The first 100 days of the current administration were defined by various developments and unexpected sentiments from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. With his unconventional demeanor and unpredictable behavior, the president has sparked uproar both in local and international media. The war against drugs campaign, for instance, has sparked several controversies, caused social unrest within the country, and spurred a conflict between the government and the Church.
However, the government has also had some notable achievements in the past three to four months. For instance, the current administration has been drafting reforms that aim to address different issues and challenges through the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). Among some of the objectives of the CASER include rural equality, security, industrialization, sustainability, quality social services, and environmental rehabilitation.
The government has also been keen on ending contractualization in the country. Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello expressed that the intention of the law was to ensure that the employees are regularized and companies likewise would avoid “seasonal” workers such as security personnel and janitors. Meanwhile, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines supports the government’s initiative to abolish contractualization.
The pros and cons
In an informal online survey conducted by The LaSallian, 68 percent of 50 respondents share that they are aware of initiatives that the government is taking to improve the country, such as those on agrarian reform, economic policies, education, environmental protection, and poverty. On the other hand, 32 percent mention that they are mostly aware only of the administration’s war against drugs.
Adrian Maniago (II, BSMTH) says that the current administration is promoting strong anti-crime programs and projecting the Philippines as a country that is capable of “fighting back” or “standing up” to foreign powers. He also emphasizes the improvements on the issues faced by the Aquino administration, stating that it hasn’t been a year since Duterte’s assumption in office, but there are already evident changes in the economy.
In the October 2016 Philippine Economic Update report, the World Bank disclosed that the Philippines has emerged as one of the dynamic economies in East Asia in the first half of 2016. They added that future economic implications in the country seem optimistic but entail some risks such as decrease in remittance flows, higher interest rates in the United States (US) and European Union, and vulnerability of the agricultural sector, among others. According to the report, the current administration is focusing on enhancing the inclusiveness of growth of the country.
On the other hand, local economic experts estimate a moderate increase in the country’s gross domestic product. Earlier in 2016, the government announced that the Philippines’ economy grew at seven percent in the second quarter, its highest level in three years. The growth makes the Philippines one of the fastest growing economies that have been reported so far for the second quarter.
Recently, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo stated that the country’s strong macroeconomic policies would also help cushion the impact of Duterte’s recent rhetoric, particularly on cutting military and economic ties with the US. For instance, the country has diversified its international trade by entering several free trade agreements within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Others, however, think that the president’s pursuit of an independent policy from the US may have various negative repercussions in the future.
Meanwhile, Julia Gumiran (II, BSA) shares that the anti-drugs campaign, anti-smoking, new coding scheme, and construction of bridges with China and Russia have helped strengthen the country’s overall impression on Duterte. “He’s not only into the war on drugs; he’s also done many other things,” she adds in Filipino.
An October 2016 survey by the Social Weather Stations showed that 8 in 10 Filipinos were satisfied with the government’s campaign against drugs. As of press time, approximately 3,800 people have been killed both by police operations and vigilante groups. About 1,500 of those were killed in police operations. According to the national government, the remaining number consisting of extrajudicial killings is currently under investigation, and that any perpetrator caught will be “prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
With less than half a year in office, the president is gaining acknowledgement from the country’s business sector for approaches that have built a financial surge. Multinational companies are now making new investments and the economic sector is gradually developing, given the recent trade agreements of the president with other countries.
Furthermore, the administration is looking into a shift to a federal government. In federalism, a certain area is controlled both by the national government and smaller political bodies. The national government handles issues that affect the entire country, while the smaller political bodies have the capacity to form laws and have a certain level of autonomy within the areas they control.
Within less than a year since assuming the presidency, President Duterte has already sparked a multitude of unexpected diplomatic slurs and positive developments in various sectors of the country. Although future implications are still highly uncertain, the current administration still has five years to go for the ultimate direction that the country is going to take in the coming months and years to be truly determined.