Dabawenyos assess Duterte’s best and worst as President

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 June) –  The “best legacy” of  former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is his “Build, Build, Build program,” businessman Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council, said, as he noted that Mindanao “experienced a massive boost in our infrastructure projects.”

Duterte, the country’s President from June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2022, is the first Mindanawon to lead the nation. 

“The problem is he forgot to assist the farmers and fisherfolk in Mindanao in their livelihood program,” said Lao, who owns a construction firm that has been doing several government-funded projects. 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 6th and last State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on July 26, 2021. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTOS

Dr. Jean Lindo of Gabriela Women’s Party said “the best for me was the initial move to be more inclusive.”

Lindo, an anesthesiologist, remembers how at the start of his administration, Duterte appointed the “traditionally, politically excluded personalities” like Gina Lopez, Judy Taguiwalo, Liza Maza, among others, “although, maybe, he was just testing the waters.”

“He started with the peace talks, but I think there was a slump when it got to the discussion of socioeconomic reforms,” Lindo said. 

“The worst for me was Martial Law in Mindanao, the rise of the neo-oligarchs (my term, in contrast to the traditional ones), the Build Build Build, which was just a rehash of the old programs. There was not much about social development programs which continued as a mechanism for patronage politics,” she said. 

For Lindo, Duterte “did well” as mayor “and I sincerely believed the local initiatives then like nuclear-free city ordinance, ban on aerial spraying of pesticide (which was shut down for good by the Supreme Court), organic agriculture, would flourish on a national level.”

“Towards the end, he ended the ban on new mining projects, indicating that his governance was not about sustainable and inclusive development. I was very hopeful at the beginning of his term, but ended up disappointed. I really dreamed of him becoming our version of Uruguay’s former president Jose Mujica. I was just too ambitious for him. Extrajudicial killings were my worst nightmare,” Lindo added. 

For former Akbayan party-list representative Tom Villarin, Duterte “was a vindictive President and would leave no stone unturned just to get back at his perceived political enemies.”

He said Senator Leila de Lima, who was elected to a six-year term in 2016, was “a paramount victim and suffered under his strongman rule.”

Duterte’s governance, according to Villarin, “is likened to a mafia boss who wields power by sheer force and not by the rule of law.”

“The only positive side is that he knows nothing about the economy and left it to his economic team that succeeded to push for fiscal reforms,” he said. 

De Lima, who investigated in 2009 the summary killings in Davao City under the administration of then Mayor Duterte and initiated a Senate committee hearing on President Duterte’s war on drugs in 2016,  was able to attend Senate sessions only for eight months out of her supposed 72-month term. She was arrested on February 24, 2017, following the filing of charges against her for alleged involvement in illegal drugs, allegations de Lima had repeatedly denied. Recently, a number of those who testified against her had recanted their testimonies.

John Paul Dizon, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Southern Mindanao Region said Duterte was able to get the support of farmers and workers in Mindanao because he campaigned on a platform of agrarian reform and promised an end to contractualization of labor. “Pero nahimo kining damgo na lamang ug gikalimtan sa atong Presidente” (But these became mere wishes and were forgotten by the President). 

He recalled how Duterte also raised so much hope on the resolution of the half-a-century conflict with the National Democratic Front (NDF)  through the peace negotiations which he also vowed he would pursue under his administration. 

Dizons said the peace talks indeed started on a positive note in 2016 but a year later, Duterte called off the talks and unleashed a vicious war against communities in far-flung areas, including Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) communities. Duterte also declared martial law over all of Mindanao during the Marawi Siege in 2017. 

Dizon acknowledged that wages were increased three times, with amounts that look huge on paper but cannot cope with the high rise in prices. He said the minimum wages per region appear to have been based on the poverty threshold and not on the family living wage. 

He also cited the attacks and harassments on workers, the intimidation, vilification, red-tagging, filing of trumped up charges against its leaders, killings, disaffiliation campaigns and the use of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to further trample on their right to form unions. 

Dizon also said only a few workers were able to avail of the ayuda (assistance) during the COVID-19 pandemic even as many of them lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts. 

Overall, he said, “wala kami nakita nga positibo nga programa ug mas daghan ang mga negatibo nga nasinati sa mamumuo ug katawhan” (we did not see any positive program for workers but more negative experiences under his administration). 

Mark Peñalver, Executive Director of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) congratulated the President for his six-year leadership, but from an environmental lens, said his administration had “not significantly addressed major environmental concerns” but “made controversial decisions detrimental to the environment and to our fight against climate change.”

He cited the lifting of the moratorium on the ban on open-pit mining which “has changed the environmental landscape” and the promotion of  waste to energy incineration to address waste problem “lacks foresight and runs counter to his declaration to stop constructing new coal-fired power plants as a move or contribution towards climate change action.”

Peñalver commended the Duterte administration for the strong stance against waste importation to the country which led to the return of a number of container vans containing hazardous wastes back to their country of origin but noted that his administration “could have sustained and permanently addressed this issue by banning importation of all wastes, including plastics.”

Peñalver also recalled that in 2019, Duterte proposed the banning of single-use plastics nationwide but “until now nothing has been done. In fact, the list of non-environmentally -acceptable products and packaging has not yet been released which could have also helped in pursuing a plastic-free Philippines.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)