President Duterte vows to restore Filipinos' faith in government

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Change has come.

President Rodrigo Duterte took his oath as the 16th President of the Philippines at noon on Thursday, succeeding Benigno Aquino III, with a promise to restore the Filipino people’s trust in their leaders.

In a 15-minute inaugural speech, the 71-year-old President addressed what he called was a “deeper and more serious” problem than corruption, crime, and drugs – the principal issues he promised to resolve during the election campaign.

“Erosion of faith and trust in government – that is the real problem that confronts us,” he said. “I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders; the erosion of faith in our judicial system; the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier.”

Duterte asked Congress and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to allow him “a level of governance that is consistent to our mandate” – a signal to give him a free hand to address problems of ordinary Filipinos, particularly drugs and criminality.

He said his fight against drugs and criminality “will be relentless and it will be sustained” but within the bounds of the law.

He said he was aware that some quarters view his anti-crime methods as unorthodox and verge on the illegal, but assured that as a lawyer and former prosecutor “I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not.”

“My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine,” he said.

As early as December last year, the CHR said it will gather evidence on Duterte’s alleged human rights abuses, including his alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings as Mayor of Davao City for two decades.

Addressing the international community, he said his government will honor all treaties and obligations, a statement that could mollify the United States amid calls by left-wing groups to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which they say violate the Philippine constitutional ban on foreign military forces on Philippine soil.

Domestically, he said his administration is committed to implement all signed peace agreements in accordance with constitutional and legal reforms.

“I am elated by the expression of unity among our Moro brothers and leaders, and the response of everyone else to my call for peace,” he said in reference to his recent meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

“I look forward to the participation of all other stakeholders, particularly our indigenous peoples, to ensure inclusivity in the peace process,” he said.

Duterte has anticipated his next six years as the highest official of the land would not be a walk in the park.

“The ride will be rough but come and join me just the same. Together, shoulder to shoulder, let us take the first wobbly steps in this quest,” Duterte said.

Also read: What are the challenges to Duterte's plans?

His first speech as president was marked by his first spoken order as well – a directive to cut red tape to ease citizens’ dealings with various government agencies.

“I order all secretaries and heads of agencies to remove redundant requirements, and compliance with one department or agency shall be accepted as sufficient for all,” Duterte said.

He also ordered agencies to refrain from changing rules of government contracts and transactions that have already been approved.

“I abhor secrecy, instead advocate transparency in all government contracts from submission of proposals to negotiation to perfection and finally to consummation,” he said.

He even warned the agency heads: “Do them and we will work together. Do not do them we will part ... sooner than later.”

Duterte delivered his first speech before more than 600 guests – diplomats, government officials, his family members, campaign donors, and select supporters – who filled the Rizal Hall of Malacañang.

Looking uncomfortable in a formal Barong Tagalog, Duterte arrived at the Malacañang palace exactly at 10:25 a.m., earlier than expected. He climbed the main staircase of the palace and was welcomed at the top by Aquino.

He swore into office members of his Cabinet and other government officials he had appointed after taking his own oath.