One year after
Editor’s Note: Starting June 25, the Inquirer will run on its print, online, and social media platforms a series of stories, reports and commentaries on the socioeconomic impact – positive and negative – that President Duterte has made in his first year in office. The articles will focus on how the former Davao City mayor has coped with the challenges of the presidency in five major areas that Filipinos consider most important in their lives: peace and order, traffic, economy, governance and foreign policy. This evaluation of the administration’s achievements and shortcomings will take into account what Mr. Duterte had promised to do during last year’s presidential campaign, his June 30 inaugural speech and his July 25 State of the Nation Address.
Captivated by the slogan “Change is coming,” the Filipino people trooped to the polls more than a year ago to elect a uniquely populist president by the name of Rodrigo Duterte. Undaunted in speaking his mind, Candidate Duterte captured the imagination and liking of a nation sorely in need of political continuity.
What lies in between promise and practice is legitimacy. Looking back, after garnering 40 percent of the votes, the credibility of the automated election gave the Duterte administration a clear and categorical mandate. That he continues to enjoy historic popularity one year since is a testament to the successful conduct of the 2016 polls.
A historic 93 percent of surveyed respondents from a Pulse Asia survey in July 2016 believed that the election was orderly and relatively free from confusion — a continuation of an upward trend from 92 percent in June 2013 and 86 percent in April 2013. A convincing majority—89 percent — described the exercise as credible. Other metrics, including perceptions of occurrence of vote-buying, cheating, and violence, all dropped, while 92 percent agreed that the release of the election results was fast.
At the onset, Mr. Duterte set the right tone in his first address to the nation — by emphatically tackling a whole gamut of issues that need to be addressed, and departing from the traditional bashing of past administrations. He tackled issues such as law and order, economic reforms, human capital development and investment, reforms in the police and the military, sector-specific concerns, responsive public services, and other issues such as mining, contractualization and foreign policy.
In a nutshell, Mr. Duterte’s concept of radical change consists of reestablishing law and order, achieving inclusive growth and development, and restructuring the form of government.
Though riddled with controversies, his much-vaunted war on drugs is the anchor of reestablishing law and order. With thousands of casualties, it has caught not only national attention but the attention of the international community as well. A dilemma between procedures and outcomes, the method has rendered the streets much safer than before.
With regard to peace negotiations, only the talks with the National Democratic Front have thus far reached some level of “understanding,” reaching the fourth round. The fifth round has been stalled, but back-channel negotiations are ongoing.
The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 holds a unique promise to spread development and make growth inclusive. By enhancing the social fabric, implementing inequality-reducing transformation, and increasing potential growth, the Duterte administration aims to promote efficient governance, agricultural development, social protection and human capital formation. Infused in the plan is the new Investment Priorities Plan that puts importance to, among others, the sectors involving agriculture, forestry and fishery, and micro, small and medium enterprises via fiscal and nonfiscal incentives.
Historically, the poorest of the poor can be found in the economic sectors engaged in farming, fishing and forestry. If implemented efficiently, initiatives targeted toward the development of these sectors would translate to millions of Filipino lives lifted from poverty.
Much-needed political economic reforms, in particular the hybrid federal system proposed by the ruling PDP-Laban, warrants positive attention. Accordingly, the rationale behind the institution of a federal government lies in the characteristic features of Philippine society where there is “a lopsided development; poverty, inequality and instability; and multi-cultural composition.” Further, such restructuring is accompanied by other necessary institutional reforms.
In addition, a daily concern of the population and the economy as well is traffic congestion in urban areas. While it is obviously a complex problem that cannot be resolved easily, concrete programs and infrastructure projects need to be undertaken soon.
Even so, President Duterte’s popularity could easily dissipate if things are not done as he has promised. Much is at stake in his second year in office. It is time to speak less and act more.
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Dindo Manhit is president of Stratbase ADR Institute.
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Explore on our special anniversary site the Inquirer series of multiplatform reports and commentaries on the gains and challenges during President Duterte's first year in office. Daily content begins June 25 till July 24.
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