Duterte’s Achievements To Benefit Generations of Filipinos, even The Critics!

NO matter how much the critics and pseudo experts demonized President Duterte, he not only continues to have the highest approval and trust rating even into the last moments of his presidency, but he also accomplished more long-wished-for dreams for our country than any other president. Admittedly there are allegations, controversies on human rights, corruption and some questionable decisions. But oppositionists trying to deny his accomplishments would be like spoiled kids saying “Basta!” against evidence-based reality.President Rodrigo Duterte with his supporters.

Everything has to be assessed on the net.

He spoke the rough language of the people which some despised, but his achievements speak louder than his words. Talking to the people on the streets validates many of the gains, which most mainstream media have not reported.

Peace is development and development is peace.

Two monumental achievements related to our nation’s security tower above anything else. The resolution of the IS-linked Marawi Crisis in eight months saved us from becoming an Iraq or Libya, collapsed states for decades with over a million dead. Duterte’s improving relations with China and Russia resulted in the delivery of emergency weapons when our soldiers were being outgunned, while the US initially blocked the arms deliveries. The momentary pacification of the South China Sea saved us from immediately becoming a Ukraine frontline, reopened access to fishermen, and allowed record investments and development. These are just two of the many tangible and generational gains due to Duterte’s independent foreign policy.

The success of Build, Build, Build activated the country’s potential and raised the development of EVERY part of the country — with employment, logistics, enterprise and retail hubs growing nationwide, not just in the traditional urban centers. Over 29,000 kilometers of roads, 5,900 bridges, 11,300 evacuation centers, 150,000 classrooms, 650 airport and seaport projects were built or are being completed. The Skyway, EDSA bus lane, new airports, PUV Modernization, upgrades of MRT and PNR, Bridges in Manila, Cebu Cordova Bridge, etc. — these will generate multiplier effects for the whole economy. These allowed the Philippines to be considered once again by overseas manufacturing investors. Social programs, i.e., free public college, free and universal basic medical care, and 146 Malasakit Centers for the poor, are creating a foundation for us to enter the new economy. Simple improvements in public service like extending the validity of driver’s license from 3 years to 10 years and passports from 5 years to 10 years to double digit decreases in crime rates, among others, are already improving the life for the majority as people even in poor communities would validate.

The highest reduction of poverty and unemployment rates ever seen in the Philippines was attained, albeit pre-pandemic. Even Inquirer reported in 2019 “Jobs hit 14-year high,” so much so that there were shortages of both wage labor and the professionals. Just ask the recruitment heads throughout the country — able Filipinos not employed were actually being choosy and turning down jobs!

The opportunities were so inclusive that reverse migration was occurring for the first time! Thousands of people were moving back to rural areas — to earn more (net) than what they would in Manila and to be where new growth areas are now being built.

Investments and other financial flows were a multiple of previous administrations, from China, Japan, South Korea, Europe to the US — strategic investments in enablers were emphasized, aside from education and health.

Beyond the physical infrastructure, the country’s digital infrastructure also improved, with even Rappler reporting the rising mobile broadband internet speeds in 2021. In addition to the third telecommunications company, after a few threats from Duterte, our traditional telecom players also improved their services, with the help of China telecom service providers like Huawei and Fiberhome, and the sharing of telco towers. SIM card interoperability was finally forced to be allowed, as well as doing away with the unreasonable two months expiration dates on prepaid load cards.

Basic earners, which covers around 99 percent of taxpayers, were exempted from paying income taxes (Train Law) while record tax collections, settlements of cases and the lowering of tax rates to be competitive with Asean (Create Act) were achieved under the Duterte administration. Record international ratings were achieved with international rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s, among others. The Philippines even reached the top 10 in terms of debt to GDP ratio, surpassing China and the US. At the same time, President Duterte increased the salaries for public teachers, nurses, police and soldiers, all before the pandemic.

Increases in tourism every year pre-pandemic were limited only by our facilities, bringing in billions of dollars more per year, and interest in new world class investments.

Environmental action v just lip service as exhibited in the rehabilitated Manila Bay, Boracay and Laguna de Bay. Local tour operators in the provinces reported that they began to clean up more seriously and implemented self-regulation for fear of Duterte coming in to put their areas on lockdown, as he did Boracay.

International pride — years of tanim bala (fraudulent planting of bullets in travelers’ bags) ended overnight when Duterte said he would make anyone caught swallow the bullets. The NAIA was removed from the list of worst airports in the world. News airports for Bohol, Cebu, Ormoc, even Bicol, actually opened. Added airport signages, processing booths, free Wi-Fi and night lights vastly improved airport operations nationwide.

Landmark bills stalled for decades were passed; the Foreign Investments equity limits in the Public Services Act and Retail Trade Liberalization Act were modernized to make our country more competitive. Child marriage was banned and age for rape was increased from 12 to 16. Laws on smoking, firecrackers made for a healthier and safer environment. The serious application of the ARTA — Anti-Red Tape Act — has steadily been improving our bureaucratic steps needed to attain permits, investigations, resolutions, etc. While hardly reported, netizens report how the 911 emergency, and 8888 complaints hotlines are responsive and helpful.

The war on drugs, corruption and pandemic shows much work in government remains… But the same critics often fail to mention that over 1.2 million drug surrenderers have returned back to normal lives, 5,600 rogue police were sacked, the chief of police was fired, and secretaries and even fraternity brothers were replaced, far more than in previous administrations. More police visibility in the streets, nationwide road clearing, more responsive barangay offices — all made the people feel the “disiplina muna” program of the government and raised the expectation for public service.

Millions of OFWs were repatriated during the pandemic. Beyond that, additional labor safeguards and protection were signed with other host countries that were used to abusing our OFWs. One-stop service centers, an OFW bank, an OFW hospital were established, and OFW and Housing now have functioning departments.

Billions was allotted and spent for military upgrade and equipment, including the much-needed upgrading of facilities in Kalayaan.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported improving economic situations among fisherfolks, including those facing the West Philippine Sea in 2018, compared to 2015. According to Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim, it was only under the Duterte government when the fisherfolk received substantial assistance. The Filipino fishermen report they are able to fish peacefully in recent years and have reported record catches.

The Duterte government also implemented many of the practical recommendations from consultations with the private sector, which IDSI officers also took part in. Pandemic policies were the product of public-private IATF consultations, and these were tiered and gradual, rather than abrupt, implementation of policies,

Pandemic comparisons — the US has almost 1 million deaths out of 350 million people (0.29 percent), Brazil 664,000 out of 200 million people (0.33 percent), while the Philippines has 60,000 deaths out of 110 million (0.05 percent). Early vaccine deliveries from China, weeks ahead of Japan and Western countries, have saved countless Filipino lives, especially frontliners and therefore their patients, and reopened the economy months early, saving trillions of pesos.

The Balangiga Bells were returned after a century of ignored demands. Additionally, tens of thousands of farmers have received their certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) under this government’s agrarian reform implementation.

Even in his last weeks of office, Duterte upgraded regional hospitals, approved mandatory benefits for medical frontliners, opened the OFW hospital, and visited the wakes of military and civilian casualties, even during danger, with empathy.

A testament to his achievements, even his opponents recognize the importance of continuing his administration’s gains. Even in Bicol Region, where the opposition leader Vice President Leni Robredo is from, actual completed projects reached record levels, unlike the selective deprivation against rivals by other presidents.

Another big contribution, he made Filipinos realize that both practical and miraculous transformations can happen, even imperfectly, in six years. While partisan groups and interfering foreign mainstream media still try to say nothing was accomplished, the above are easy to verify. The challenge now is how much of the improvements can be sustained and improved, institutionalized, even built upon further. Beyond Duterte, the role of the people in nation-building is even more important and reliable.

Also published in Manila Times. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks. (idsicenter@gmail.com)

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