By Frances Damazo
The first 100 days of the Duterte administration can be perfectly summed up in one word --- colorful. Indeed, it has been a whirlwind and a roller coaster ride with the tough-talking President earning our country international coverage over a myriad of issues.
Why are the first 100 days important? Because it sets the policy tone and it determines the priorities of the new administration. For the longest time, the first 100 days serves as a benchmark of governance. As Duterte neared this mark, a survey from the Social Weather Station reveals that the administration has a net satisfaction rating of +64. This was classified as “very good.” According to the survey, 76% of Filipinos are satisfied with his current performance while 11 % are dissatisfied, and 13% remain undecided as the first quarter closes.
Perhaps the survey is a reflection of the general feeling of the populace. Perhaps not. The survey can be said to be inconclusive as it was only conducted with a sample of 1,200 adults nationwide—not necessarily a good sample size for representation.
Regardless, his style is unorthodox. It can never be denied that this administration veers away from the style of its predecessor—from the people he put in office, the policies he implemented, up to the manner of speaking in public.
Duterte has made a commitment with the people through his 10 point socio-economic agenda—an important tool in assessing his performance in his first three months in office:
o Continue and maintain current macroeconomic policies, including fiscal, monetary, and trade policies. Duterte declared the policies to be sound.
o Institute progressive tax reform and more effective tax collection, indexing taxes to inflation. Congress currently working on tax reforms.
o Increase competitiveness and the ease of doing business. The President has declared his intention of cutting red tape in the bureaucracy.
o Accelerate annual infrastructure spending to account for 5% of GDP, with Public-Private Partnerships playing a key role. To be determined in the 2017 national budget.
o Ensure security of land tenure to encourage investments, and address bottlenecks in land management and titling agencies.
o Invest in human capital development, including health and education systems, and match skills and training.
o Promote science, technology, and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity.
o Improve social protection programs, including the government's Conditional Cash Transfer program.
o Strengthen implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.
His signing of an Executive Order ensuring Freedom of Information in the Executive Branch, as well as the establishment of an anti-corruption help line are some of the efforts to curb corruption in the bureaucracy. Efforts to help Overseas Filipino Workers—like having a one stop shop for OFW requirements—are also causes of merit. In addition, peace talks are ongoing with communists and other Muslim groups. However, as presented, not much of the 10 point agenda have been fulfilled as it was obviously eclipsed by the government’s fixation on drugs.
The first three months presented us with some serious matters which we cannot just sweep under the carpet. Duterte, in keeping with the narrative he has built last election season, has proudly waged his war on drugs and criminality. The bloody consequences have been staggering. It is worth noting that the President vowed to end crime, drugs, and corruption within the first three to six months. However, as he realized that it is nearly impossible to "end" these within such short period, he vowed to "suppress" them. Based on PNP data, over 3,600 people have been killed during the all-out campaign against illegal drugs - both from legitimate operations and alleged vigilante-style killings.
This has raised the alarm of human rights watchdogs across the globe. Duterte’s justifications, and criticisms of the international community whenever he is questioned on the violence and the rise of extra-judicial killings in the country were worrisome. While the war on drugs is laudable, it also raises questions about human rights and the means by which this all-out war is being carried out.
Duterte’s colorful language has also impacted the country’s foreign relations, particularly that of the United States, European Union, and United Nations. Clearly, diplomacy is something that this administration needs to work on. It does not help that his communications group is not as solid as it should be—having so many men speak out on behalf of him. The fact that Duterte is pushing for an independent foreign policy, antagonizing allies along the way, and with no concrete measure for this is also troublesome.
Gutter language is not the problem per se. In fact, this is all part of his narrative but gutter language does not necessarily translate to better communication. We cannot merely rely on interpretations from his spokesperson because, if it isn’t that obvious, anything that comes out of the President’s mouth is a policy statement. The Presidency requires a certain metamorphosis—one that the President has acknowledged and promised before. As much as one wants to change the Presidency, the Presidency requires you to change, to step up to fulfill bigger responsibilities. Statements accompany accountability.
The first 100 days are crucial but the next five and a half years more so. This nation’s problems are complex and the President needs to have a better understanding of the nuances, especially in important issues.
The essence of democracy is for citizens to become watchdogs. In the same manner, the essence of democracy is for people to have the right to express differing opinions. There have been hits and misses with the current administration but we should always remain vigilant and continue hoping and working on genuine and meaningful change.