MANILA, Philippines — “It’s been a great four years.”
This was how presidential spokesperson Harry Roque described the first four years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term.
“Meron po tayong pagsubok pero dahil meron tayong very sound fundamentals makakaahon din po tayo sa pagsubok ng COVID-19,” he added.
(We face challenges but since we have very strong fundamentals, we will be able to bounce back from the hardships of COVID-19.)
According to Roque, the Philippines has one of the most promising economies “in the whole world” before the pandemic hits.
“We averaged 6.5 percent growth annually in the past four years, inflation is under control, interest rates were low. We had a record credit rating attesting to the fact na naniniwala po ang mga nagpapautang na tama ang ating mga ginagawang polisiya [creditors believe that our policies are right]. So it was actually a great performance as far as the economy is concerned,” Roque said.
Forecasts suggest that due to the worldwide downturn brought by the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines will plunge into a recession for the first time in over two decades.
In the first quarter of the year, the country’s economy logged a gross domestic product growth rate of -0.2 percent – the first in 22 years that the economy shrank.
Duterte’s leadership was marred by many controversies with the most superior being his brutal war on drugs, which has drawn fierce local and international condemnation.
But Roque said Duterte’s consistent approval rating shows the public support on the drug war that has killed thousands of drug suspects since 2016.
“As far as approval (rating) of the President is concerned, hindi po bumababa ‘yan sa 80 porsyento so approve po ang taumbayan sa mga ginagawa ng Presidente. Kasama na din po diyan ‘yung kampanya sa pinagbabawal na droga,” he said.
(As far as approval rating of the President is concerned, that does not drop to 80 percent so the people approve of what the President is doing. That includes the drug campaign.)
“Unfortunately, tinamaan po tayo ng pandemiya pero sang-ayon po sa mga survey din talagang overwhelming majority ng ating mga kababayan suportado naman po ang mga aksyon na ginawa ng Presidente,” he added.
(Unfortunately, we have been hit by the pandemic but according to surveys, the overwhelming majority of our people support the President’s actions.)
Government data claimed that over 6,000 have been killed in police anti-drug operations since Duterte launched his brutal war on drugs in 2016. But human rights advocates estimate that the figure could reach at least 20,000, including vigilante-style killings.
A report by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in June has found “near impunity” in the Philippine government’s handling of drug war killings.
It pointed out that since its inception, there had only been one instance – the case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos – where authorities were convicted for the killing of a drug suspect in a police operation.
The International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary examination of the crimes against humanity complaint against Duterte’s drug war.