"What lies ahead for all of us?"
On Dec. 31, 2019, a few days from today, a decade—the second decade of the 21st century—will come to an end.
When that time comes, we can exclaim, like the British do when their monarch passes away “The King (or Queen) is dead. Long live the King (or Queen).”
Ten years is a long time in a nation's life, and as in the last ten years, many things, good and bad, felicitous and sorrowful, will happen to this country during the next decade.
The decade that is about to end has passed all or part of the terms of office of three President of the Philippines. At the dawning of Jan. 1, 2010, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the 15th President was the occupant of Malacañang. Six months later, on July 1, 2010, Benigno Aquino III succeeded President Arroyo in the wake of an election that was decided mainly by the outpouring of sympathy for Mr. Aquino over the then-recent passing of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino. And six years after, July 1, 2010. Rodrigo Duterte, the former mayor of Davao City, took his oath of office as the 16th President of the Philippines.
So much has happened, so much water has flowed under the bridge, during the last ten years. So much will happen and so much water will flow under the bridge between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2029.
The 21st century’s second decade was a very lively time in Philippine politics. It arrived close to the start of the campaigning for the 2010 President election, which saw the Liberal Party's Benigno Aquino III against former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada of the PMP (Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino). Noynoy Aquino was declared the winner, although there was a widespread feeling that Erap Estrada would have won were it not for the Cory Aquino factor.
Benigno Aquino III ran a generally uninspiring, lackluster administration. But by postwar governance standards, it was comparatively corruption-free, and the Aquino administration did a fairly good of managing the public finances. In external relations, the only new trail that is blazed was the filing with the The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration of this country's complaint against China's extravagant claim over the waters of the South China Sea.
To be sure, the Noynoy Aquino years were not without their shortcomings and blunders. Mr. Aquino and his lieutenants in the Executive Department and in Congress were charged with violating the Constitution and defying the Supreme Court with its pork-barrel—like DAP (Development Assistance Fund) initiative. The critics’ charge was that the DAP releases to legislators were made as rewards for support in the effort to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona from office. And then, of course, there was the infamous Mamasapano incident, which resulted in the inexplicable death of 44 SAF (Special Action Force) troopers; there is no way that Mr. Aquino can be totally blameless for the incident.
Against almost all odds, Rodrigo Duterte beat four opponents—including Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe—in the May 2016 Presidential election:
The first half of the former major's six-year term has been anything but stable and tension-free. President Duterte proceeded to deliver on the more controversial of his campaign promises, namely a three-month termination of the illegal-drugs problem and a foreign-policy shift away from the U.S. And the European Union and toward China and Russia.
Most discerning observers are in agreement that these two Duterte policies—the war on illegal drugs and the foreign policy shift—will largely account for Mr. Duterte's Presidential legacy. Most of the 6,000 Filipinos who have died under the campaign did so at the hands of the PNP (Philippine National Police). According to foreign monitors the number is more than 20,000. They are mostly poor.
Meanwhile, the pivot toward China has resulted in the non-implementation of the Philippines' landmark victory in the South China Sea case.
As the 21st century's third decade looms over the horizon, President Duterte sits in Malacañang. What future lies for this country in the remainder of Mr. Duterte's term? And, beyond that, in the time between July 1, 2022 and Dec. 31, 2029?
Whether the future will be good or bad, progressive or retrogressive, will to a large extent depend on the kind of president and other top national officials that the people of this country will elect in the May 2022 elections.