Last June 30, President Rodrigo Duterte marked his second year as president. On July 23, he will deliver his third state of the nation address and detail his accomplishments. Will he also candidly detail where he has failed and what he intends to do about them in his remaining four years in office?
An informal survey I made among my circle of friends – those who support him and those who don’t – yielded mixed results. However, it is quite revealing that even his supporters put their foot down on his blasphemy against God.
“The more he and people around him try to justify his tirade, the deeper he sinks,” says a pro-Duterte businessman.
Two views on same issue
It is equally revealing that both supporters and opponents raised the same issues in measuring his success or failure. Supporters say he has succeeded in his war on drugs because addicts no longer roam the streets or commit heinous crimes.
Opponents say the campaign is a colossal failure because despite the huge death toll, which counts both guilty and innocent, the drug trade continues. No big-time drug lords have been put behind bars. Moreover, the extrajudicial killings have raised the volume of crime incidents.
The arrest of tambays (colloquial term derived from “standby” – loiterers or loafers who hang out on sidewalks often smoking or drinking in a group or just chatting) also drew opposite reactions. Supporters are happy the sidewalks are now empty of tambays, hecklers, drunkards or trouble makers, making them safe to walk even at night.
Opponents cite Genesis Argoncillo’s case as an example of a campaign gone awry. Argoncillo was at a neighborhood store when he was hauled to jail and died after being mauled by inmates. The ensuing uproar forced Duterte to backpedal and claim he did not order the arrests of tambays.
Later he changed his mind again and said as father of the nation, he has the right to have police detain tambays for their own good.
A culture of violence
The brazen killings of two mayors – Ferdinand Bote (General Tinio, Nueva Ecija) and Antonio Halili (Tanauan, Batangas) in 48 hours make people wonder if the culture of violence is now a norm.
Just weeks before, the Catholic church and churchgoers were in an uproar with the broad daylight killing of Father Richmond Nilo inside the church while about to say mass. His is the third priest murdered in six months. Is there a culture of hatred against the church or is this still part of the culture of violence we have been seeing lately? Some observers commented that it is both a culture of violence and a culture of hatred following the example of President Duterte himself.
Wish list for my country
I have only five points to raise with the Duterte administration, and I hope these will not just be reduced to wishful thinking.
1. It’s bad enough that inflation first hit a five-year high of 4.6 percent in May, then went up further to 5.2 percent last month. Then you have a National Economic and Development Authority official callously using a “hypothetical” sample household budget of P10,000 a month to show its effects. This created the impression that a family of five can live on just P10,000 a month. NEDA received a lot of flak for this, so I need not elaborate.
2. The President should sack all his PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office) undersecretaries. Communication is the most important support for the government’s image, policies and projects. The PCOO appears too lazy to learn or do even the most routine research. There has been no improvement after its numerous past boo-boos. The mistakes are worsening. The last three would make you cry because we pay these people’s salaries. Anyone who has gone to school knows that the Norwegian ambassador comes from Norway and not Norwegia. Former National Security adviser Roilo Golez had been in the news quite frequently since China’s buildups in the South China Sea two years ago. When he passed on, its unforgivable of the PCOO to misspell his name as Rogelio Golez.
More recently, it identified incumbent Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian as Winston Gatchalian. Mr. President, we don’t deserve inept public servants.
3. Restudy the second part of TRAIN Law and ameliorate the burden of the poor. The poor do not pay taxes. Neither do they benefit from increases in tax exemptions and final take-home pay. But they pay the biggest price for the increasing fuel cost and taxes on other basic needs. Inflation affects the poor most. They have very little to begin with and even that small amount can no longer be stretched due to the high cost of necessities.
4. Rescind the order to arrest tambays. Without clear guidelines, this order to get rid of loafers can be subject to much abuse.
5. Adopt an integrated, wholistic National Action Plan against drugs that will look into all aspects of this war on drugs. Look into our justice system. Our jails are overcrowded. Our criminal justice system still moves at snail’s pace. It is well and good to continue the war against drugs, crimes and now even tambays. But inmates are dying due to horrific congestion. Jails reportedly hold several times more inmates than their intended capacity. The congestion leads to problems with health, sanitation, and growing affiliation with gangs. Reforms in our criminal justice system likewise must be fast-tracked. Our former Chief Justice, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, made great strides in streamlining the process to hasten resolution of criminal cases. These reforms must be continued and in fact hastened due to the worsening conditions of our jails.
Finally, the government must look into what happens to the orphans left by those killed during these drugs raids. Unable to feed or fend for themselves, much less go to school, those tasked to take care of them end up going back to selling drugs and often using these young children as couriers to deliver the drugs. It is one thing to order the police to eradicate the drug trade but without an effective integrated plan, we end up creating bigger problems to solve the drug problem.