June 30, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte’s first year in office has its good side, bad side, and the still unknown future.

On the good side, he made headway in addressing the plight of overseas Filipino workers, especially those in situations of distress. To improve the health of Filipinos, he expanded the anti-smoking campaign for the entire country, and funded the Reproductive Health Law. On the economic front, he introduced his Dutertenomics, which laudably does not dismiss the gains achieved in the past administration, and builds on them. The massive infrastructure projects in the pipeline are worth waiting for.

On the bad side, the war on illegal drugs has claimed thousands of lives but no big fish has been brought to justice. The late dictator’s remains now lie at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite records of abuse and massive corruption. The Marawi crisis is still unresolved despite the imposition of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao. Worse, the aerial bombardment, has resulted in the displacement of thousands of families, damage of properties, and lost lives. To city dwellers, billions of pesos are still being lost to traffic jams which continue to hound the public every day. Also, more Filipinos consider themselves poor compared to the last quarter of December 2016, according to the SWS Survey. Political harassment has cut down democratic space, and dissent is not tolerated, as highlighted by the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima and the continuing vilification of all critics, especially through fake news in social media.

Of our future, the next five years is paved with uncertainty. Why? Because a number of the President’s promises in the campaign period and in his State of the Nation Address have either remained unfulfilled or have just changed deadlines. How serious is the President in addressing the Filipino people’s daily woes? When will the promised positive change be felt?

* When will the fighting end in Mindanao? When can the Marawi families return to their homes? What about the peace talks with the communist rebels and the Moro separatist groups in Mindanao?

* How does the President intend to push for the country’s claims over the West Philippine Sea?

* When will the country’s socio-economic agenda — composed of overwhelming number of project proposals with huge funding — take off?

* How does the President intend to generate and create jobs for the people? When can working people get a living income without being burdened by higher prices of commodities and services?

If mass poverty and gaping inequality still hound the nation, then no administration or President can claim success.

But it must be stressed that the future of the nation does not lie in the hands of one man but in the collective action of ordinary citizens from all walks of life.

More people must come together to help chart the course of our nation away from violence, death and poverty toward respect for human life, economic prosperity, and modernization.