First of two parts
WINNING on a campaign that promised “change,” President Rodrigo Duterte has produced a number of significant accomplishments in just 100 days in office, but his to-do list remains long.
Key accomplishments during the three-month period include the executive order on freedom of information (FOI), the intensified campaign against illegal drugs, the revival of peace talks with communist and Muslim rebels, a one-stop shop for overseas Filipino workers, and the crafting of a comprehensive tax reform plan.
Setting the tone of his governance, Duterte launched a bloody war to bring down drug dealers and narco-politicians, and rid the bureaucracy of red tape and corruption.
More than 3,300 people, however, have died in the administration’s anti-drug campaign, half of them killed by unknown assailants. The campaign has also seen over 22,000 drug suspects arrested and about 731,000 people turning themselves in to authorities.
In the process, the firebrand Duterte has earned condemnation overseas, with human rights groups claiming the President had encouraged summary killings in urging police to go tough on drug suspects and shoot those who resist arrest.
Duterte has unleashed repeated tirades against his foreign critics, among them US President Barack Obama, the US government, the United Nations, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the European Union.
Malacañang claimed Duterte has made “dramatic progress” in the campaign against illegal drugs and corruption during his first 100 days in office.
“From where we are, from what we can see, he has made dramatic progress,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. “Apparently the crackdown is making headway and the supply is being lowered, which tells us that the efforts against illegal drugs is succeeding.”
For Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, Duterte is “one of the most active presidents” as “he is doing what he promised.”
“Feeling mo tuloy ang tagal na niyang presidente. Wala pa siyang 100 days, marami na siyang nagawa. Marami na siyang nabago [You have the feeling he’s been President for a long time. He hasn’t even reached 100 days, and he’s done a lot. He has changed a lot of things],” Casiple told The Manila Times in an interview.
Casiple pointed out Duterte’s drug war was a “success not in terms of statistics but on its intended effect.”
Officials claim illegal drug supply in the country has been cut as much as by 90 percent, and crime has been reduced by 49 percent.
“Once we have peace and order, investors will come, the economy will improve, more jobs will be available, and poverty will go down,” Casiple said.
Business processes, hotlines
Duterte’s reputation of fulfilling his promises when he was mayor of Davao City has given businessmen plenty to look forward to.
George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the business community has felt improvements in the country three months into the Duterte presidency.
“We are very positive about what we’re seeing,” Barcelon said.
Donald Dee, chairman emeritus of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, said that unlike the past presidents, Duterte was “serious” in addressing the problems in the country, such as criminality.
“I have seen presidents come and go. But the 100 days that we are experiencing today, you know, has borne more fruits,” Dee said.
On reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, Abella highlighted the administration’s efforts to streamline government transactions, including the processing of permits and licenses.
“The streamlining of the business processes is already one step towards avoiding corruption,” he said.
Duterte is seeking to simplify government transactions to minimize opportunities for graft. At the Bureau of Customs, an office was created to centralize collections. The President has asked local governments to cut the time for new business registrations to two days from several weeks and automate some transactions.
Preempting Congress that has sat on the freedom of information bill for decades, Duterte signed an executive order requiring all officials of the Executive department officials to be transparent and disclose to the people information on government transactions.
The government also launched the 911 rescue and 8888 complaint hotlines, programs that were warmly received by the public.
Peace with communists, Muslims
In his first 100 days, Duterte embarked on a tour of Armed Forces of the Philippines camps to explain to the troops his efforts toward addressing decades-old rebellions waged by communists and Muslims.
“My job is to bring peace. My job is to talk to the enemies of the state, and see if I could make a difference in our lives,” Duterte had said.
Talks between the government and communist rebels began in August in Oslo, Norway, and the second round is underway. Chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd expects a deal to be done in 12 months.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza has also met with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to jumpstart efforts to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which expands the scope and powers of the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.
Duterte, meanwhile, has brought the rival Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to the mix, by promising that the group’s founder, Nur Misuari, won’t be arrested over rebellion charges.
For former National Security Council adviser Jose Almonte, what Duterte has done in his first 100 days was “ exceptional.”
He counted as Duterte’s achievements the indefinite ceasefire with the communist rebels, the continuing negotiation on the socioeconomic component of the peace process with the communists, and his talks with the MILF and MNLF.
“Why are we in this situation? We are here because we have not solved our internal problem of fighting each other … incidentally, this is what President Duterte is primarily addressing,” Almonte said.
Other significant accomplishments of the first 100 days include re-engaging China, which had lost the case filed by the Philippines before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration regarding the West Philippine Sea, following the appointment of former president Fidel Ramos as special envoy; and the approval of the increase in the combat and incentive pay of soldiers and police personnel through Executive Order 3, which took effect on September 1.