“Here’s where Mr. Duterte certainly delivered.”
During his almost six years in office, President Duterte often railed against fake news. But in all that time, he was clearly not above shoveling some of it in our direction.
Those who were wrongfully included in his much-publicized but unsubstantiated “Oust-Duterte” matrix in 2019—including a future Olympic gold medalist—surely know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this kind of a lie.
In a speech in Zamboanga City last week, Mr. Dutere gave us yet another gem, saying he kept almost all of his promises.
“My term is nearing its end. I can say with a little bit of pride that I fulfilled almost all of my promises,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In 2016, candidate Duterte ran on two major campaign promises: to end the drug problem and to end corruption in the government. These, he promised to do in six months.
But as President, Mr. Duterte said he finally realized the severity of these problems—and pleaded for more time.
“That self-imposed time of three to six months, well, I did not realize how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this republic until I became President,” he said in December 2021.
“Just give me a little extension of maybe of another six months. Because I never have that idea of hundreds of thousands of people in the drug business. And what makes it worst is, they are now operated by people in government, especially those elected officials,” he said.
It has been 65 months now, and we are no closer to seeing either of those promises fulfilled.
In a candid moment in 2019, at a political rally in Malabon, the President admitted his campaign against drugs was a failure, and that the drug trade had even worsened.
“You can read it every day, even in the crawler of the TV networks. There are billions worth of drugs. Before, it was only thousands. Drugs, I cannot control, son of a b***h, even if I ordered the deaths of these idiots,” Duterte said.
Over his 65 months in office, Mr. Duterte also said he would not tolerate even “the whiff of corruption” among the people in his government.
But the reality was, he constantly used his position to reward people who helped him during his presidential campaign, regardless of their qualifications. He used a Filipino term—utang na loob– to justify this repayment of debts, as if this were a virtue, even in what was supposed to be a meritocracy.
Those who later became embroiled in allegations of irregularity were merely transferred to other positions.
At the onset of the pandemic last year, one of those appointees at the Department of Budget and Management authorized the purchase of more than P80 billion worth of medical supplies from a small, under-capitalized start-up, whose benefactor—a Chinese national based in Davao–was the President’s long-time friend and former economic adviser.
The President not only tolerated this whiff—some say stench–of corruption, he defended the irregular transactions and viciously attacked senators who tried to bring out the truth.
In June 2016, candidate Duterte said: “There will never be an instance that we will surrender our right over Scarborough Shoal … That is not a territorial issue. It is an issue about being obstructed or impeded because of the constructions there and we cannot exercise freely the rights under UNCLOS of the 200-mile economic zone that is exclusive to us.”
After kowtowing to Beijing for the last five years in almost every maritime confrontation, Mr. Duterte in May 2021 said the country’s 2016 arbitral victory against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea was just a piece of paper that he can throw away in a trash bin.
There is one promise, though, that Mr. Duterte has kept.
“If I become president, it would be bloody because we’ll order the killing of all criminals,” candidate Duterte promised in February 2016.
With more than 8,000 drug suspects killed—and many thousands more not on the official record—this is sadly the one promise Mr. Duterte unequivocally kept.