AFTER so much hesitancy, mainly due to logistical concerns, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte finally acceded to the strong clamor that he run for the presidency as majority of Filipinos were already tired and weary – and ready to give up – of the government's incompetence, corruption in high places, moral decay and criminality mainly caused by the direction of the nation submitting itself to narco-politics with the danger of destroying people's lives, particularly that of the youth.

Inching his way to the top of the surveys which affirmed the 16,601,997 votes he got in the May 9, 2016 elections compared to the ruling Liberal Party's bet Mar Roxas at second place with 9,978,175, Duterte took his oath as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016 in Malacañang.

Causing a stir – especially among the ruling class and business conglomerates including media that thrived from the time of President Corazon Aquino up to her son, Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd who was succeeded by Duterte – the probinsiyano, first-ever President from Mindanao, was hounded by criticisms for his uncouth mouth and forward delivery of verbal messages yet loved by the masses, regardless of regional affiliation.

His campaign slogan, "Tapang At Malasakit" – used by his supporters even before he officially declared his candidacy presented the long-time Davao City mayor as one with much courage and empathy to the Filipino people.

In October 2017, five months after the Marawi siege, and on the 16th month of the Duterte presidency, current Davao City mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio launched the Tapang At Malasakit Alliance for the Philippines, aimed to rally Filipinos behind his reform agenda, as well as counter destablization moves against the President.

The Manila Times columnist Ricardo Saludo wrote on Oct. 27, 2017: "Oligarchic families, drug lords and narco-politicians, graft networks in government, ambitious, power-hungry leaders, and dominant global powers – they all want to block the revolution in integrity, inclusiveness, independence, security, and law and order which Filipinos have long sought and for which they elected Duterte. Even if these oppressive forces are held at bay or even driven into retreat under his administration, they will be back with a vengeance when his rule ends in mid-2022 or sooner, if he steps down after his envisioned federal system is established."

In essence, according to Saludo, the alliance has to mobilize key sectors and segments of the nation to be troops on the ground helping drive major thrusts of Duterte's rule.

"Top of the list, of course, is the war on drugs. T&M must work with state agencies, local governments, communities, religious, youth, and other sectors, to organize rehabilitation programs for drug users, as well as drug prevention campaigns among the most susceptible groups, like youth and night-shift workers."

Besides the drug menace, insurgency and corruption, the other bane which President Duterte has in his reform sights was elitist oppression – where a lot of Filipinos have been pointing that Imperial Manila was the reason why progress and development could never reach the grassroots level, particularly in Mindanao.

Final year as Chief Executive

Today marks President Duterte's fifth year in office – 1826 days to be exact – since he assumed his post as the country's Chief Executive. Same date next year, he will turn over the reins of government to the new leader chosen by the Filipino electorate.

Had not the Covid-19 pandemic happened, the Philippines was well on its way as one of the strongest and most dynamic economies in the world, outperforming the East Asia region, as reported by the World Bank (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/10/03/philippine-economic-update-october-2016-outperforming-the-region-and-managing-the-transition).

In its April 2019 report, World Bank pointed "the country's economic growth is projected to reach 6.4 percent in 2019 and slightly edge up to 6.5 percent in 2020 and 2021 (https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/224501570715185892/philippines-economic-update-resuming-public-investment-fast-tracking-implementation).

With lockdowns and multiple community quarantine classifications, the key findings of the Philippines Economic Update (PEU) released on Dec. 8, 2020 by the World Bank stated, "The multiple shocks that hit the Philippines – the Covid-19 health crisis, economic activities across the country frozen by quarantine measures, devastating typhoons in November, and the global recession – will likely shrink the economy by 8.1 percent in 2020, temporarily reversing gains made in poverty reduction in recent years. Sustained improvements in managing the pandemic and a possible rebound in the global economy, however, can help the country recover in 2021 and 2022 (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/12/08/philippines-while-battling-the-pandemic-strengthening-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management-needed-to-aid-recovery).

In its latest PEU update on June 8, 2021, the international financial institution that provides loans and grants to low- and middle-income countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects, made its forecast: "Weighed down by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Philippine economy is forecast to grow at 4.7 percent this year before accelerating to 5.9 percent in 2022 and 6.0 percent in 2023."

"The global economic rebound especially among the country's trading partners, will boost exports and increase remittances, strengthening recovery in the Philippines. The country can take advantage of this development by ramping up vaccination and improving overall pandemic response to control infection rates and boost consumer and business confidence," said Ndiame Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. (See https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/06/08/philippines-ramping-up-vaccination-improving-pandemic-response-can-strengthen-recovery)

The Duterte Administration is doing well in both the economic front and in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus disease. The high recoveries and low percentage of deaths are more important figures than the total number of infections, as it shows that Filipino medical experts, with the firm resolve of the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), are at par with the best in the world.

In March, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved US$500 million in funding to support the Philippine government's program to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, strengthen the country's health systems, and overcome the impact of the pandemic.

As of June 27, about 10,065,414 total vaccine doses have been administered throughout the country – with 7,538,128 individuals getting their first dose and 2,527,286 receiving their second dose.

The country has rolled out five brands – Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sputnik V and Moderna – and also approved Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm and Covaxin to include the younger population with a target to inoculate at least 70 million out of its 108 million population to usher herd immunity.

Even with 30 million orders going to India focusing its vaccine supplies for its own population, the government may still reach its goal of 50 million Filipinos fully vaccinated by the end of the year and the inoculation target by the time Pres. Duterte leaves Malacañang on June 30, 2022.

Well-entrenched exploitative rich cornered in fight against corruption

For more than 30 years, the Philippine Airlines (PAL) owned by Lucio Tan, never paid its navigational charges to the government.

In 2017, with strong will and more-than-enough courage, Duterte demanded that the flag carrier settle its arrears in 10 days. After negotiations and figures reconciled and verified, the initial P7.3 billion assessed by the Department of Transportation (DoTR) narrowed to the final amount of P6 billion and was paid before the deadline.

In the early days of the pandemic, Duterte said he already set aside his differences with PAL as he thanked Tan for bringing in repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) through the flag carrier.

The Rufino-Prieto family, owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, perceived as attack platform against Duterte since the campaign period, finally moved out of the 2.9-hectare Mile Long property in Makati City after almost 40 years of occupation as its cash cow under an onerous lease agreement with the Marcos government under Sunvar Realty Development Corporation.

Owned by the National Power Corporation, the lease agreement in layers of hideous provisions, Duterte bombarded the clan with insults as being squatters and tax evaders, and finally submitting to the order of the Makati City Regional Trial Court to vacate the property.

Carried by most media entities, except the Inquirer, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that the government leased the property to Sunvar on Feb. 28, 1982 with the agreement expiring on Dec. 31, 2002 but the Rufino-Prieto clan continued to occupy it the last 14 years, illegally using and occupying Mile Long despite notices and continued to remain in possession and collect millions of rentals from tenants.

In February 2020, the Department of Finance (DoF) reported that the property brought a net income of P205.76 million from August 2017 to January 2020 to the government, based on collections of P262.68 million.

Also in 2017, DoF made history by collecting from cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corporation a total of P30 billion – the biggest sum on record raised from a tax settlement, which was the result of a heightened joint campaign by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BoC) against tax fraud. Mighty sold its assets to Japan Tobacco Inc. (JTI) to pay off its liabilities.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said that every month for the first three months since JTI took over, collections averaged P2.5 billion a month in "sin" tax.

The biggest issue concerning exploitative rich is the Lopezes, owners of media giant ABS-CBN, when Congress did not approve its application for franchise renewal.

Handed back to them on a silver platter, so to speak, by Pres. Corazon Aquino on her ascent to Malacañang when Marcos and family fled to Hawaii during the People Power Revolution in 1986, the Lopezes were found out to have worked on layers of schemes to hide real earnings, thus defrauding the government of taxes – besides its biased reporting and non-airing of paid political advertisement as pointed out by then presidential candidate Duterte.

A conglomerate much bigger than rival GMA Network, figures showed it paid only P421 million in taxes in 2017 whereas the "Kapuso" network paid more than P1 billion; and in 2018, GMA paid P928 million as against ABS-CBN with just P84 million.

Even with an exoneration from a BIR official, perceived as beneficiary of the amount that should have gone to government coffers, the general public (except Kapamilya diehards of the entertainment it gives) believed that the Lopez-owned media company cheated the government big-time.

In January, Duterte said companies with unpaid taxes, including ABS-CBN Corporation, will not be allowed to get a franchise until they settle their liabilities. He added that granting franchise to them is like rewarding them for defrauding the government.

"For all I care, you can have a thousand franchises [but] you will not see the light of day there until you come to the government with clean hands," he said.

He expounded without naming ABS-CBN, "you are occupying 44,000 square meters but you submitted a map that shows only four hectares."

The network sits on a property previously occupied by Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), owned by the government.