Duterte ‘held nation together’ but missed campaign vows – Lagman
MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman gave a surprisingly positive overall assessment of the President’s first year in office despite being the latter’s staunchest critic in the House.
“Despite his unpresidential demeanor, profane language, abusive rhetoric, and flawed policy statements, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his own inscrutable way, has held the nation together one year into his incumbency,” said Lagman.
But he immediately pointed out that Duterte had failed to fulfill several of his campaign promises that earned him his 16 million votes.
The opposition lawmaker was more critical as he listed seven areas where Duterte has been performing poorly:
- The country’s drug menace
- Urban traffic problem
- Ending contractualization
- Forging peace agreements rebel groups
- Implementation of a 10-point socioeconomic agenda
- Pursuit of an independent foreign policy
- Poverty alleviation
According to Lagman, Duterte failed to meet one of his more popular promises: To address the drug menace in 3 to 6 months. The President himself asked for a 6-month extension to his personal deadline, but Lagman said Duterte still failed to solve the drug problem during this period.
“He refuses to realize that the drug menace is both a health and poverty issue, not simply a police matter. He has relentlessly embarked on a deadly campaign against drug users and traffickers. This violent policy has dismally failed in other countries like Thailand, Columbia, and Mexico,” said Lagman. (READ: Drug addiction is a health problem. Somebody please tell the President.)
Duterte’s bloody war against drugs has led to the deaths of about 7,000 drug suspects in both legitimate police operations and apparent summary killings nationwide.
This has sparked both local and international criticism against the President for disregarding human rights all in the name of the war on drugs. (READ: Human rights in Duterte's 1st year: Where do we go from here?)
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, another opposition lawmaker, gave the Duterte presidency a grade of 4. He considers the drug war as the “most glaring misstep” of the President so far.
According to Baguilat, Duterte “seemed too preoccupied with the drug issue” that he may have forgotten his other campaign vows.
“One year of course is not enough to assess an administration’s achievement versus promises. But on the basis of his mantra that change is coming, the change has not been encouraging,” Baguilat said.
On traffic, peace talks, and endo
According to Lagman, the urban traffic problem remains an issue in the country, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency saying the country loses P2.4 billion daily due to the traffic mess.
The lawmaker was also disappointed the peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines are back to the drawing board.
“The projected peace accord with the Muslim separatists has not even started when martial law was declared in Marawi City and the entire Mindanao,” he said.
“The precipitate and unwarranted declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao have pushed back the peace settlement with the mainstream Muslim insurgents farther to the periphery,” added Lagman, who is among the petitioners urging the Supreme Court to nullify Duterte’s Proclamation Number 216.
As for Duterte’s promise to end “endo” or labor contractualization, Lagman said the issue’s “perniciousness still exists.” (READ: Nearly 50,000 workers regularized during Duterte’s first year)
The lawmaker mentioned Department Order Number 174, series of 2017, “merely intensified its regulation by requiring independent service contractors to have adequate capital and the wherewithal of production like machines, tools, and equipment."
Economic development, addressing poverty
In terms of socio-economic development, Lagman said the Duterte administration’s performance was “not bad.”
“While the GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate slid from 7.1% in the 3rd quarter of 2016 to 6.6% in the 4th quarter and to 6.4% in the 1st quarter of 2017, the figures are still respectable or at least tolerable,” said Lagman.
Still, the lawmaker remained a critic of Duterte’s first batch of tax reform proposals, which was approved on 3rd and final reading by the House in May.
“While the low-income earners will not benefit from the reduction of the income tax rate because they are already tax-exempt, they will suffer the cascading effects of the increased excise tax on petroleum products as the prices of basic goods and services will become more expensive, including transport and mass housing,” said Lagman.
Meanwhile, the lawmaker said millions of Filipino families remain poor based on the March 2017 Social Weather Stations survey on self-rated poverty.
A total of 50% of the respondents or equal to about 11.5 million families rated themselves as poor – an increase from 44% or 10 million families in a December 2016 survey.
“No administration can claim success if mass poverty persists or even aggravates,” said Lagman.
Pivot to China, Russia
Lagman also hit the President for his concept of an “independent foreign policy” that has seen the country pivot toward China and Russia.
“President Duterte’s dalliance with China is particularly worrisome. He was pathetic when he admitted helplessness when Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened to go to war if the Philippines would enforce its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea,” said Lagman.
For the lawmaker, Duterte’s acceptance of China’s promises of aid and investments appears to be in exchange of not enforcing The Hague ruling in favor of the Philippines on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) maritime dispute.
“Sacrificing Philippine sovereignty for contingent aid and investment from an expansionist and militarist China is definitely not a measure of an independent foreign policy,” said Lagman.
Read the full copy of Lagman’s assessment of Duterte’s first year as President below: