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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Looking back at President Duterte's five years in office

President Duterte’s five years in office

MANILA – The famous singer Helen Reddy once said “Hindsight is wonderful. It’s always very easy to second guess after the fact.”

How would one look at the five years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership?

The Philippine Press Institute’s (PPI) monthly public affairs program invited several resource persons and asked how they’d assess the performance of one of the country’s most colorful leaders based on promises months before the May 2016 elections.

Former Constitutional Commission member and COMELEC Chair Atty. Christian Monsod said it is proper to assess President Duterte’s performance according to his agenda and promises from addressing the people’s daily struggles with issues on drugs, corruption, criminality and the slow delivery of basic government services as well as the traffic problem.

“However, during his State of the Nation Address in 2017, he acknowledged he cannot solve the problem during his term,” Atty. Monsod said. There were some bright spots, with the decrease in criminality and the drug problem is no longer as deliberate as in prior years.

Atty. Monsod also credited President Duterte for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Former Gabriela Party List Rep. Emmie De Jesus credited the Chief Executive for the appointment of former street parliamentarians including Judy Taguiwalo, Lisa Maza, and Rafael Mariano to key Cabinet positions.

However, she condemned him for being a “macho-fascist” and being anti-women.

“He is the most dangerous macho-fascist in government now,” the former party list lawmaker added.

Consumer Advocate Atty. Victorio Mario Dimagiba said the BSP survey on consumer confidence on the economy for the Second Quarter of 2021 revealed it was -34%. He said the only time the government had a positive rating was during the early months of President Duterte in office.

Coming from a consumer’s point of view, Atty. Dimagiba, a former Trade and Industry undersecretary, said consumer confidence hit rock bottom with the passing of the widely criticized TRAIN Law with its questionable provisions still pending at the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

“The increase in inflation was due to the impact of the TRAIN Law’s implementation,” he added. He explained the Department of Trade and Industry’s implementation of the suggested retail price (SRP) came “at the worst time and had its great impact on inflation.”

Fr. Jerome A. Secillano, Executive Secretary of the CBCP’s Permanent Committee on Public Affairs said they look at the Duterte Administration on four spheres, Human Rights, social services, peace efforts and corruption records.

“There have been a lot of deaths, not only politicians, but ordinary people allegedly involved in illegal drugs. With the COVID-19 response, there was an abusive enforcement of quarantine rules,” he said. He also took the administration for media repression, lack of transparency and the chaotic implementation of COVID-19 programs.

Fr. Secillano said the Anti-Terror Law is considered repressive and lacks objectivity.

He said there were no closures on corruption allegations against PhilHealth, Immigration and Tourism Department which he went on to describe as “scandalous.”

“President Duterte’s campaign promise to end corruption has not been achieved,” he added.

Lawyer Dennis Gorecho said the campaign promises remained unfulfilled, particularly ending criminality, corruption and traffic.

“Landmark flaws” were also cited during the discussion, including the Heroes’ burial accorded former strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani according to former Rep. De Jesus, a former political detainee herself.

Citing several attempts over the past administrations to alter the country’s 1987 Constitution, Atty. Monsod said with six attempts, four of which were withdrawn from circulation and two others struck by the Supreme Court, and all were attempts to smokescreen plans to remain in office.

“President Duterte already abandoned his plans to shift to Federalism in 2019. The only remaining proposal is to transfer to Congress the power to limits to foreign ownership in six areas of investment, land, natural resources, public utilities, advertising, education and media,” he added.

However, Atty. Dimagiba said the government need to complete the provisions of Bayanihan 1 and 2 before proceeding to Bayanihan 3.

Atty. Gorecho expressed concern over the use of fake news as well as efforts towards historical revisionism.

“The administration is not open to criticism as they utilize troll farms against critics,” Gorecho, a human rights advocate added.

All the panelists agreed the coming political exercise in May 2022 would prove vital to the country and its people.

Atty. Monsod said in a democracy, the sovereign people are the principal and the government acts as servants.

“There is a social contract between the principal and the agents. When this social contract is not fulfilled by the government, the solution is for the sovereign people to do it themselves from the grassroots,” he said. He pointed out to the importance of the barangays and local government units.

He also credited President Duterte for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

A thorough and sustained discussion on the election process should be made at the grassroots, Fr. Secillano added.

As far as former lawmaker De Jesus is concerned, she sees the role of the community pantry in uniting people as Atty. Gorecho said the media plays an important role in fact-checking and detecting fake news.

“There is a need for a sustained education campaign on media and information literacy,” said the lawyer.

Former OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza, who sat as an active member of PPI, when asked of peace prospects, said after the Duterte Administration closed negotiations with the NDF-CPP-NPA and has declared the CPP-NPA as terrorists, “the work for peace is a work of a lifetime, and you can do it piece by piece.”

“If it cannot be done during the Duterte government, maybe the next president can pick it up,” he concluded.

What American film director Billy Wilder said is true: “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.” (Melo M. Acuña)

President Rodrigo Duterte delivering his 6th State of the Nation Address. (PCOO Photo)

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