In two months, the Filipino people will witness the President’s third State of the Nation Address. Almost two years into the Duterte administration, we are now looking at actual delivery of committed results. The time for promises is over. The learning curve should have been turned.
President Duterte is considered as the most trusted and most approved President of the Philippines. However, his high ratings do not automatically mean excellent performance.
The administration’s intensified anti-illegal drug campaign has resulted in the arrest of 130,271 drug suspects out of 83,057 anti-illegal drug operations conducted by the law enforcement agencies as of April 9, as reported by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Besides fighting illegal drugs, the President has also promised to eradicate corruption. He has relieved several appointed officials and Cabinet members who were allegedly involved in several corrupt practices. In March 2017 alone, the President has removed at least 92 government employees for graft. These employees were from different agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Energy Regulatory Commission.
In 2016, President Duterte axed two Bureau of Immigration officials, who also happened to be his fraternity brothers, after being allegedly involved in a bribery scandal. In 2017, National Irrigation Administrator Peter Laviña was asked to quit after allegedly receiving 40-percent kickbacks from the contracts of the agency. Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno was relieved from his position over alleged irregularity in the procurement of firetrucks worth P20 million from Austria without competitive public bidding. Department of Information and Technology Secretary Rodolfo Salalima was asked to resign over allegations of preferential treatment to a “giant” local telecommunications company. Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Dionisio Santiago was removed from his position due to his frequent trips abroad and allegations of receiving favors from drug lords. Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon resigned after the BoC’s P6.4-billion “shabu” shipment mess.
This year, the President has further proved to us his strong stance against illegal drugs and corruption through the resignation of the Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. SOJ Aguirre’s resignation was due to the dismissal of the charges against drug suspects, Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, and several others. These drug suspects were named by the President himself during the start of his administration, so it was befuddling to the nation that the cases against these identified personalities would be dismissed. Secretary Teo’s resignation was amid the controversy of the DOT’s P60-million advertising money being placed in the program of her brothers on People’s Television Network Inc.
Just this Monday, the President removed General Corporate Counsel Rudolf Jurado with regard to the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) franchise.
I believe in the President’s zero tolerance for illegal drugs and corruption; however, I think it is time for follow through. Dismissing government officials is one thing. The tougher part is ensuring that they pay the consequences of their wrongdoings. The work should not stop at the removal of the violators from their positions. Thorough investigations must be pursued until criminal charges are filed against government officials who will be proven to have violated the law, and failed their mandates. I look forward to the next steps to see that the President is serious with his drive against corruption.