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IT WAS a publicity nightmare for the handlers of President Rodrigo Duterte the past month, especially for five days last week.

First, and while he was on official visit to Russian (which could be the first for any Philippine president), Muslim radicals led by the Maute group attacked Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province in an apparent attempt to establish a caliphate in the country similar in design and purpose as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Then he had to declare martial law for the entire island of Mindanao.

Of course, the attack and subsequent counter moves of the Philippine armed forces were not the issues which had his political spinners had to worry about. It was the declaration which gave them their first taste of the nightmare to come. Martial law has the same rank as a cuss word in the Philippines with the 1970’s experience still a lingering reminder of just how hated the term is. So it is no surprise that those opposed to the presidency of Digong (as the President is more popularly known) pounced on it as soon as the words left his mouth.

Matters did not become any better when media discovered that the government already knew of the attack weeks before Maute entered the now beleaguered city and its top brass did not do anything to stop or at least forestall the violence that would come. And then of course, the Supreme Court petitions questioning the constitutionality of the declaration. The petitions were mincing words, for sure, but these in a way contributed to the headaches the publicity team experienced.

Then all of a sudden, Digong was nowhere to be seen. It was as if a magic act came to its climax which the President the participant to a disappearing performance. For five straight days he was neither here nor there and no one, not even his closest confidants able to tell the nation whether he was still alive or dead.

At a time when his leadership was most needed, he was gone.

But all the apprehension, and political mileage made by the political opposition, vanished just as easily as the President’s disappearance when, and a day or two after Duterte’s reappearance, news came that of an OFW has been acquitted of the murder charges leveled against her. When the news hit the streets that Dubai OFW Jennifer Dalquez was cleared of the charges, the nation raved with gladness. At last, a Pinay has been saved from the death she was promised by the law!

Dalquez’s victory was also Digong’s victory! It has been a long while since such a news has lifted the spirits of Filipinos in the Philippines and in other parts of the globe. It has always been the reverse which the Filipino has been accustomed to these past decades that such an event as Dalquez’s acquittal has raised the morale of Filipinos.

Of course, the spin doctors would quickly attach this victory to Digong. And well they should! It is after all during Duterte’s presidency that such an event occurred. It was through his leadership that Dalquez’s case was given proper attention by our government. And that is reason enough for the acquittal to be made part of Duterte’s personal triumph. Him and his team, particularly the Philippine Consular Office in Dubai and the Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The efforts of those directly involved in case all the way up to the President should be thanked for this life now spared. If it were not for their tireless efforts, then Dalquez would have been another statistic in the annals of the Philippines.

We thank and praise all those who had a hand in this acquittal, and especially the President who had the political strength to follow this case through to this very welcome development. Kudos to all!

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