"The all-out war on narcotics was and remains a game changer."
The recent State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte is a report card on his accomplishments, and he passed the past five years with flying colors.
Never mind if the communists and red sympathizers, who are all noise and nothing more, insist otherwise. Nothing short of a communist takeover of the government will please them anyway.
The past five years under President Duterte brought substantial improvements in the country and in the way most Filipinos live.
Before Duterte assumed the presidency, the regime of the late President Noynoy Aquino only paid lip service to the need to fight drug abuse in the country. Many people had good reasons to suspect that close allies of Aquino made an industry of the drug trade after drug raps were filed by the Duterte administration against Senator Leila de Lima, who was Aquino’s Justice Secretary.
The narcotics scene changed when President Duterte assumed office. His all-out war on narcotics suddenly put drug lords, drug pushers and drug addicts on the defensive. There were casualties all right, but the President’s anti-narcotics campaign is a war on drugs, and like any war, there will be casualties, intended or otherwise.
President Duterte’s war on drugs inevitably forced drug users in high posts in government to surrender and undergo forced rehabilitation. One of the more prominent officials to surrender and admit his drug addiction was Quezon City Council Hero Bautista, the younger brother of former Quezon City Mayor and ex-cinema comedian Herbert Bautista.
During the Aquino regime, many streets in the National Capital Region and other urban centers in the country were dominated by thugs using drugs. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign actually made the streets safe again for pedestrians and motorists. Many commuters and public utility vehicle drivers will attest to this.
The President’s anti-drug war was so effective that halfway through the President’s first year in office, the street price of narcotics quadrupled, which translates to less drug addicts being able to afford the vice. As a result, many junkies were forced to undergo drug rehabilitation.
There were, of course, rogue and abusive cops, but President Duterte made sure that those who were found out were fired and ended up at the receiving end of criminal raps.
By any standard, President Duterte’s all-out war on narcotics was and remains a game changer.
President Duterte also proved to the people that he did not tolerate corruption in government. In many press conferences during his five years in office, the President made unscheduled announcements of the names of ranking government officials whom he booted out of office for corruption.
His dislike for corrupt officials is balanced by his refusal to be swayed by mob rule. Officials who have his continuing trust and confidence remained in office, notwithstanding their being branded corrupt by the media and private interest groups.
Duterte is the only President of the Philippines to openly adopt a foreign policy that is not focused or dependent on the United States. He espoused warmer ties with Russia and China, and he has taken steps to end the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Americans.
Still on the matter of foreign policy, retired Aquino-era officials have been hitting President Duterte for the latter’s supposed “kid gloves” way of dealing with China’s expansionist bullying in the West Philippine Sea. Fortunately, Duterte refuses to be conned into confronting Beijing with a view to going to war. Duterte has chosen diplomacy and resort to international public opinion to resolve the maritime dispute and, in the process, he kept the country away from a shooting war it cannot win.
As a lawyer, Duterte knows that under International Law, global agencies like the International Criminal Court are not allowed to meddle in the internal affairs of the Philippines when there are local courts open and functioning in the country that are able to uphold the rule of law. Duterte’s daring decision to withdraw the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, showed the world that the Philippines is no pushover in the United Nations.
The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year caught all the leaders of the world, President Duterte included, by surprise. Duterte’s resort to strict and drastic quarantine restrictions kept many Filipinos safe from the coronavirus, long enough for the vaccines to arrive this year.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, President Duterte’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program continues, and today, there are more roads, bridges, airports and school buildings in the country than before.
With still ten months left in his term, and notwithstanding the pressing COVID-19 pandemic, President Duterte has accomplished more than what the pre-pandemic presidents of the Philippines did. No wonder he continues to enjoy a very high rate of public acceptance.