By BENJIE OLIVEROS
“Change is coming.” That was the campaign teaser of Rodrigo Roa Duterte when he was running for president. His campaign slogan, mass appeal, straightforwardness and image of a man of action swept him to the presidency.
President Duterte hit the ground running. He pushed the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forward even before he assumed the seat in Malacañang. He vowed to end the illegal drug problem in six months. Duterte declared an independent foreign policy; appointed progressives in government; and vowed to run after “oligarchs” who are putting the masses and the country at a disadvantage.
After a little more than a year into his presidency, the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP has been suspended with no sign of resuming soon. And the human rights violations resulting from the protection of mining operations and counterinsurgency operations are piling up, including the killing of Lumad student 19-year-old Obillo Bay-ao, only this September 5 and 15-year old Alibando Tingkas last year.
The negotiations with the MILF as well as the MNLF have been in limbo. Worse, on the pretext of an Isis-inspired attack on Marawi City, President Duterte has placed the whole of Mindanao under military rule and control.
Those in the Duterte Cabinet who have the potential to bring about change: Gina Lopez former environment secretary, Judy Taguiwalo former social welfare secretary, and now Rafael Mariano former agrarian reform secretary have been rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
The push for an independent foreign policy is practically dead. The campaign against oligarchs has fizzled out.
Now more than 7,000 have been killed in the illegal drug war, including 14-year old Reynaldo de Guzman, 17-year old Kian de los Santos, and 19-year old Carl Angelo Arnaiz. These boys were not only killed; they were brutally murdered. Did it solve the illegal drug problem? Even the Duterte administration admits that it could not solve the problem.
This administration is turning out to be one of the most murderous in the history of the country. Even minors are not being spared from the killing frenzy. The saddest part is that President Duterte is not even apologetic about these killings; he obstinately defends it.
So what vestige of change is left under the Duterte administration?
Well, the free college education bill was enacted into law recently. But the Duterte administration’s economic managers are warning of higher taxes ahead purportedly to finance this.
Recently, President Duterte was quoted as saying that the Marcos family is willing to turn over to the government part of their ill-gotten wealth. He followed this up by saying that the Marcos should push for immunity in exchange for turning over part of the ill-gotten wealth.
It appears that President Duterte is not only lawyering for the Marcos family; he is paving the way for their return to power through Bongbong Marcos’s presidential ambitions.
The way the situation is turning out, it is no longer about the coming of change, but a reversal to the dark years of martial law.