aguilar Candice Dela Cruz Rosanne Romero Irmalyn U Ali Anisha Elle Geraldine Santiago Lara Parpan JohnMari Hong Isy Ramirez Ella Ignacio-Carlos Elizabeth Melanie Balajadia-Ines Kazan Benigno S. Baluyot Fama S. Baluyot Nap Falgui Perez Edjexy Grantoza Girlie Sagadal Stella Sait Joan Villa-Espina Soriano Honoridez Jennifer Jacinto Weber John Silva Joey N Frances Valderas Vicky Young Francesca Victoria Ruiz Sarah Diangca Samarita Cecille Parlade Tere E De Asis Tataganda Evangelio Bon Reyna Tan-Francisco

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