MANILA, Philippines – Two top Senate officials have given President Rodrigo Duterte high scores for his performance in his first year in office.
Amid controversies involving the Chief Executive, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III gave Duterte scores of 8 and 8.5 to 9, respectively.
“From 8.5 to 9, kasi alam mo naman 'yung slogan ni President Duterte, 'Change.' Ang dami nating naramdaman na pagbabago (because you know the slogan of President Duterte, 'Change.' We felt a lot of changes),” Pimentel said in an interview, when asked to score his PDP-Laban party mate.
Pimentel said Duterte kept his campaign promise of change. He cited the country’s “independent” foreign policy, which for some simply meant moving away from the United States and toward China and Russia. (READ: Duterte foreign policy: Independent but isolated)
“Sa foreign relations na lang, kitang-kita na ngayon na the world believes that we have an independent foreign policy. Hindi po tayo dinidiktahan ng kahit anong bansa. We determine our own course in international affairs,” Pimentel said.
(In terms of foreign relations, we can clearly see that the world believes that we have an independent foreign policy. We are not being dictated upon by any nation. We determine our own course in international affairs.)
Under Duterte, the Philippines has repeatedly slammed major Western allies, such as US, the European Union, and the United Nations, for criticizing his bloody war on drugs.
In contrast to his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, Duterte had opted for a soft approach to China and had even refused to raise with the regional giant the ruling of an arbitral court on the South Sea dispute which favored the Philippines, and China's military installations in the area.
Asked what should Duterte improve on, Pimentel said: "Wala naman, wala naman akong reklamo sa kanya. So sa Presidente po natin, keep on doing what you have been doing. 'Yung surveys nagsasabi na the people appreciate what you have been doing. Mayroong mga negative statement, pero demokrasya ito eh."
(I don't have any complaints about him. To our President, keep on doing what you have been doing. Surveys tell us that the people appreciate what you have been doing. There are negative statements, but this is a democracy.)
As for Sotto, an advocate against illegal drugs, Duterte deserves an 8 out of 10 grade for addressing the problem.
“Will rate him an 8. The former government completely disregarded the problem of illegal drugs. Now we are holding the bull by the horns,” Sotto said in a text message.
During the campaign, Duterte vowed to end criminality in 3 to 6 months but failed. In the middle of his first year, he requested for another 6-month extension, and later on said the drug problem would likely outlast his 6-year-term.
Aside from dealing with the drug problem, Sotto said the administration has also provided free irrigation for farmers and free higher education, and addressed terrorism in its first year.
“[This is] a lot more than the last 6 years regarding terror,” he added.
Administration Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito shared Sotto's sentiment, as he also lauded the President for being a "decisive leader."
"Most of the problems the government is facing right now, like drugs and terrorism, were swept under the rug during the past administration. It is good that Duterte is a very decisive leader. He made harsh but necessary decisions in dealing with terrorism and the drug menace during the recent months," Ejercito said.
Bad year for women, human rights
But for minority senators, Duterte’s first year was marked not by achievements but by dangerous policies.
Senator Leila de Lima, Duterte’s fiercest critic who is now detained on drug charges 8 months into the presidency, said the first year “has been a year of lies, flawed policies, and reckless violence.”
“What has been the President’s go-to solution? More lies just to hide the lies, the incompetence, and the bloodbath he has started. I am the red flag that he waves at the Filipino people to distract them from his broken promises and their sufferings under his rule,” De Lima said.
“One year. I can weep about my 127 days in detention, but my personal sufferings are nothing compared to what our people have suffered in one year of broken promises and misrule,” she added.
For Senator Risa Hontiveros, Duterte should be given a grade of “8,000 to 12,000,” citing the number of victims of extrajudicial killings.
“That is the number of people killed, based on the tallies of government and human rights groups, under the President’s bloody war on drugs,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
The senator also said Duterte’s first 12 months is a year of misogyny.
“The first year of the Duterte government is a dangerous year to be a woman. It is marked by a colossal human rights crisis. It is the year of misogyny and extrajudicial killings. It is a year of national grieving,” she said. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com