Duterte’s 100 days: Hitting the ground running or killing?



First read
Since “the first hundred days” became a criterion for rating a new presidency, the practical program for every new administration is to “hit the ground running.”

Political scientist James P. Pfiffner says that presidents must hit the ground running after they take the oath of office because:

• First, they want to take advantage of the mandate of the voters and a honeymoon period with Congress;

• Second, they need to get off the mark quickly with their program. Early victories may provide momentum for further gains. This desire to move fast is driven by the awareness that power is fleeting;

• And third, the transition period provides a narrow window of opportunity that will not occur again. It is a time of opportunity and change. The President’s popular approval is high; Congress is open to new leadership; and tough choices that will alienate some have not yet been made.

President Fidel Valdez Ramos (FVR) took the counsel to heart upon induction to office in June 1992. He burst out from the gate running. He had no time to waste. A country crippled by blackouts and brownouts literally awaited his program to dispel the darkness.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has striven to get off the mark just as quickly. But it has been a battle between running and killing these past three months, as the President fixated on killing some three million Filipino drug suspects as his primary objective.

Roosevelt’s first hundred days
The practice of rating a President on the basis of his first one hundred days in office originated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR).

When FDR was sworn in during the Great Depression in 1933, some wondered if the American nation would survive. The stock market had collapsed, banks had failed, unemployment had reached 25 percent, confidence was shattered.

In the face of all this, Roosevelt embraced optimism, called for action, and rallied the spirit of the American people.

He called Congress to a special emergency session and promised to recommend “the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.” The special session lasted three months and people referred to it as the “hundred days.”

Those hundred days produced an unprecedented number of important legislation: 15 major bills that greatly expanded the size of government through the creation of, among other things, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect bank accounts, the Public Works Administration to provide jobs and the National Recovery Administration to regulate industry, and stimulate the economy. Social security would follow later.

Since then, incoming Presidents have been judged, perhaps unfairly, by the arbitrary benchmark of the first hundred days.

An editorial and policy statement
As if to help in evaluating the first hundred days of President Duterte, two first-time events took place this week.

1. The New York Times, after contenting itself initially with routine reports from Manila, published on October 4 its first editorial on President Duterte and his impact on his country and the international community. It entitled the editorial: “President Duterte, the Wild Card in US-Filipino Relations.”

2. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. issued his first full- bodied statement on Philippine foreign policy under Duterte, and explained why it signals a veering away or even breakup with Washington. He entitled his statement, “America has failed us.”

Tunnel vision of the drug menace
The thrust of the NYT editorial and the Yasay statement suggests that Duterte’s first hundred days were pretty much consumed by the effort to comprehend and manage Philippine relations with the US, as it relates to both security and foreign policy.

As NYT commented “Hardly a day goes by that President Rodrigo Duterte fails to come up with some new way to poison the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.”

But the truth is that President Duterte has been even more obsessed with another priority – stopping the drug menace.

As if in parody of the counsel “to hit the ground running,” the President has hit the ground killing as many as possible of his estimated 3 million drug users and pushers in the country.

He has put the administration on the clock of wiping out to the last man or woman all 3 million within the first six months of his presidency.

Worse than being on the clock, the administration has straitjacketed itself in a “drug-related” vision of the nation.

In leadership studies, it is consistently prescribed that there is one thing that every leader must possess: a guiding purpose and an overarching vision.

Instead of a vision of the future from Duterte, what we have gotten is a tunnel vision consisting of drugs, drugs and drugs.

Many friends and colleagues of mine have been forced to conclude that:

1. President Duterte believes that the biggest problem of the Philippines is illegal drugs.

2. Although 3 million drug users are less than 3 percent of our entire population, he believes they will engulf all of us.

3. Although law and order is just one of the main tasks of government, he considers it supreme over other tasks like the maintenance of national security, the conquest of mass poverty, the education and health of our millions, and growth of the economy.

Needed: Emotional sobriety
I rate the first hundred days of President Duterte as only fair because of this substitution of a tunnel vision for the reality of our national life.

His otherwise commendable program of change is warped by a distortion of reality, and rendered bizarre by a murderous goal.

Ingrid Mathieu, a doctor of philosophy and psychotherapist, says that vision can become tunnel vision when a person lacks or loses “emotional sobriety.”

Having a vision, she says, is a powerful tool, but sometimes our vision for ourselves subtly turns into tunnel vision. We can’t see anything that contradicts our intentions and desires. We get selective perception, which limits our ability to remain open and to see things clearly. Instead of being present to our reality, we put the blinders on and barrel ahead toward our hopes and dreams.

Moving out of the tunnel is about finding clarity, even if it feels terrifying. Reality begets more reality. We have to face what is actually going on instead of living in a fantasy. We must pursue the life we are envisioning, but we must start from where we actually are.



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  1. These supporters of Duterte should help their president as well.

    Right now the US is still sending aid money, the UN sends aid money, in fact there are lots of countries that send money to the Philippines that total around 3 billion dollars.

    The US is thinking that it’s just Duterte and his appointed clowns that want to break ties with the western allies, remove democracy and ally with China.

    There are 16 million people who voted for Duterte or is it 90% of the Philippines that support him that his supporters claim.
    These people want a end to democracy, they want a new constitution that removes peoples rights to life, rights to due process in a court of law before being executed.

    They want the right to kill anyone they want and the rest of the world has to respect their right to violate the rights of others.”

    Help the President, take the streets and support Duterte’s goal of killing 3 million citizens, Show the western countries that the aid money they send is not wanted, Let the world know that you forgive China taking your islands and mountains and that you are sorry for filing a case against them.

    Maybe China will donate 3 billion dollars in gratitude.

    Stop electing devils and wondering why you’re still living in hell

  2. The 100 days of President DU30 was not really impressive but horrific. I could not imagine how President Du30 would entertain himself by the 100 days of killing 3,000+ poor people who were victims and innocents, users and sellers of the illegal drug due to poverty, or other circumstances redeemable, though. The 100 days of killing was not a good performance of a leader, besides he is a president in charged to more than a drug problem.

  3. I am an American who lives in SE Asia, not the Philippines) I have become sick of Duturte’s foul uneducated mouth. If this is the person you want to lead your country that is of course your choice, a stupid choice, but your choice. He embarrasses all of Philippine’s people. Most American’s do not care who the Philippines align themselves with. If it feels better getting in bed with 2 of the most authoritarian dictatorial countries in the world (Russia & China) please do so . “Birds of a feather flock together”. It may help Duturte feel better as he plays the role of Hitler and death camps. Many Phillipino’s love the USA and I feel sorry for them. Six years of Duturte will change the Philippines irrevocably. The EU and Canada, Australia, and the USA may not welcome you back after Duturte is gone.

    • Why Mr. America, how many have you killed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Cubao, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Philippines, to name a few? That would make Hitler a small time killer rather than a mass murderer…

  4. It seems that almost everyone is focused on the first 100 days of a new President. It is not like a 100 meters sprint wherein the runners step on the gas pedal flat out. I think what will matter most is the last 100 days of the President.

  5. you say you rate the first 100 days as fair.may i inquire if your base of study includes each individual cabinet secretaries,can you provide data of goals set by each cabinet if certain goals are met? instead of reporting your own own assesment,may we the readers simply do the math,you see the polls have spoken with 92pct approval of this administration more or less, thats pretty much says it all,

  6. Duterte main objective is to stop drugs. It is indeed a tunnel vision on his part but his cabinet members are also doing their jobs but we just do not hear or see their accomplishments. I think the main objective must be to solve the poverty problem which affects at least 30 million poor Pilipinos. Pnoy Aquino failed to solve this problem. He was successful in the macro economic part but the tricle down effect was not felt by the poor families. If Duterte is not careful, our economy will be affected negatively. There are already signs like steady devaluation of the peso and stock market valuation going down in the first 100 days. He might be winning in the drug problem but he is loosing in creating a good economy.Basic prices will soon go up.

  7. Here is the problem, what tunnel? and which vision of tunnel are we talking about? Sure, it is just yours. Once again you have this feelings that you can’t change Mr Duterte and so frustrated of the way he is. But why is it that the majority does not feel this way – specially those who put their hopes on him and one can say that it is tragic on your sight that he became a President.

    All these analysis of 100 days… blasting Duterte from all sides and aspects of what he says and does is so important to you? Do you want him ousted or impeached? What is the bottomline of all these negative articles that you are writing as a journalist? Don’t you feel safe for your kids and yourself? Don’t you see any hope for other Filipinos? What is your agenda? Are you paid to do this? I mean, out of principle and taking yourself out of the whole picture? Think of that impoverish person who wants to get out of being poor – think of the others who wanted peace and order? Think of that person who has been robbed by a drug addict – those who suffer from those unresolved crimes of rape and death. Where is your stand on this?

    Why worry about Duterte’s foul mouth and that image from foreign countries? It is none of their business. Try worrying about the future of your kids and future grand children… yes your family.

    If you have a better tunnel vision and you can feel you can help Mr Duterte why don’t you bring some flashlights on the other side of the tunnel- so you can help him see clearly. Bring with you your sharpest pen and get all those fingers ready in making a PROPOSAL to make the Philippines a better country – not just write about it.

  8. Fair is fair no matter how you put it. But the most important is how you articulate our problem, the way President DU30 does for our country. The depth are insurmountable and the pain to address the problem on drugs, criminality
    and corruption can be inbox to one when he says “He is ready to die just to save the next generation.”
    Clearly the President sincerity is heartfelt among those who dream change for a better Philippines and if the President can produce results in his limited resources and capacity, he surely leave a legacy of greatness to an inspired nation.
    When you commit a War it does not recognized poor or rich when you enter the battle the only measure is wining or losing….and in the other front of the battle Ongpin is the first casualty to fall….

    • What surprises me is the huge drug problem that was not even discuss in the last administration. The problem touches Generals, politicians and 92 percent of the barangays. Wow, that is what Americans call EPIDEMIC.