Saturday July 21, 2018

Duterte's 1st Sona promises: One year after

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte started his term last 2016 with a promise to rid the country of illegal drugs, vowing before the Filipino people that his administration will not stop until the last pusher has been put behind bars or below the ground.

Sticking to his vow that won him the May 2016 elections, Duterte, in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), said that the all out war against drugs and criminality he earlier said to finish in three to six months (but failed to do so) will be "bloody."

His words were indeed fulfilled.

Evident to this is the increasing number of anti-drug operations by the police that led to the arrest of drug pushers and the rise of the killings allegedly perpetrated by, whichever you believe, unknown vigilante groups as claimed by the police or state-sponsored gunmen for Duterte's critics.

A data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency disclosed that from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017, a total of 3,200 drug personalities and 57 cops have died in more than 63,000 anti-drug operations conducted by anti-drug agencies in the country. Critics, however, believe there are more.

A total of 1, 308,078 drug personalities have surrendered while 86,933 were arrested. P81.51 billion worth of illegal drugs and paraphernalia were seized and 159 drug dens and clandestine laboratories were dismantled.

An independent monitoring by the ABS-CBN news on the death toll on drugs from May 10, 2016, a day after the nation has seen that Duterte won the presidential race up to May 9, 2017, listed a total of 3,407 deaths, 1,336 of these killings happened in the National Capital Region.

1,897 were killed during police operations, 1,290 killed by unidentified assailants and 220 lifeless bodies were found by the police.

Since the killings have ballooned, the human rights agencies including the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the United Nations have criticized the administration, saying the campaign has given rise to a sense of impunity which could further lead to increased lawlessness and violence.

All out war vs terrorist and lasting peace with the reds

In his last Sona, the President, a self-proclaimed "leftist," announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/National Democratic Front (NDF), a group of rebels that has been fighting the Philippine government since 1969.

"To our muslim brothers let us end our centuries of mistrust and warfare. To the CPP NPA NDF let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day," Duterte said.

As a proof that the his administration wants to talk peace, Duterte later partially heed the request of the NDF negotiating panel to release political prisoners detained for alleged trumped up charges.

In August, courts have ordered the release of at least 20 members of the NDF to represent the CPP in the peace talks upon the government's request. Among those that were released were former CPP Secretary General Adelberto Selva and spouses Benito and William Tiamzon.

The fifth round of peace talks, aimed at ending the Asia's longest running Maoist insurgency, that was supposed to be conducted on May 27 was suspended after the government withdrew in protest of the CPP's order to the NPA to step up its attacks against government troops.

Just last week, Duterte ordered the cancellation of the back-channel talks aimed at reviving the formal peace talks after the NPA attacked members of the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato.

Following the encounter, Solicitor General Jose Calida said he will ask the courts to order the arrest and recommitment of the NDF consultants to their respective detention facilities.

Meanwhile in his 2016 Sona, Duterte waged an all out war against lawless armed men in the country. He said he will crush terror groups and strengthen laws against terrorism.

The Mindanao has been recently placed under martial law until December 2017 after Isis-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City in Lanao del Sur on May 23.

No more finger pointing

The also President promised not to dwell on the mistakes of the past administrations as it will only impede the country's growth.

"Finger-pointing is not the way, that is why I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past or blaming or those perceived to be responsible for the mess that we are in and suffering from," Duterte said.

Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III has been recently indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman for usurpation of authority and violation of the anti-act and corrupt practices over the Mamasapano encounter in 2015.

In the past, Duterte himself has criticized Aquino for the botched police operation that killed 44 elite cops.

Last week, when sought for his reaction on the cases filed against Aquino, Duterte said the cases against Aquino filed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the latter's appointee, have been made to fail.

His cabinet official, Justice Secretary Vitaliano II, also said the cases against Aquino are weak.

More transportation options

The president had promised to make more transportation options to ease traffic woes that have long been disturbing Filipino commuters especially in Metro Manila.

Among his vows related to the different sectors' appeal for him to solve the decade-long problem on transportation were to order the increase of more trains in the country, the revival of the operation of the Pasig River Ferry Service System, the intensified campaigns against anti-colorum vehicles, and maximizing the usage of existing roads.

Last Sona, he urged the congress to accord his administration emergency powers to allow it to respond to the problems hounding the transportation sector, to which they agreed.

Last May, the House transport committee made its first move as it approved a bill designating the transportation secretary as the traffic chief who will be granted full power to streamline the management of traffic and transportation in the country.

Under the bill, which has effectivity of three years upon its passage, the traffic chief will supervise and control the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Land Transportation Office, the Highway Patrol Group, and the Road Board.

Free public wifi

Last March, the senate approved for the third and final reading a bill that seeks to make internet available to all Filipinos.

This was after Duterte in his last Sona ordered the creation of a national broadband plan, which would allow free wifi access in public parks, plazas, schools, hospitals and seaports and airports in the country.

In 2018, it was projected that students in 1,880 public elementary schools, 2,688 public high schools and 682 state colleges will have access internet.

High hopes

On Monday, the President is set to deliver his second Sona, this time at the backdrop of achievements and mishaps one year after he took office. (SunStar Philippines)