Duterte on his first 50 days: ‘I’m trying my very best’

Pia Ranada
Duterte on his first 50 days: ‘I’m trying my very best’

Toto Lozano

President Rodrigo Duterte believes his administration is on track to fulfill his promise to suppress crime and drugs in 6 months

MANILA, Philippines – August 18, 2016 is President Rodrigo Duterte’s 50th day in power. How does he assess his own performance so far?

Ako (me), I would just say, I’m trying my very best, period. I do not claim any great success, maybe failures here and there,” said Duterte during a press conference on Wednesday, August 17, before his flight to Davao City.

The Duterte administration’s most visible efforts have been its war against illegal drugs, which, as of August 15, has led to 5,632 police operations, 8,623 drug suspects arrested, and 612 fatalities, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The PNP also said the crime rate during Duterte’s first month is around 10% lower than the crime rate in July last year.

Suppressing drugs and crime within 6 months was Duterte’s most famous campaign promise in the May 2016 elections.

Does Duterte think he is on track to meet this deadline?

“Well, I would say nandito ako (I’m still here), because if not, I would not be standing here before you,” he said.

In Duterte’s own estimation, he is doing the job he was elected by some 16 million voters to do.

“I would make the assessment na ginagawa ko lahat ng trabaho ko (I am doing my job) because I am paid for it…I am paid and I work,” he said.

Duterte, who ran on an anti-drugs and anti-corruption campaign, said his heavily criticized efforts are his attempts to fulfill his promises.

“I got elected and I give to the people what they want. They want a drug-free government? Makukuha nila (They will get it) – drug-free, graft-free,” he told reporters.

Milestones, controversies under Duterte

Among the major efforts of the Duterte administration so far are his controversial naming of personalities suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade.

His Freedom of Information Executive Order also made headlines even as it has been criticized by some camps as lacking teeth.

Despite his suspension of the government’s truce with communists, peace talks between his administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines are set to begin on August 22 in Norway.

The Mindanao peace process has also resumed in Malaysia with another round of talks slated to happen on August 30.

His administration also counts as an achievement the opening of a one-stop service center for overseas Filipino workers and the launch of the 911 national emergency hotline and 8888 citizen complaints number. 

After the Aquino administration delivered victory for the Philippines in a historic case over the West Philippine Sea dispute with China, Duterte has taken steps to begin bilateral talks with China though it is still not clear how he plans to use the Hague ruling.

Upon his orders, several mining firms have been suspended following an audit spearheaded by Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

With the President’s support, lawmakers are taking initial steps to pave the way for the country’s possible shift to federalism, a form of government Duterte believes will empower local governments and spread development throughout the country.

The accomplishments in Duterte’s first 50 days will be featured in a special documentary by the Presidential Communications Office. The video will be screened on Thursday, August 18, at Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City.

But Duterte’s first 50 days have also not been without controversy.

The first major rally of his presidency was in protest of his plan to have a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

His war on drugs has earned criticism from international bodies like the United Nations, countries like the United States, lawmakers, and human rights groups.

The Senate is set to look into the spate of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug personalities seen to be linked to Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.

Duterte began his days as president with a record-high trust rating of 91%. Time will tell how his popularity will fare throughout his presidency. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.