Philippines: Duterte’s first 100 days


Greater than the sum of our fears

After a hundred days in office the Duterte administration needs to present a more coherent, consistent and comprehensive strategy to governing the country for the next six years. How and whether it intends to address the root causes of criminality and drug use has been somehow lost in the primacy given to condoning violence and the bloodlust which has been mistaken for justice.

The war on drugs has proven a failure in every single country that has embarked on it. But countries that framed the menace of drugs as a public health issue has seen dependency and usage rates go down. We urge the Duterte administration to consider harm reduction strategies, focusing on grassroots-based preventive and rehabilitative interventions, as Akbayan is doing, to promote peace and security in our communities.

If the Duterte administration truly wants to bring growth closer to the poor, then it should institutionalize the people-centric and empowering programs on Bottom-Up Budgeting and Pantawid, instead of dismantling them in favor of bloated intelligence funds which are not subject to COA auditing.

If the Duterte administration is truly invested in our sovereignty then it would assert and defend the UNCLOS Tribunal decision, and craft an independent foreign policy which does not bend over for China nor zigs and zags with America. Let our foreign policy be our own path, and not dictated by mood swings and temper tantrums.

If the Duterte administration is convinced of the soundness and correctness of its policies and actions, it should persuade its loyalists such as Justice Secretary Aguirre to desist from their persecution of human rights defenders such as Sen. De Lima. Stick to evidence, if any, and not sexist, misogynist attacks on her personhood.

The president should lead the way in putting a stop to the misinformation being peddled against his critics, and recognize that scrutiny of his words and action constitute the right to free speech. His words lumping oppositionists together with coddler of drug lords/terrorists invites violence. His reckless and dismissive treatment of criticism is ruining the country, not human rights.

If the Duterte administration is serious about protecting the interests of workers, it should champion Akbayan’s security of tenure bill into law, and not allow its DOLE to play around with the definition of contractualization and endo in order to chalk it up as an accomplishment.

If Duterte is intent on healing and unifying the country then he should abandon plans to bury Marcos as a hero.

If the Duterte administration has a plan to solve the worsening traffic, invite public scrutiny and feedback, not spend its energy on lobbying for nebulous emergency powers that could mean shortcuts and possible abuse. Without clearly defined parameters and timetable, such powers can be capricious and whimsical. Share the road, invest in clean energy, provide in-city, on-site relocation housing to at-risk informal settlers, and systematically reform and overhaul the public transport system so that our roads become paths for less cars, and more bikes, pedestrians, public transport and bring the working class closer to, not farther from, their places of economic activity.

If the Duterte administration is intent on protecting the vulnerable sectors, then it should scrap plans to increase VAT rates and remove VAT exemptions for senior citizens. It should take its anti-corruption rhetoric to the doorstep of corporate evaders, even if some of these turn out to be supporters.

If the Duterte administration believes rural development is key to dismantling the dominance of urban Manila, then it should look at the lifting of quantitative restrictions on rice imports that would compromise our drive for food security and put our farmers at a disadvantage from subsidized rice from other countries. Pursue the conclusion of agrarian reform, and invest in beneficiaries to become self-reliant, economically competitive farmers, not fodder for manipulation by NPAs.

If the Duterte administration is intent on pursuing peace, then it must be firm in its resolve that peace settlements will never ignore the laying down of weapons. President Duterte’s drive for peace with communists and various Moro rebel groups is laudable. However, it should involve a multi-stakeholder approach and all groups regardless of persuasion.

Beyond the gaffes and drama, the first 100 days of the Duterte administration has been marked by a yearning to define the change it promised, and a sense of outrage that this change has only cost our country thousands of irretrievable lives.

Impunity is the cost of indifference, and our country is more than just the sum of our fears. After a hundred days of Duterte in office, Akbayan believes that all of us, including the President, can do better than this.


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