"Let's examine some of the claims."
A few weeks ago, a full-page advertisement titled “List of Accomplishments of the Duterte Administration” appeared in at least one major newspaper. The time frame for the advertisement was the Duterte administration’s four and a half years in office, from July 2016 to December 2020. In the advertisement the Duterte administration laid claim to five accomplishments. Let us examine some of them.
One of the claims was the approval of legislation providing for social amelioration payments to Filipinos whose economic situation had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, namely, those who had lost income and those whose businesses had been forced to close by the pandemic. There is now near-agreement that the SAP distributed under BAHO (Bayanihan Acts to Heal as One) I and II were inadequate for the purpose for which they were enacted. All too soon the payments, made in two tranches, were gone, 18 million families remained distressed and the Philippines economy has continued to languish in recession. Unlike most of East Asia’s countries, the Philippines did not go all-out to provide financial relief to citizens placed in distress by the pandemic. As a result, the SAP program cannot seriously be claimed by the Duterte administration as a major accomplishment.
Getting congressional approval for one tax measure is an accomplishment; getting the legislature to approve a four-part tax program is a major accomplishment. Although the measures forming part of its tax program - there have fanciful acronyms like TRABAHO and CITIRA - the Duterte administration should be commended, and given credit, for trying to accomplish a comprehensive job of tax reform. Much refinement work needs to be done: for instance, the Duterte administration’s tax reformers need to do more rigorous work on the criteria for determining entitlement to fiscal incentives. Also, they will need to take another, harder look at the tax exemptions granted by their tax reformers. They should not be stopping Tax Code erosion with one hand and fostering it with the other.
A major accomplishment claimed by the Duterte administration in its newspaper advertisement was the passage by Congress of the Rice Tariffication Act. The Duterte administration should not claim as an accomplishment - let alone a major accomplishment - the approval of that piece of legislation. A rice tariffication measure was a no-brainer the Philippine government had no choice but to replace the quota on rice imports with a tariff if it was to be non-violative of WTO (World Trade Organization) rules.
The biggest of the major accomplishments claimed by the Duterte administration was its other centerpiece program - Build, Build, Build. The Duterte administration’s infrastructure program - much vaunted by candidate Rodrigo Duterte during the 2016 electoral campaign - has completed only a few of the really major infrastructure projects that had been announced.
Not one of the railway projects has gotten off the ground, and the much-needed improvement of this country’s premier international getaway, NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) remains ruined in legal wrangling. Build, Build, Build does have things to show for its infrastructure efforts: the completion of Clark International Airport as an alternate international gateway is the best example. But a handful of infrastructure projects, not all of them major, does not a Build, Build, Build program make.
Truth to tell, the list of major accomplishments claimed by the Duterte administration for its four and a half years in office does not add up to a lot of accomplishments.