Annus Horribilis – a horrible year. A bloody year. This is how Duterte’s first year in office can be defined. Daily, the newspapers and TV are filled with images of those killed in the streets, urban poor communities, prisons and those in the bombed out city in Marawi and in some NPA base areas.
The War on Drugs has resulted in over 10,000 deaths perpetrated by death squads – in uniform and out of uniform. Even those that surrendered in the Tokhang campaign were not spared by the death squads. There has been no investigation even as these cases have been re-named DUI (deaths under investigation).
The Armed Conflict between NPA and Govt’ forces continue –with the peace negotiations stalled. NPA units have increased their tactical offensive in various parts of the country. This year also witnessed the emergence of ISIS-affiliated Maute group which led to the battle of Marawi and the imposition of Martial Law in the entire Mindanao.
“In 3-6 months I will end drugs, crime and corruption and I’m putting my honor on it. I will immediately resign if I am not able to do this.” This was Duterte’s promise during the campaign period. He has failed to fulfill this promise. After one year, illegal drugs continue to proliferate, drug addiction has not stopped, drug lords get off scot-free , criminality has not abated. Many of those tasked to carry out the War on Drugs are themselves involved in criminality, in drug distribution, extortion, kidnap and murder.
Corruption is still around. To ensure a supermajority politicians charged with corruption have become his allies in the senate and congress. There has been no systematic campaign against corruption in the government bureaucracy.
He promised to end “endo” – contractualization of labor-- but has failed to do so.
He failed support the confirmation of Gina Lopez as secretary of DENR whose priority to defend the environment undermined the mining industry.
What is most worrisome for this administration is the obsession on the War on Drugs. It is based on an exaggerated claim that there are 4 million addicts (1.8 million users according Dangerous Drugs Board whose chairman was fired for insisting on this figure). It is also based on a faulty assessment of the situation and problems of the country and a faulty strategy that relies on the killing of suspected addicts and pushers as the solution to the problem. The obsession on the War on Drugs leads to a neglect in addressing the other major problems facing the country such as poverty, corruption, ecological destruction, the armed conflict, and the growing terrorist threat, Peace remains elusive as Duterte failed to fulfill his promise of achieving a peace agreement with the communists.
What is also worrisome is Duterte’s autocratic style of leadership which a threat to democracy manifested not just in the declaration of Martial Law but in other moves that undermine the rule of the law such as Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK), the failure to call for a joint session of congress that will determine the validity of the factual basis for declaring Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao. I fear for our country and democracy as he consolidates and expands his autocratic rule, with a subservient legislative branch and a judiciary that is being bullied to submission. The system of check and balance has weakened. Congress has not convened a joint session as mandated by the constitution to determine on the validity of imposing Martial Law in the entire Mindanao when only Marawi City was attacked by the Maute group. He keeps talking about Martial law for the entire country and a revolutionary government as a quick solution to the country’s problems and achieve change.
Yet Duterte’s ratings in poll surveys remain good. What does this show? It could mean that many Filipinos are either blind to the reality of the situation or their consciences have become dulled that they are unable to discern right from wrong, good from evil. Many of his supporters have come to believe that there is nothing wrong with whatever he says and does: whether extrajudicial killings, cursing the bishops and priests as hypocrites and threatening to destroy the Church, or telling soldiers that he will cover them if they rape, or defending policemen engaged in EKJ, or spreading false news, threatening to behead human rights advocates. He could as well break all the commandments and he would still come out good to many. He is their Messiah, their savior. This is worrisome.
However, popularity rating is ephemeral. While Duterte’s ratings is still good, it has already gone down. Estrada was also very popular in 1999 but that did not prevent him from being ousted in 2000.
After one year Duterte has already brought serious damage and ruin to the country with his style of governance, his incompetence and brutality.
If he continues to govern like this in the next five years it will be a disaster and tragedy for our country. The bodies will pile up and could reach 70,000 by the end of his term. The democracy and rule of law would be undermined. There could be increasing terrorist attacks as the Philippines become a magnet to extremists. There are factors that can lead to economic crisis: the European Union suspension GSP + status on Philippine goods entering Europe due to human rights concern, flight of foreign capital due to unstable situation, debt servitude to China for high-interest loans to fund infra-structure projects, etc.
The situation appears to be hopeless. It seems that there is very little that can be done within the country. The possibility of people power seems to remote. We can continue speaking out but it will not make a big difference. One source of hope is the complaint or information filed in the International Criminal Court will progress and there will enough international pressure that can slow down or minimize EJK.
His state of health remains a mystery. He has been out of public view from 4-6 days several times fueling rumors or speculation that he is terminally ill. He has not been transparent about this although the public has a right to know. The question in many people’s mind: will he be able to finish his term?
In this seemingly hopeless situation, we can only rely in God’s help to deliver us from evil. While continuing to struggle against evil, there comes a time when what is left for us to do is to pray and cry out. God did not abandon his people in the past. Miracles can still happen.