By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang has listed down President Duterte’s deeds as the country’s highest government official after being compared to Brazil’s President-elect Jair Messias Bolsonaro.
In a lengthy 10-paragraph statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s only similarity with Bolsonaro as of now is they are both elected by people who want genuine change.
“The comparison between President Duterte and President-elect Bolsonaro is understandable given that both are populist leaders who came to power because of their respective peoples’ desire for formidable and decisive leadership,” Panelo said in his 886-word statement.
“The comparison, however, ends there since Mr. Bolsonaro has yet to assume the presidency and will only do so come January 1, 2019. Everything is merely speculative at this point,” he added.
Panelo then said Duterte is not just a tough-talking leader, noting how the chief executive has demonstrated a unique and effective management style in the past two-and-a-half years in office.
“His administration has been known for the “Tapang at Malakasakit” (guts and concern) brand of leadership which is esteemed by an overwhelming majority of Filipinos,” he said.
The Palace official also lauded Duterte’s track record and for doing “many firsts” in the country as compared to his predecessors. Among the items Panelo listed down are the signing into laws free tuition in state universities and colleges, free irrigation to farmers and free internet access in public places.
Panelo also mentioned Duterte offering huge unprecedented subsidies in favor of government hospitals, particularly the Philippine General Hospital and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, increasing SSS pensions for seniors, improving the wages of government employees, and doubling the salaries of soldiers, policemen, jail officers and firemen, while committing to increase the pay of public school teachers.
He also pointed out that Duterte has distributed certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) to thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries and farmers, and consistently pushed Congress to legislate for the return of the coco levy fund in favor of coconut farmers through a trust fund.
The Palace official also listed down Duterte’s efforts to reduce crime rate and how the President commenced the dismantling of the drug apparatus with the voluntary surrender of already more than a million drug personalities and for taking a stand against terrorists.
“[President Duterte] undertook bold moves to thwart the communist rebellion from spreading and crushed the Daesh-inspired Maute terrorism,” Panelo said.
Panelo said Duterte also eliminated the “tanim bala” scam in the airports, issued an order on freedom of information for its strict compliance by the executive department, created a task force on media security, cut red tape in the government, implemented a nationwide smoking ban in public places through an executive order, and froze the proliferation of online gambling and ordered a halt to the construction of new casinos.
Panelo also listed down Duterte’s action to Boracay, particularly its six-month closure for rehabilitation and its recent reopening. He also noted of Duterte’s stand against open-pit mining.
The Palace official then said Duterte demonstrated altruism as the nation’s father by visiting troops regularly to boost their morale; and attending the wakes of slain soldiers, policemen, and other law enforcement personnel who died in the line of duty, and taking care of their grieving families, while giving his critics and detractors the free space to air their grievances.
Economy and foreign policy
In terms of the country’s economy, Panelo noted how Duterte intensified revenue collection to new record-highs through the collection of around P6 billion from the Philippine Airlines for overdue navigational fees, and the landmark settlement by the government of about P40 billion with Mighty Corporation for the latter’s failure to pay excise taxes, among others.
“The President has also made the Philippines one of the strongest economies and growth leaders in the region by changing its business climate that brought in foreign investments and ushering in the golden age of infrastructure in the country with his Build, Build, Build Program,” he said.
Duterte, according to Panelo, has pursued an independent foreign policy by removing the Philippines’ subservience to the United States and improving its relations with all countries, including China, Russia and those in Southeast Asia.
Panelo also mentioned Duterte’s efforts to strengthen local domestic regions by signing the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to transform Mindanao from “an island of promise” to “an island of fulfillment.”
Panelo said Duterte has fired military and high officials in the government for corruption or incompetence, launched the 999 and 8888 hotlines for emergencies and citizens’ complaints, and reduced government spending by prohibiting the use of luxury cars and air travels in business class.
“He has exemplified modesty in public service by forbidding the hanging of his portrait in all government offices and serving inexpensive and simple food in government social events,” he said.
But despite the number of things he listed down in his statement, Panelo said that there is still much work to be done.
“Indeed, we have accomplished much under the leadership of the current administration and public confidence remains high as seen in the satisfaction, approval, performance, and trust ratings of the Chief Executive,” he said.
“We, however, expect to do more in the remainder of the President’s term to continue fulfilling his vow of, as well as satisfying the clamor of the Filipinos for, genuine and meaningful change,” he added.