Duterte held nation together, Lagman says on President’s 1st year
Editor’s Note: Starting June 25, the Inquirer will run on its print, online, and social media platforms a series of stories, reports and commentaries on the socioeconomic impact – positive and negative – that President Duterte has made in his first year in office. The articles will focus on how the former Davao City mayor has coped with the challenges of the presidency in five major areas that Filipinos consider most important in their lives: peace and order, traffic, economy, governance and foreign policy. This evaluation of the administration’s achievements and shortcomings will take into account what Mr. Duterte had promised to do during last year’s presidential campaign, his June 30 inaugural speech and his July 25 State of the Nation Address.
One of President Duterte’s outspoken critics gave a surprisingly positive review of his overall performance in his first year, saying he somehow managed to hold the country together in spite of his uncouthness and “unpresidential” ways.
In his assessment of the President’s freshman year in office, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman credited Mr. Duterte for his success in inspiring multitudes of Filipinos who believed the promise that his administration would herald change.
“Despite his unpresidential demeanor, profane language, abusive rhetoric and flawed policy statements, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his own inscrutable way, has held the nation together one year into his incumbency,” he said.
“The President has galvanized a vast majority to believe in his campaign promise that ‘change is coming’,” said the leader of the “Magnificent Seven” bloc of independent minority lawmakers at the House of Representatives.
Lagman, however, was very critical as he went into detail on the President’s specific policies, noting how he had failed to keep a number of his campaign promises, from eradicating the drug menace and ending the traffic mess to forging peace agreements with Muslim and communist groups and pursuing an independent foreign policy.
“The people still await the coming of authentic change,” he said.
Despite the brutal drug war waged by the administration, Lagman said the drug menace still had not been subdued, even as the spate of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects continued unabated.
“President Duterte undertook that within three months of his assumption to office he would eradicate the drug problem. He failed within the said period and asked for a six-month extension, which has already expired. Yet, the drug menace has not been subdued,” he said.
Lagman said Mr. Duterte “refuses to realize that the drug menace is both a health and poverty issue, not simply a police matter.”
The Bicol lawmaker said the President had similarly failed to put an end to the massive traffic congestion in urban centers.
“The traffic gridlock, particularly in Metro Manila, intensifies daily up to a point of almost standstill. Considerable man-hours, opportunities, and fuel are lost or wasted due to the traffic chaos,” he said.
As a candidate, according to Lagman, Mr. Duterte said he was going to stop the illegal practice of “endo,” or the pre-termination of an employment contract before six months.
However, “endo” has not been completely eradicated, Lagman said.
“Its perniciousness still exists. This is compounded by the rampant practice of contractualization wherein a service contractor provides workers to the end-user capitalist,” he said.
Lagman said the initial peace talks with the Communist Party and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines had been promising. “But the peace talks are now back to the drawing board,” he said.
“The projected peace accord with the Muslim separatists has not even started when martial law was declared in Marawi City and the entire Mindanao,” he said.
“The precipitate and unwarranted declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao have pushed back the peace settlement with the mainstream Muslim insurgents farther to the periphery,” Lagman said.
On diplomacy, Lagman said he found it “unbelievable” that Mr. Duterte’s concept of an “independent foreign policy” was to belittle or reject the country’s traditional diplomatic and trade partners like the United States and countries belonging to the European Union (EU), and “unquestionably tying the knot with China and Russia.”
“President Duterte’s dalliance with China is particularly worrisome. He was pathetic when he admitted helplessness when Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened to go to war if the Philippines would enforce its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
On poverty, Lagman said change had not come for millions of poor Filipino families one year after President Duterte assumed power.
He cited a Social Weather Stations survey on self-rated poverty in March showing that more Filipino families considered themselves poor compared to three months earlier.
Explore on our special anniversary site the Inquirer series of multiplatform reports and commentaries on the gains and challenges during President Duterte's first year in office. Daily content begins June 25 till July 24.
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