President Rodrigo Duterte has always billed himself as a “leftist” and, soon after assuming office, went about trying to prove this, appointing a number of them to government, inviting them for intimate meetings and, most notably, resuming formal peace negotiations with communist rebels.
For its part, the left has not been stingy in praising Duterte’s “nationalist” and “pro-people” statements and initiatives but has also criticized him on a number of issues, particularly economic policy and human rights.
As Duterte marked his first 100 days in office, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the human rights group Karapatan released their lists of what they see as the administration’s achievements and the major challenges it faces.
10 Major achievements
- Historic assertion of national sovereignty and an independent foreign policy against US intervention. Ending US war games in the Philippines, ending joint patrols in disputed waters, reviewing the EDCA and opening PH doors for equal and mutually beneficial relations with countries not aligned with the US.
- Resumption of peace talks with the NDFP, the release of some political prisoners, affirmation of previous agreements, acceleration of discussions on substantive agenda and the historic indefinite unilateral ceasefires by both sides of the armed conflict.
- Inclusiveness in government and the appointments of progressives to key cabinet posts such as DSWD, DAR, NAPC, as well as officials in DOLE and the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor.
- Distribution of 358 hectares in Hacienda Luisita and a nationwide freeze in land conversion as ordered by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Commission.
- Mining audit and the suspension of 20 companies engaged in destructive mining operations.
- And end to the "tanim-bala" scam and the scrapping of the Overseas Employment Certificate for returning OFW's. Speedy repatriation of stranded and displaced OFW's in the Middle East.
- DSWD Memorandum Circular 9 which upholds the Supreme Court ruling against pork barrel funds by members of Congress, and gives the DSWD the final say in determining what kind of assistance will be given to requests endorsed by lawmakers.
- Creating favorable conditions for the return of the displaced Lumad to their communities. Official acknowledgement that paramilitary groups sowing terror in the countryside are government-backed and must be stopped.
- Exposing the gravity and extent of problem of illegal drugs and its connection to corruption in the police, local government units and other agencies of the executive.
- Freedom of Information Executive Order during its first month in office, covering all agencies under the executive branch.
- Increased US intervention and other counter actions aimed at undermining the Duterte government amid its strong assertion of national sovereignty. Resistance from within government by pro-US cabinet and military officials.
- Resistance by rightist, militarist and pro-imperialist groups to peace efforts. Continuing militarization and operation of paramilitary groups. The need to address the socio-economic roots of the armed conflict as well as the need to pass a general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners.
- The rising death toll in the war on drugs and the worsening climate of impunity involving state security forces. Continuing and worsening violations of due process and human rights.
- The continuing adoption of the neoliberal economic framework by Duterte's economic team, relying heavily on foreign investments, foreign debt, overseas remittances and public-private partnership projects.
- Resistance by big business to efforts to end contractualization and for the passage of a national minimum wage. The lack of clear guidelines and steps by the DOLE to end contractualization.
- The persistence of the neoliberal, anti-student K-12 program in the service of global manpower needs and of private profits in the education sector.
- Continuing corporatization of health services and the adoption of neoliberal programs in the health sector by the DOH.
- Transportation and traffic woes and questions regarding emergency powers for the transportation department.
- DOF's anti-people tax reforms that seek to remove VAT exemptions to senior citizens and PWD's and raise excise taxes on petroleum products.
- Intensifying contradictions among different political factions of the reactionary ruling elite, exposing the rottenness of the ruling system.
- One of President Duterte’s most significant achievements in his first 100 days in office is the resumption of formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and his stated openness to a substantial and meaningful peace process with the Moro revolutionary groups.
- The GPH declaration of unilateral ceasefire, an initial positive outcome in the peace talks, and verbal pronouncements by President Duterte were key to the decision of the lumad evacuees to return home.
- The Justice Department’s withdrawal of charges against activists and human rights defenders in Mindanao is also a welcome development. Under the Aquino administration, trumped-up charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention and human trafficking were filed to harass advocates and activists who supported the lumad evacuees in the UCCP-Haran compound in Davao City.
- Duterte’s pronouncements indicate that government-backed paramilitary groups like Alamara and Magahat-Bagani, among many others, are supported, armed and funded by the government. He has threatened to disband and disarm them after reports of ceasefire violations were reported in media.
- Duterte’s critique of US military presence in the Philippines and the US government’s hypocrisy insofar as human rights is concerned resonates with all patriotic Filipinos and peoples who are at the receiving end of US interventionist wars and plunder in underdeveloped countries. US foreign military aid to the AFP and the previous regimes have fueled counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan victimizing thousands of Filipinos.
- Despite the GPH’s declared unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP, the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan continues, in the guise of civil-military operations and ‘peace and development programs’ by the AFP. Civilians continue to be targetted in the AFP’s mad attempt to employ deception and military solution to the armed conflict and to safeguard interests of large-scale mining and agricultural corporations raking in profits for foreign and local big business. … During the 100 days, Karapatan documented at least 16 victims of political killings, 16 frustrated killings, two cases of torture, and nine victims of illegal arrest and detention. Most of the victims of political killings were from the peasantry and indigenous peoples. They were killed defending their land and ancestral domain. Among these are the massacres of farmers in Laur, Nueva Ecija and in Sumilao, Bukidnon.
- The filing of trumped-up charges against activists and the criminalization of political acts still continue. Lumad teacher-researcher Amelia Pond was charged with double murder and frustrated murder; while peace advocate John Maniquez with illegal possession of firearms during Duterte’s first 100 days.
- Justice remains elusive in the cases of human rights violations which were committed as far back as in the Arroyo and Aquino regimes. Perpetrators of human rights violations are yet to be arrested and punished, despite warrants of arrests and solid evidence against them. Examples are the perpetrators of the Lianga massacre, the murderers of Fernando Baldomero, Romeo Capalla, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Leonard Co, Juvy Capion and her two children, and many others.
- Retired Major General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan continues to enjoy army custody instead of regular civilian detention. Charges for plunder against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have all been dismissed. Disappeared Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan and many more movement activists and leaders remain missing.
- Martial law victims and their families are disgusted with the utter failure of the Aquino-appointed Claims Board to indemnify them, despite more than three years of the Martial Law Victims Reparations Act. Duterte’s proposal for a hero’s burial for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was also met with strong opposition by the ML victims and their relatives.
- The rapid rise in the incidence of drug-related killings marred the first 100 days of Duterte’s presidency. Purely law enforcement actions against suspected drug users and pushers are done with disregard for their right to life and to due process. More of the victims are from the vulnerable and marginalized sectors of Philippine society.