By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The election of Rodrigo Roa Duterte as president of the country has been met with much hope. After all, his campaign slogan was “Change is coming.” The Filipino people hoped that the new administration would be the opposite of its predecessor the Aquino administration, which had been deemed as elitist, heartless, and tainted by its adamant defense of the pork barrel system, kid glove treatment of Janet Lim Napoles – who is being accused of being the conduit in skimming the pork barrel funds of Congressmen – and the suspicious inefficiency of the MRT-LRT train system and the Land Transportation Office.
So far, what the Duterte administration has been doing differently is the war on illegal drugs. It has yet to do something for the welfare of the poor majority. These need not yet be strategic. Strategic policy changes could be the subject of discussion of its peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and likewise with representatives of the Bangsamoro people.
The doable policies and measures it could implement immediately are the following:
1. an increase in the minimum wage and a ban on all forms of contractualization
2. free distribution of land to the tillers and a moratorium on land use conversions
3. an increase in the government budget for social services i.e. education, health, housing so that the government would be able to provide it free for the poor
Actually, the ban on contractualization was a campaign promise of President Duterte; Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano has already passed a resolution on the moratorium on land use conversion; there is enough budget to subsidize the tuition in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
It’s just that the department order regarding contractualization, which was issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recently, provides for numerous exemptions on various forms of contractualization; the proposed moratorium on land use conversion has been meeting stiff resistance even from within the Duterte administration; the implementing rules and regulations for the tuition subsidy is very similar to that of the University of the Philippines, the stringent requirements of which makes it difficult even for poor, deserving students.
President Duterte would just have to instruct the DOLE to amend its department order to ensure a total ban on contractualization, order the implementation of the moratorium on land use conversion, and declare free tuition in SUCs.
In addition, President Duterte could issue marching orders to the ruling coalition in Congress to pass a law mandating an increase in the minimum wage, legislate a new agrarian reform program providing free distribution of land to the tillers, provide supplemental budgets for health and housing and legislate the free provision of these essential services, including education up to the tertiary level.
Of course, all of these would meet stiff resistance from within the Duterte administration, specifically the purveyors of neoliberalism such as Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III, Economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia, and Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno, as well as from big business groups such as the Philippine Chamber of Commerce. President Duterte could tell them to go to hell, much like what he tells critics of his deadly war on drugs.
If President Duterte could adamantly defend the government’s deadly war on drugs, ignore detractors, and hit back at the United Nations, European Union, and the US for criticizing him for the spike in extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, why could he not do the same for the critics of the aforementioned proposed policies and measures? If he could crack the party whip on those opposing the revival of the death penalty, why could he not do the same to those who would not vote for the increase in the minimum wage, the free distribution of land, and provision of free social services?