By Genalyn Kabiling
As he marks his fourth year in office on June 30, President Duterte has so far earned an “excellent” grade for showing “unparalleled leadership skills,” according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.
Panelo said the President has acted decisively and effectively in governing the country and will continue to help Filipinos overcome challenges including the coronavirus pandemic.
“Excellent,” Panelo told the Manila Bulletin when asked to rate the President’s performance in the past year.
“Prior to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Philippines experienced unprecedented growth despite various calamities, both natural and man-made. Among them were the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the Marawi siege,” he said.
He said the President remained “on top of the situation” by visiting these troubled places and personally issuing directives to address these concerns. “This is a testament to the unparalleled leadership skills of the President who can act decisively and effectively in times of crisis,” he said.
In the past 12 months, the Philippine leader dealt with a string of challenges, from the problematic contracts of two Metro Manila water concessionaires, loopholes in good conduct passes for inmates, and the campaign against tax-evading offshore gaming firms.
Duterte also sought to end the country’s visiting forces agreement with the United States early this year but recently deferred the plans in light of political and other developments in the region. He is now confronted by the mounting opposition to the controversial anti-terror bill, weakened economic growth, and the alarming coronavirus pandemic.
Panelo highlighted the administration’s gains in fighting illegal drugs and poverty in the past year. The President has also pursued strategies and measures to thwart the spread of the local communist rebellion, he added.
“President Duterte has indeed remained faithful to his campaign promises and continues to be adamant in his resolve to curb the illegal drug industry and apparatus in the country,” he said.
Aside from promoting peace and order, Panelo said the President made “headway” in efforts to reduce poverty in the country. “Even his harshest critics have admitted that the number of poor Filipinos declined faster than expected in the last three years with poverty incidence dropping to 16.6% in 2019 from 23.3% in 2015,” he said.
Promoting economic growth has also been among the priorities of the President in the past year.
According to Panelo, the President made the Philippines one of the strongest economies and growth leaders in the region by changing its business climate that paved the way for the influx of foreign investments. The Board of Investments has surpassed its its P1-trillion 2019 investment target as of October 2019.
The President also remained popular among majority of Filipinos based on recent polls. “It is therefore inspiring that a great majority of the Filipino people recognize the President’s efforts, as shown in his approval and trust ratings in December last year at 87% and 83%, respectively,” Panelo said.
The local economy however contracted during the first quarter as the coronavirus lockdown measures crippled businesses and displaced many workers. The quarantine measures across the country are gradually being relaxed to jumpstart the stalled economy.
“COVID-19 has unfortunately and terribly strangled the entire world, not only economically, but also through the tragic loss of lives. Sadly, the Philippines was not left unscathed,” Panelo said.
Panelo voiced confidence about the country’s economic recovery under the leadership of Duterte and with the resilience of the Filipino people.
“As fate would have it, the Filipinos are a resilient and resourceful people. In the face of hard times, we simply tighten our belts and find ways to bounce back. The President firmly believes in the indomitable spirit of the Filipino,” he said.
“We are also fortunate that the President has built an economy with solid fundamentals, which is resilient against challenges, both present and future, by adopting a prudent fiscal management strategy,” he said.
Moving forward, Panelo said the President and the rest of the government are committed “to provide all means necessary to assist our countrymen to face this COVID-19 crisis.” The recovery plan include accelerating the massive infrastructure program and strengthening local manufacturing industry.
“In particular, we shall revive and accelerate the Build Build Build Program, attract foreign investors through pushing for more business-friendly incentives, and promote manufacturing of products which have strong and constant demand, among others, as we endeavor to create jobs and sustain our growth following the easing of people’s mobility restrictions,” Panelo said.