The past five years in office have been challenging yet humbling, President Duterte admitted Monday as he delivered his farewell address to the nation.
In his sixth State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President recognized that his goal of bringing a comfortable life to all Filipinos would be difficult but his administration managed to score gains in the areas of peace and order, governance, poverty reduction, among others, in recent years.
Duterte used his lengthy speech to highlight his administration’s achievements as well as plans, including priority bills, in the remainder of his term.
“I bore no illusion that steering the nation towards a comfortable life for every Filipino would be easy. Indeed, the past five years have truly been challenging and humbling,” he said.
“I stand here before you today bearing no conceit, but if there is one thing that I could be proud of is that not once did I waver in doing the unpopular even if it meant upholding the greatest good for the greatest number,” he added.
On peace and order, the President trumpeted that his administration pursued the modernization of the military and police to enhance their capabilities. Salaries of military and policemen have also been raised in recognition of their critical role in upholding national security and maintaining order.
“I am proud of the accomplishments of our troops in securing our nation against all threats to our democratic institutions,” the President said.
Duterte also praised the work of the national task force to end the local communist armed conflict, citing the rehabilitation and development of former rebel-infected areas. More than 17,000 rebels have surrendered while many communist fronts have been dismantled.
“With the support of our local government units, I am confident that support for the communist movement will continue to erode in the next few months,” he said.
The President also put a spotlight on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, citing the surrender of millions of drug suspects and prosecution of thousands of drug personalities. He said illegal drug syndicates and laboratories were dismantled while many barangays were cleared of drug activities. He also mentioned “the cutting of narco politics” as he renewed his kill threat to those who will destroy the nation with the illegal drugs.
“I am a Filipino and I love my country. I do not want my country in disarray because of drugs. I do not want families break up and become dysfunctional,” he said.
Duterte conceded though that while the government has made strides in ending rebellion and insurgency in various parts of the country, there was still “a long way in our fight against the proliferation of drugs.”
On the economy, the President took pride of the country’s strong fiscal growth before the pandemic erupted last year.
He said the country was considered “one of the fast-growing economies” in the region until the outbreak happened. He said the government was committed to accelerate pandemic response and recovery efforts in the coming months.
On infrastructure development, Duterte took pride of the programs aimed at providing safe and convenient mobility, particularly the improvements in the railway systems.
Among the projects cited by the President are the acquisition of additional trains for MRT-3 to provide faster travel, completion of LRT-2 East Extension project, as well as the opening of Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 to decongest EDSA and other major roads.
“We have taken away the misery of public commuting,” he said.
On improving governance, Duterte said the government extended the validity of Philippine passports to 10 years to lessen the burden of travelers and overseas Filipino workers.
The government also went beyond merely addressing the three million backlog of driver’s licenses in 2016 by extending the validity of these cards to 10 years “if there is no traffic violation,” according to the President.
The President also claimed that the government sought to make long lines in government offices ” a thing of the past” by streamlining government processes. These efforts are embodied in the Ease of Doing Business
He said government transactions will be further streamlined with the roll-out of the Philippine Identification System. He said the national ID system would facilitate better access to basic services for all Filipinos even in the far-flung areas.
The government also pursued the modification of the Salary Schedule for Civilian Government Personnel through the Salary Standardization Law 5. He said this was “a necessary measure for our civil servants to recognize their work and accomplishments as well as a gesture of gratitude and good will.” To further promote transparency and accountability in government, he said the government issued an order on freedom of information that opens up the records, transactions, decisions and issuances of all government agencies.
On fighting corruption, the President said 200 government personnel have been dismissed from service. He admitted though that corruption has become endemic in government and cannot be stopped unless there is an overhaul of the bureaucracy.
“Nobody can stop corruption unless you overturn the government completely. If I were the next president, if you think there’s really a need for you to change everybody in the system, then you declare martial law and fire everybody and allow the new generation to come in to work for the government,” he said.
Other accomplishments mentioned by the President are the laws on the Bangsamoro autonomous region, coconut levy trust fund for farmers, and rice tariff system. He also cited the government provided free irrigation to small farmers and potable and affordable water supply to households.