Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech before female police officers in Davao city on September 30. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech before female police officers in Davao city on September 30. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr

Verdict on Duterte’s 100-day honeymoon period

Despite the rising death toll in the war on drugs, most Philippine lawmakers have lauded Duterte for his efforts in curbing crime

October 10, 2016 5:47 PM (UTC+8)

Yvonne Grace Tapales, seven months pregnant, was asleep with her partner Mark Jones Bacaluyos in their rented home on September 22 when police arrived and shot them dead. The police report said the two had been involved in a gunfight with the officers but mortuary workers said the victims were found naked in their bed.

Francisco Santiago Jr., another drug suspect, was shot by the police on the night of September 13 in a dark Manila street. According to Santiago, as he pretended to be dead, police hurriedly left without even checking his pulse. The lucky survivor told media from his hospital bed about his own coldblooded “murder”. While police said Santiago engaged them in a shootout, he said he does not even own a gun.

Just four days before the Santiago incident, Mark Anthony Culata was found dead, his body riddled with bullets amid signs of torture. There was also a cardboard sign next to his body that said “Drug Pusher wag tularan” [Drug Pusher, do not emulate]. Culata’s mother said he was never into drugs. In fact, he was planning to go abroad to work. Closed circuit television footage showed he was last seen arrested by the police.

In late August, five-year-old Danica May Garcia was killed by a stray bullet fired by two motorcyclists at her grandfather Maximo Garcia as he was having lunch with his family, while she was preparing for school in Dagupan city. Maximo, who was suspected of peddling drugs, survived the attack, but his granddaughter was hit in the head by a bullet and died in hospital.

Hundreds of such incidents have happened since President Rodrigo Duterte began his war on drugs after taking office on June 30.

Now, as we reach the end of his first 100 days of rule, it could hardly be described as the traditional “honeymoon period”, a time when a new president is normally cut some slack as he or she adjusts to the mantle of office.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said Duterte’s first 100 days felt like 100 years because his actions and remarks have raised so many issues.

However, most lawmakers have lauded Duterte for his efforts in curbing crime. The Philippines police are engaged in an all-out war against illegal drugs and corruption in government.

Some of Duterte’s critics have praised him for showing the political will in striking at the root of problems facing the country — drug menace, rising crime and corruption.

According to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, crime rates have fallen by 31 percent from 17,105 cases in July 2015 to 11,800 in July this year. Cases of rape fell by 49 percent.

Drug laboratory

The nationwide daily average of focused crimes fell from 499 incidents in the second semester of 2015 to 256 cases during the same period this year. Daily crime trends that peaked at 353 cases last July 4 fell to just 23 on August 21. Making the streets safer was one of the promises made by Duterte during his election campaign.

The police have seized drugs worth billions and closed down a big crystal meth laboratory that could produce 100 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride, known as ice or shabu, in one day.

Aside from reducing crime rates, 10,532 workers have regularized, with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III saying the government plans a 50 percent cut in illegitimate contractualization by the end of 2016.

The following are some of the other achievements of Duterte’s government in his first 100 days:

  • Complaint hotlines centralized — 911 for emergencies and 8888 to report erring government officials and employees.
  • Indefinite ceasefire announced between the government and communist rebels.
  • Resumption of peace negotiations with communist and Moro rebels.
  • Bullet planting incidents (airport personnel allegedly planting bullets inside passengers’ luggage to frame them and extort money) stopped after Duterte threatened to remove all airport personnel indulging in such acts.
  • Salaries of uniformed personnel increased.
  • Transparency ensured in the executive department with the Executive Order on Freedom of Information.
  • The process of trimming bureaucracy has begun as part of the government’s step to encourage investors to do business in the country.

While there has been a decrease in incidents of rape, theft and robbery, murders have reached 2,000 with most of the victims killed during police operations. The police, however, defend their action saying they retaliated after the suspects attacked them.

President Duterte shocked international communities by cursing some world leaders and international organizations including UN head Ban Ki-moon, US President Barack Obama, UN rapporteurs and international human rights groups.

In a recent speech, Duterte told Obama to “go to hell.”

He also wanted US soldiers to leave southern Philippines and called for the suspension of the US-Philippines joint military exercises. Duterte said the country would eventually cut ties with the US.

The firebrand leader even dared the European Union and the US to withdraw its financial assistance to the Philippines.

“If you think it is high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it. We have a problem here trying to preserve our society … Go away and take your money somewhere else,” said Duterte.

National interest

Some sectors have lauded Duterte’s stand on an independent foreign policy.

“We used to be subservient to Western countries, particularly America and Europe. Now, for the first time, national interest is the priority,” House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said.

However, none of his statements have been translated into a policy. The Cabinet hardly seems to have discussed them. But Duterte’s communications group is scampering to clarify and correct his utterances.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said most of Duterte’s statements are “expressions of frustrations” and the public should wait for him to clarify his comments on the matter.

Amid the controversies, former Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile says it is too early to judge Duterte.

“You may not agree with his methodology but he is the only President that we have.”

“We should not be governed by this populist concept of 100 days to show a performance. He has been performing already. He has created a name in the world that no president has ever done … He has come to power like a meteor,” said Enrile.

“Let him do his job. Government has to govern, to control human condition … In the end [after his six year term], we will chastise him or idolize him,” he said.

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