By BENJIE OLIVEROS
During the first sixteen months of the Duterte administration, a lot has happened.
The battle for the once bustling Islamic City of Marawi that lasted five long months, beginning May 23, 1017 and ended the last week of October, reduced the city to ruins. Buildings, properties, and businesses were destroyed; 240, 000 people were displaced; and by official reports, almost a thousand ISIS-influenced fighters and almost two hundred soldiers were killed, with the wounded in the thousands. Having lost everything, the future of the residents of Marawi City remains uncertain.
After resulting in so much destruction and displacement, the government’s was against terrorism, against Islamic militants, still has a long way to go. In fact, after declaring Marawi City “liberated,” President Duterte warned of retaliatory attacks from ISIS-influenced groups in the country.
The illegal drug war has claimed the lives of more than 7, 000, mostly victims of extrajudicial killings. And after a lot of cursing, veiled threats, and defiant declarations egging the police to kill more suspected drug addicts and pushers, President Duterte finally succumbed to pressure. With much hesitation, President Duterte terminated the “tokhang” campaign of the Philippine National Police and transferred back the responsibility for anti-illegal drugs operations to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
When Rodrigo Roa Duterte was campaigning for the presidency, he promised to end the illegal drug trade in six months. He scoffed at people who warned him that this was not possible. Right after assuming the reins of government, the Duterte embarked on a bloody war on drugs. Now, 16 months later, the government is nowhere near ending the drug menace. After so many lives were lost, President Duterte finally admitted in August this year that the drug problem would not be solved under his term, which ends in 2022.
After creating a lot of stir for declaring an independent foreign policy, cursing former US President Barack Obama, and warning the US that he would cut ties with it, put a stop to the joint US-RP military exercises and send home the rotating US troops in the country, President Duterte appears to be back in the arms of the US. This happened after the election of Donald Trump as US president and US troops played an active role in the military operations against ISIS-influenced Islamic militants in Marawi City. Now, the cursing and the warnings from President Duterte have stopped and he is even preparing to host US President Donald Trump during the upcoming ASEAN meeting this November.
President Duterte signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, in August 3, 2017, which would provide free tuition in state universities and colleges. After a lot of warnings that the government could not afford to provide free college education, and that it would worsen the budget deficit, Budget Sec. Benjamin Diokno finally conceded, after President Duterte signed the law, that it would take effect next school year 2018.
Earlier, President Duterte issued an executive order implementing Freedom of Information on the executive branch. It mandates full public disclosure of information, public records, documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data “used as basis for public-development.”
Thus, of the five major policy experiments and changes that the Duterte administration tried to implement, three were failed experiments – wiping out the ISIS-inspired Islamic militant movement and the illegal drug problem, and the independent foreign policy – and the effects of two more – free tuition in state universities and colleges and the Freedom of Information in the executive branch – have yet to be felt.
A lot of things have happened in the country during the last sixteen months – which even brought destruction and cost a lot of lives – but still, not much has changed in the lives of the majority of the Filipino people.