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Unfulfilled promises

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Unfulfilled promises

/ 05:18 AM November 10, 2017

The results of a recent survey of Social Weather Stations showed that only 34 percent of Filipinos expect President Duterte to “fulfill most, if not all, of his promises.” This number represents a 17-point decline from its March survey where 53 percent expressed optimism about his promises.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the drop in the rating shows a wearing down of the euphoria after the President’s election and that the people had become more realistic on what the government could deliver. He capped his comment with the statement that this had been the trend in previous administrations.

By making that comparison, Roque may be subliminally sending the message that Mr. Duterte, like his predecessors, will not be able to deliver on his campaign promises and so the public should not
expect too much from him.

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After one year and four months, some of the promises that motivated many of our people to vote Mr. Duterte to power seem to have been forgotten or are at risk at not being fulfilled. The most significant of these is his promise to solve the problem of illegal drugs within six months—a commitment that set him apart from the other presidential candidates and led to his victory.

When his self-imposed deadline lapsed and the problem was nowhere near any solution, Mr. Duterte asked for an additional six months. Later, he admitted that the war on drugs cannot be won within a year and has to be waged for the rest of his term.

Mr. Duterte’s campaign promises also include the immediate solution of the horrendous traffic situation in Metro Manila and other urban centers, the improvement of the Philippines’ archaic tax system, and the change in the form of government to a federal system.

Unfortunately, although his political allies control both chambers of Congress, the laws that would grant him emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis and reform the tax system remain stuck in the legislative mill.

Since the laws needed to address those problems are still a big question mark, we just have to endure more hours stuck on the road and the administration has to look for money elsewhere to meet the funding requirements of its much ballyhooed “golden era of infrastructure.”

And with the way things are moving now on the political front, there is a strong possibility that the proposed conversion of the government to a federal system may not come to fruition during the Duterte
administration.

The shift in government form is not going to be a walk in the park. It’s a radical change with numerous political and social ramifications that the existing political dynasties and forces would fight for or against to protect their vested interests.

In fact, the first step alone toward that objective—amending the Constitution through congressional action—is expected to be very contentious and, unless the President personally cracks the whip on his political allies, may take at least two years to accomplish.

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With the looming impeachment and trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the legislative calendar may not have sufficient room to accommodate discussions on the shift to the federal system of government and the President’s other campaign promises.

If either chamber of Congress were controlled by the opposition, it would be easy for the administration’s rah-rah boys to say that the inability of the President to live up to his campaign promises is attributable to the fault or obstructionist policies of the other party.

Neither can the “yellows” or politicians identified with the preceding administration be blamed for that failure because the latter’s political party is already a shadow of its old self, most of its members having made a beeline to join the administration party.

From all indications, many of the promises made in the last presidential election are, to paraphrase Roque’s statement, bound to follow the trend in past administrations—meaning they are bound to be broken. And the political cycle will remain unchanged.

Raul J. Palabrica (rpalabrica@inquirer.com.ph) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: President Duterte, promises, Social Weather Stations, Spokesperson Harry Roque
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