POSTSCRIPT / July 3, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte rates his 2nd year as ‘fruitful’

MALACANANG announced Sunday that the second-year performance of the Duterte administration that took over on July 1, 2016, has been “fruitful.”

Needless to say, that fulsome rating of its own performance is self-serving. The people, not the Palace, are the best judge of how well/badly President Rodrigo Duterte and his executive team did their jobs.

More to the point, the President can be measured against the yardstick of his campaign promises. On that basis the citizens will be able to say if his administration has been living up to their expectation, if they are satisfied with the performance of the officials on board.

Nevertheless, like the President’s State of the Nation Address before the Congress on the fourth Monday of July, Malacañang’s claimed “fruitful” performance deserves to be heard before the usual critics and analysts scrutinize it to pieces.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque caps it for Malacañang: “I have witnessed first-hand the President’s hard work, dedication and sense of duty. Major promises have materialized because we are headed by someone who has strong political will, decisive leadership and compassion for his fellowmen.”

• Anti-drug drive tops Duterte list

NOW the salient points of the two-year review as released by Malacañang:

The administration touts as its top achievement its “winning” the war against illegal drugs, one of Duterte’s key promises during the election campaign in 2016. He said he would lick the narcotics problem in three to sixth months.

Citing data of the Philippine National Police, instead of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency that leads the drive, Malacañang said there were 91,704 anti-drug operations from July 2016 to March 20 this year, during which 123,648 suspects were arrested.

Still on numbers, the PDEA reported that 6,462 barangays have been rendered drug-free. It added that 189 drug dens and laboratories were dismantled, P13.46 billion worth of meth or shabu and P19.67 billion-worth of controlled chemicals and equipment seized.

No numbers were given as to the suspects injured or killed during anti-drug operations and in murders attributed to vigilantes.

While the administration boasts of a successful drive, contrary opinion is widespread among civic and advocacy groups as well as foreign observers that are generally critical of Duterte’s bloody campaign marked, they say, by human rights violations.

Private groups monitoring the campaign are expected to come out with their own data – as well as accounts of alleged police excesses and the government’s failure to address the problem’s social aspects — to show that the drug drive has not been as successful as claimed.

• Economy robust or faltering?

MALACANANG claimed in its report that the country has achieved “significant economic feats” in the last two years.

It cited the April 12 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority that the country’s Gross Domestic Product grew by 6.7 percent in 2017, and that the Philippines is among the fastest growing economies in Asia. An increase by 7 to 8 percent is targeted in 2018 by the Palace.

As for raising revenue, the Palace said that taxes collected in 2017 reached P2.251 trillion, which it considered as the highest tax haul in the last 10 years. As a rule, the total collection each year is higher than that in the previous year.

The Palace claimed that investors’ confidence in the country remains high. The Philippine Board of Investments recorded P195.7 billion worth of investment approvals for January to April in 2018, a 28-percent improvement on the P153.1 billion in the same period last year.

As for foreign direct investments, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data showed FDI net inflows amounted to $2.2 billion for the first quarter of 2018, a 43.5-percent increase over the $1.5 billion in Q1 last year.

Malacañang claimed that the President’s foreign trips had brought in investments that would create jobs, but gave no figures or projections to validate its optimism.

Nothing was said either of rising prices of essential goods, the weakening of the peso in relation to the US dollar, systemic disincentives to foreign investors, and the effects of unabated crime and corruption.

• Services improved in 2nd year

RECALLING the President’s campaign promises, Malacañang said one was fulfilled with the launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank, a wholly-owned savings bank subsidiary of the Land Bank catering to the needs of Filipinos working abroad.

Another one: In June a Memorandum of Agreement was signed among the Commission on Higher Education, 112 state universities and colleges, and 78 CHED-registered local universities and colleges to implement the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10331) to enable around 1.3 million students to enjoy free tuition and other fees.

Also, as promised by Duterte, farmers do not have to pay for irrigation with the signing of RA 10969 in February. The law also provided for the upgrading of irrigation systems.

Under the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program of the administration, 35 projects have been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority board chaired by the President. Only 16 of them are expected to be completed by the 2022 end of Duterte’s term.

The Department of Tourism reported that foreign visitor arrivals from January to March this year rose to 2,049,094, which is 14.80 percent higher than the 1,784,882 of the same period last year. No mention was made of questioned huge DoT expenses under audit.

President Duterte signed 93 laws enacted during the 17th Congress.  These include laws extending the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years and drivers’ licenses to five years, a measure establishing free internet access in public places, and an act increasing penalties for hospitals and medical clinics that refuse to administer proper treatment and support in emergency or serious cases.

Concluding his assessment, Roque said: “The President cannot do it alone. Let us help the Chief Executive fulfill his goal of building a nation where opportunities abound and where citizens are empowered to realize their aspirations.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 3, 2018)

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