AT noon today, Rodrigo Roa Duterte took his solemn oath as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines at the very seat of his office, something that has been done only once before.
President Duterte brought along with him many firsts – the first mayor to jump over to the presidency; the first to come from Mindanao; the first septuagenarian to be elected president; the first to dictate the conversation and narrative in a presidential electoral campaign and to harness the social and digital media as platforms for his messages.
His 14 minute and 47 second speech was pointed, crisp and concise – short by his standards.
But the president reiterated everything he had said during the campaign period.
Now that he is the president, he appealed even to the harshest of his critics to allow him a “level of governance” because the fight against crime and corruption “will be relentless and will be sustained.”
To the constitutional bodies and opposition in government, he called on them to mind their own business, as he would his.
The president, however, assured that he knows the limits of the power and authority of his office and vowed to be uncompromising in his adherence to rule of law and due process.
Known for his strong-handed approach to criminality and little tolerance of corruption, President Duterte was swept into the presidency with the biggest margin of votes in the history of post-Edsa presidential elections.
The first 100 days of his presidency will help define if he can stay on track in his quest to reduce crime and corruption to negligible levels and prove that absence of them will lead to greater prosperity and more inclusivity for the people of the Philippines.
More urgently, he has sworn to make food on the table affordable and available for all Filipinos and, at the same time, bring just and lasting peace to the troubled lands in the countryside.
President Duterte has set the bar high for himself.
He has already shown his willingness to depart from the established order that he bravely and successfully challenged.
He placed trust and confidence in friends and acquaintances who are outsiders of the traditional power and social blocs.
He dared and challenged the media, known for its adversarial and critical role, perhaps expecting that his kind of governance will not sit well with those he has displaced and likely will marginalize the way the rest of the country was deprived by his predecessors.
Yet he knows he will need the popular support of a large section of the society to implement his reform agenda, foremost of which is a shift to a federal form of government.
In the next 100 days, he will have to consolidate his power base as he moves to fulfill his campaign promises.
President Duterte cannot, as he has been repeatedly saying in private, afford to fail the Filipino people – the 16 million who voted for him and the millions more who are expecting him to make a difference.