IT’S been almost a year for PRRD after winning convincingly the 2016 elections. Derided by the losing Liberal Party and their faithful as bobotantes, the 16 million remain engaged, noisy and ready to defend their President from the virulent attacks that have been launched since Day 1.
The first 100 days shaped the administration since it deliberately focused on its campaign promise to rid the country of illegal drugs. The fact is, Duterte was able to deliver the rest of the commitments in the same period and much more: “No more ‘laglag-bala’; no red tape; EO on FOI; 40-man delegation flies to Saudi to assist OFWs; 911 emergency hotline and 8888 complaint hotline; first one-stop shop for OFW opened; stop endo, stop illegal contractualization; building of drug rehabilitation centers in every region started; DAR orders distribution of Tadeco land in Hacienda Luisita; EO to streamline developmental goals and DAR opens gates to farmers; distribution of the agricultural equipment that were purchased by the previous government but weren’t distributed for some political reason; validity of plates, licenses extended to 5 years; free wifi at Naia upgraded; combat pay increased for troops and salary increase of policemen; indefinite ceasefire between the MNLF, MILF, CPP, NDF and the government; free irrigation projects for farmers rolled out nationwide; one sack rice added to 4Ps cash assistance; faster processing of benefits claim of the family of our fallen men, etc.”
The campaign on illegal drugs suffered operational lapses and bad communication framing, from Oplan Tokhang to Oplan Double Barrel and their revisions. The PNP was framed and shaped by the noisy minority as an unprofessional organization unable to address the “exponential killings” played up in media and the seeming disregard for human rights in its operation. To be fair, PRRD halted the campaign so the PNP could readjust and recalibrate its performance. This adjustment led to the reformulation of the team tasked to pursue containment of illegal drugs manufacture and use. Today, DDB, PDEA and the AFP are involved in the planning, operation and post-operational review. There is also an effort, delayed as it is, to reconcile data and come up with the real number of deaths due to police operations and the combined operations of various agencies. Still, the bad handling and management of data has painted the Duterte administration into a corner and very little effort is made to involve the community and other civil society organizations in the process.
Why is a redefined illegal drugs campaign crucial in the Duterte administration? Because it is the anchor on which Duterte is judged as a “killer, murderer and the like”. The strength and weakness of Duterte is peace and order. It was the basis of the impeachment complaint filed against him, less than a year in office. It is also the narrative flashed across international media by design.
A year after, and 21 official visits, we have today a foreign policy framework that strictly upholds our Constitution: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.” The non-aligned foreign policy augurs well for the country since it can pursue both traditional and new partnerships defined by our national interest.
Then there is the aspirational part, ably crafted in the first year in office. Ambisyon 2040 is the continuing economic plan for the country, “matatag ,maginhawa at panatag na buhay.” And Dutertenomics, which is the President’s economic and development blueprint for the Philippines. “It includes the current administration’s main governance and fiscal policies, comprehensive big-ticket infrastructure programs and upgraded social services targeted to accelerate growth, and by 2022, transform the Philippines into a high middle-income economy.”
From domestic to international policies, Duterte has raised the ante, all in a year! A mayor without any national experience save three years as a congressman, he now deals with extremism and terrorism in his beloved Mindanao. That he had to watch the destruction of Marawi City in order to protect the country is the lowest of the low for he is both Maranao and Mindanaon. He continues to work 24/7. And when pummeled for dereliction just because he was unable to raise the flag on our 119th or do the toast with the diplomatic community, one wonders if indeed those were affronts to a nation more aggrieved by incompetence and vengeance for years.
Finally, a year in office is also the most opportune time to reflect on what has been and what can be and where do we go from here. One standout in this administration is the inability to communicate well. It has always been reactive. More traction is needed on this part for the Duterte Team. Discipline to stick to message and perform like a statesman is the other side of presidential communication that leaves much to be desired.
Duterte after a year in office is the epitome of the quote: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”