Roughly a month before the end of his term, President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency continued to amaze the Filipino people.
Despite the economic difficulty faced by the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is on an economic growth trajectory. It was recently reported that the Philippine economy grew by 8.3 percent in the first quarter of 2022. This is indeed a promising development amid the eventual change of administration from a Duterte to Marcos presidency.
The newly elected presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr is thus far expected to continue to build on the successes of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Speaking of legacies and successes, the Duterte administration has done much to provide a comfortable and peaceful life to Filipinos.
President Duterte shepherded the “Golden Age of Infrastructure” of the Philippines through his “Build Build Build (BBB) Program” by building and upgrading railways, trains, subways, highways, roads, new ports and airports, bridges, and building classrooms for students.
This is important because the lack of infrastructure development in the Philippines has long been pointed out to be the “weakest link” in the overall economic development of the country.
The delivery, completion, and continuity of the “BBB” program of the Duterte administration will not only drive the economic recovery of the country amid the pandemic and in the post-pandemic era but will to some degree, enhance, improve and further develop land, air, sea, and inter-island connectivity and mobility.
This will also facilitate balanced development and, to a greater extent, diffuse economic activities and development from the country’s urban centres towards rural areas or the countryside. The transport-related infrastructure projects will not only ease traffic and road congestion in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other traditional urban areas like Metro Davao and Metro Cebu but will also facilitate transporting people and goods from one place/island to another.
Infrastructure projects and modernisation under the BBB program, in the long run, would not only sustain, accelerate, and achieve the desired economic growth but, most importantly, will improve the Philippines’ global competitiveness.
Another legacy of the Duterte administration is the changes and policy reforms introduced both in the economic sphere and Philippine bureaucracy, such as the reduction of red tape; the digital transformation of public agencies; implementation of a National ID system through the Philippine Identification System Act (PhilSys); and a rationalised corporate income tax (CIT) and fiscal incentives policy through the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law.
The Duterte administration was able to hurdle the passage of necessary economic and legislative measures like the “Ease of Doing Business Act,” the passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Law or popularly known as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, the enactment of amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA), Public Service Act (PSA) and Foreign Investments Act (FIA) to further liberalise and modernise the economy.
The Duterte administration’s contributions to the labour sector include the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers, a One-Stop Service Center for OFWs, the Overseas Filipino Bank (OFW Bank), OFW e-Card, the first Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Hospital, located in the City of San Fernando, the increase in combat and incentive pay of soldiers and police personnel through Executive Order 3 which took effect on 1 September, 2016, the waiving of government fees and charges for first-time job seekers, the prohibition on illegal labour subcontracting which resulted in the regularisation of hundreds of thousands of workers, the establishment of work from home arrangements, the two-fold increase in the salaries of police officers, soldiers, jail officers, and firefighters while raising the wages of government employees through the continued and sustained implementation of Executive Orders Nos 76 and 201 (Modifying the Salary Schedule for Civilian Government Personnel and Authorizing the Grant of Additional Benefits for the Civilian, Military and Uniformed Personnel), the expansion of existing social development programs that also benefit the labour force, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, assistance extended to our labour sector “Ayuda” through the likes of SBWS (small business wage subsidy) and Tulong Panghanap-Buhay sa ating disadvantaged/displaced workers (TUPAD) and many other forms of “Ayuda” for workers.
In terms of social welfare, the Duterte administration will be remembered for the Malasakit (Care) Centers all over the country. The Malasakit Center is a chain of one-stop-shop centres for various Philippine government agencies’ medical and financial assistance for indigent Filipinos.
President Duterte and his administration will also be known for the passage of Republic Act No. 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” a landmark law that allows deserving Filipinos to enrol in any state university and college in the country free of charge. This law benefits millions of young Filipinos who now have free access and opportunities to pursue a tertiary education.
Another landmark law passed under the Duterte administration is the Universal Health Care Law. From 2019 to 2021, more than 109 million Filipinos were covered by the country’s Universal Healthcare.
The Duterte administration will also be known for the passage of the Magna Carta of the Poor Law, the massive distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries, and the passage of the Free Irrigation Act.
President Duterte can also be considered a “housing king” among all Philippine presidents since 1975. According to the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, during his presidency, over a million houses have been built. This is unprecedented.
President Duterte will be known for his strong political will on environmental issues and concerns. Duterte was very decisive in closing the globally renowned Boracay for rehabilitation, jump-starting efforts to clean Manila Bay and Laguna Lake, and forcing Canada to take back its illegal garbage.
Duterte also made significant progressive changes in the area of peace and security. He was instrumental in the revival of the stalled peace process with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the More Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Under his administration, the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in July 2018 was made possible and a success. This was followed by the successful conduct of a referendum that established the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), replacing ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao).
The Duterte Presidency in many ways, gained relative successes and traction in curbing the longest-running communist insurgency in the world, the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New Peoples’ Army or the CPP-NDF-NPA, which has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States (US), the European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, through the implementation of Executive Order (EO) No. 70, s. 2018, adopting the whole-of-nation approach against an insurgency that created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) providing an effective alternative to the intermittent peace talks the CPP-NDF-NPA has taken advantage of over the years.
The NTF-ELCAC, as a development-centred initiative, promotes welfare programs such as the delivery of housing, education, social protection, health, and essential services to victimised communities of the CPP-NPA and rebel returnees. It refocuses the government policy on armed conflicts as a military concern and primarily a manifestation of broad and deep-rooted societal ills.
In foreign policy, Duterte was successful in the historic return of the “Balangiga Bells” from the US. He also changed the country’s foreign policy by re-orienting the Philippines’ diplomatic relations to more friendly relations with countries like China and Russia against the more antagonistic relationship toward China under the previous administration.
His independent foreign policy of being a friend to all and enemy to none has benefited the country economically, security-wise, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Duterte administration is not perfect, one will appreciate the many changes and developments contributed to the betterment of the country and its people despite the mounting challenge of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte will be remembered for his “Malasakit” (Care), which refers to his government programs to enhance the social fabric of Philippine society to regain peoples’ trust in public institutions and to cultivate trust among Filipinos. This entails making public institutions citizen-centred, efficient, and clean.
Most importantly, President Rodrigo Duterte will be remembered for his “Tapang” or “bravery” and for his strong political will that has led to the successful implementation of his administration’s various programs, projects, and services in the country and even in the fight against corruption, illegal drugs, lawless elements, terrorism, and threats of the CCP-NPA.
The Marcos presidency – the next incoming administration – will face some challenges. One of the many crucial challenges awaiting the country’s incoming president includes the apparent threats of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second is the mounting challenge of putting the country back on the path of economic recovery sustainably and consistently alongside responding effectively and efficiently to other socio-economic and political challenges and issues that the country is faced with, like curbing corruption, addressing the relatively high unemployment, and underemployment rates, giving more incentives to small and medium enterprises which are the backbone of the Philippine economy, and even the mounting task of introducing substantial reforms and changes in the political system/structure of the country.
Many Filipinos are clamouring for constitutional change/reform, more explicitly changing the political form of government from presidential to parliament and even changing the country’s political system from a unitary state to a federal one.
On the other hand, Filipinos want the next administration to build on the poverty alleviation efforts of the Duterte administration, which lifted around six million Filipinos before the pandemic hit the country.
In the matter of fighting local insurgency, eliminating the illegal drug problem of the country, and the terroristic acts of the CPP-NPA, Filipinos want a leader who will seriously build on the successes of the current administration and continue the fight against illegal drugs and the “communist” insurgency until peace and development in the countryside are achieved.
In terms of foreign policy, the next president will also face a mounting challenge of how to position the country and navigate through the challenging and changing geopolitical arrangements, structures, and realities in the Asia Pacific region and beyond while securing and preserving its national core interests and ensuring as well that it has good, friendly, and peaceful relations and cooperation with powerful countries like China, the US, Russia, and others.
Given the country’s many challenges, Filipinos must support the incoming administration under the leadership of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr and vice-president-elect Sara Duterte-Carpio. The country should unite and rally behind a Marcos-Duterte-Carpio administration to ensure continuity and a prosperous, more developed Philippines.
Source: The ASEAN Post