By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte and Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo were sworn in last June 29 as the 16th President and 14th Vice-president, respectively, of the Republic of the Philippines, during separate ceremonies. For the first time in recent history the two highest elected officials took their oath separately.
Donning an ecru Barong Tagalog made from piña jusi fabric paired with beige pure cotton pants, Duterte took his oath of office before Supreme Court Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes in a simple ceremony at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacañang.
The incoming President’s 12-year daughter, Veronica “Kitty,” by his long-time partner Honeylet Avancena held the Bible when he took his oath that signaled that “Change is Coming.”
In his inaugural speech, Duterte emphasized that erosion of faith and trust in government are the real problems that confront us.
He pointed out that there are those who do not approve of his methods of fighting criminality, particularly against the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption.
“They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal. In response let me say this: I have seen how corruption bled the government of funds, which were allocated for the use in uplifting the poor from the mire that they are in. I have seen how illegal drugs destroyed individuals and ruined family relationships. I have seen how criminality, by means all foul, snatched from the innocent and the unsuspecting, the years and years of accumulated savings. Years of toil and then, suddenly, they are back to where they started. Look at this from that perspective and tell me that I am wrong,” said Duterte.
In this fight, he cited Congress and the Commission on Human Rights and all others who are similarly situated to allow them a level of governance that is consistent to their mandate. He said the fight will be relentless and sustained.
As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, Duterte assured he knows the limits of the power and authority of the president. “I know what is legal and what is not.” He said his adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising.
He said the love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize.
He ordered all department secretaries and heads of agencies to refrain from changing and bending the rules of government contracts, transactions and projects already approved and awaiting implementation.
“I abhor secrecy and instead advocate transparency in all government contracts, projects and business transactions from submission of proposals to negotiation to perfection and finally, to consummation. Do them and we will work together. Do not do them, we will part sooner than later,” he warned.
He exhorted the help of everyone, saying “no leader, however strong, 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.”
“It is the people from whom democratic governments draw strength and this administration is no exception. That is why we have to listen to the murmurings of the people, feel their pulse, supply their needs and fortify their faith and trust in us whom they elected to public office,” added Duterte.
He said his economic and financial, political policies are contained in the quotations of Franklin Roosevelt: “The test of government is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have little,” and Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong; You cannot help the poor by discouraging the rich; You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer; You cannot further the brotherhood by inciting class hatred among men.”
At the start of his speech, he thanked former President Fidel Ramos for helping him and making him President.
The 71-year old Duterte opted for Reyes, a schoolmate from San Beda Law School. They are fraternity brothers of the Lex Talionis Fraternitas, which Reyes co-established with now fellow Supreme Court Justice Jose Mendoza.
Presidents traditionally take their oath of office before the Chief Justice but outgoing President Simeon Benigno Aquino III also broke the tradition in 2010 when he took his oath of office before then Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales in protest against what he believed was the midnight appointment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
But Aquino kept the tradition of being inaugurated at the vast Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park contrary to Rizal Ceremonial Hall, the largest room in the Palace where special state events are held. It can accommodate only 500 guests.
The Duterte camp said 627 individuals were on the guest list, which included diplomats, incoming Cabinet secretaries, leaders of Congress and the judiciary. Duterte’s family members, his first wife Elizabeth Zimmerland and their children, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Davao City Vice-mayor Paolo Duterte and Sebastian Duterte. Avancena also witnessed the historic event. Only the four children of Duterte went up the stage when he took his oath.
Prior to the oath-taking, Duterte had a brief meeting with Aquino at the President’s Hall Sala.
Duterte then accompanied Aquino to the Malacanang Palace grounds where he was afforded departure honors with the traditional 21-gun salute. Also with them were outgoing Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and incoming Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Aquino arrived at the Palace at 10 a.m. while Duterte came minutes later. He signed the Malacanang Guest Book, signifying he was the last person on Aquino’s guest list.
Duterte was considered the “last visitor” of the Aquino at the Palace during his six-year term which ended 12 noontime of June 30.
A reception line for the members of the diplomatic corps led by the papal nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto was also held at the President’s Hall Sala.
At 2:20 p.m., Duterte, who was raring to get to work, had his first Cabinet meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room.
Among those who witnessed Duterte’s inauguration were members of Congress led by outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Duterte’s PDP-Laban President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
Also present were Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s defeated running mate in the May 9 elections and Sen. Bongbong Marcos, his close friend, and former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada.
Unlike the inauguration of Aquino, her predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, declared Aquino’s inauguration a holiday.
After the swearing-in, simple food and beverages were served to the guests in accordance with the Chief Executive’s order for a modest ceremony.
Lisette Marques, member of the inaugural committee, said the menu consisted of monggo guisado in cups, lumpia, pandesal with kesong puti and beef longganisa. For dessert: durian tartlets and fried bananas. They were also served with dalandan and pine-mango juice.
Earlier at 9 am, Robredo, a lawyer, took her oath before Ronaldo Coner, barangay chairman of Punta Tarawal – the poorest, smallest and farthest village in Camarines Sur. The inauguration was held at the so-called “Boracay Mansion” now called Quezon City Reception Hall in New Manila, Quezon City.
Robredo, who recounted her journey to the Presidency, was accompanied by her daughters Jessica Marie, Janine Patricia and Jillian Therese.
“This is a dream come true for someone like me who held consultation meetings on train tracks, sleep on boats and ride single-motor version of tricycles called habal-habal to reach those we need to serve,” said the 51-year old former Camarines Sur congresswoman thrust into politics after the death of her husband, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, in a plane crash in August 2012.
She noted that her journey is not just about her, but an opportunity to bring those at the fringes of society to prosperity. She promised to continue her “tsinelas” (slippers) brand of leadership in her first 100 days in office.
A day before Robredo’s oath-taking, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, her closest rival in the May 9 elections, filed an election protest before the Supreme Court seeking for the ouster of Robredo. The latter won by a slim margin of votes.
Through his lawyer George Garcia, Marcos noted, “The votes presumptively obtained by Robredo during the last elections are products of electoral frauds, anomalies and irregularities. Meanwhile, the (Marcos) votes were significantly reduced, manipulated and altered to make it appear that he only placed second during the last elections.”
Marcos vowed to continue the fight until the truth behind the reports of massive electoral fraud was made public.
Robredo welcomed Marcos’ protest, saying this would give her the opportunity to answer the charges.