By Carlos Munda
Reporters from Reuters, the UK-based news agency, recently took the Philippines’ President-elect, Rodrigo Duterte to task for his less-than-formal fashion sense during the latter’s well-received appearance in a business forum.
In a report filed by Karen Lema and written by Martin Petty, Duterte was criticized for speaking to the “Philippines’ business elite” while wearing “the same brown, casual polo shirt” that he had already worn on previous occasions.
Duterte, who is not from the country’s traditional Manila-based power blocs, has spoken extensively throughout the campaign about the growing gap between the Philippines’ rich and poor. A situation that has led to widespread social inequality, high crime rates, and a deterioration of peace and order in the local communities.
In relating this to his administration’s economic agenda, Duterte was emphatic in saying that he “holds it as an article of faith, having the experience in Davao, that there can be no progress, no development of the local government and the community unless there is law and order.”
The duo from Reuters also questioned Duterte’s insistence on talking about crime in an economic forum. This despite the fact that the President-elect had already taken pains to explain that being a lawyer, his approach to governance – the economy included – will always be in the light his training and experience.
Joking about his difficulties with the subject even as a student, Duterte made it very clear that he never made “pretensions of being an economist.” Which is why he has put together a cabinet that he is confident can deliver the economic results that the country needs, and the Filipinos expect.
Despite the skepticism of some in the media, this belief is not shared by some of the Philippines’ business leaders. In statements made before the during the “Aim for Change” forum of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Manuel V. Pangilinan said that “The business sector will definitely work with the new government and its 10-point agenda. There’s a positive energy in working with the incoming administration.”
Also at the same forum, shipping magnate Doris Magsaysay-Ho expressed confidence in Duterte’s leadership when she said that “in Davao, his focus is to take away the pain points of everyone. So the greatest rallying point is to have very clear strategic intent. How do we build the ecosystems and the clusters that are needed to be able to roll out very competitive goods and services, not just for our consumption but to offer to the world?”
This was echoed by the venerable Washington Sycip, founder of the SGV accounting firm, when he talked about Duterte and what he has done for his city. “What he has done for Davao is wonderful in terms of integrity and policies. It’s encouraging to hear him talk about that. If he can do to the country what he has done for Davao, no one should worry. If he can do it there, why not the entire nation?”
None of them mentioned his brown shirt.