"My best wishes."
Today, July 26, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will deliver his last State of the Nation Address. He is expected to tick off the gains made by his administration in the last five years particularly on the three "wars" that his presidential run focused on: on drugs, on corruption and on poverty and social injustice.
One notes that PRRD's 2016 run was considered a maverick one as he had no national party to begin with, his national exposure was limited and his main credential was having successfully elevated Davao City to the top tiers of respected and properly run local government units.
It turned out his being an unknown became his advantage as he was embraced by the public as a tough, no nonsense administrator with hardly any link to a network of special interests.
In an arena populated by known personalities whose credentials have long been subjected to the vagaries of our toxic political environment, Duterte's simple ways and plain talking albeit vulgar and indecent language came as a breath of fresh air and catapulted him to the highest office of the land.
True to his word, PRRD's administration began with a bang. The war on drugs managed to stem the flow of the illegal merchandise to our shores, closed out local manufacturing which was so prevalent during the PNoy years, neutralized known drug personalities and recaptured a substantial number of the country's drug-infested barangays. Although tagged as brutal and abusive by the critics, the drug war was hugely popular with the citizenry as the escalating dangers associated with the drug menace were somewhat stilled and peace and stability finally dawned in most of the country's barangays.
We will not be surprised, however, if the critics paint a hugely different picture of the war on drugs given the cases they or their affiliates have filed before various judicial and international bodies precisely bemoaning the brutality, which they claim to be occurring even up to this day.
Unfortunately, for them the latest survey shows this "war" has drawn significant public approval as the administration has apparently adjusted its methods and have been more circumspect in its ways.
It is on the "war on corruption" where the administration will have a tough sell, especially since the perception of its handling of the resources to combat the pandemic has been largely negative. The procurement system for the critical medical requirements and related items has been shot no end prompting the resignation of the head of the DBM Procurement Service (PS) and the filing of charges against the head of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) – the two agencies principally in charge of the national government's multi billion outlay. Then, there is the matter of the cash subsidies for poor families, displaced local workers and returning OFWs which according to the critics leaked beyond the normal norms.
Of course, reports of corruption and official shenanigans before the pandemic have been exposed by a number of critics including well meaning individuals the latest being Senator Manny Pacquiao who fired off an initial list before leaving for his bout with the American boxer Spence next month. We will soon see how this issue will play out but this early there are talks that this matter will continue to hound the administration in the coming 2022 elections and possibly even beyond its term.
Unless PRRD does something dramatic to impress upon our people that his administration does not and has not countenanced any form of corruption at all, this issue can find traction as the 2022 election fever goes into high gear upon the filing of candidacies in October.
Now, on the last war on poverty and social injustice, the administration deserves credit for its initiative to rein in greed, including unwarranted entitlement associated with the oligarchy. Signalling the need for fairer and more equitable access to the country's resources and government services, the administration proposed at the beginning of its term a plethora of taxation reforms meant to open up opportunities to a wider segment of the population, provide employment and promote entrepreneurs. That war included one on rent seeking targeting the privileges afforded water, power and other utilities including media entities. That only this administration managed to tame the media giants, ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer, is by itself a rare achievement. Of course, the critics will continue to bemoan PRRDs so-called "totalitarian" tendencies which to them led to this messy pass.
Part of this transformational effort which will be trumpeted no end by the PRRD loyalists is the massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure push over the past five years. While a number of these projects were initiated by previous administration's it is to PRRD's credit that he labored on and got these in place. Those he checked and got started will definitely be on track and whoever will come after him will have a hard time to overturn or set back.
Finally, the results of PRRD's handling of our internal problems – the insurgency and secessionist movements – has been fairly successful.
We have had no huge battles in the South after the Marawi siege and the insurgency has become less a shooting war than a propaganda one. Whatever steps to gain peace and stability will now have to be pursued by the incoming administration using the lessons of the past five years.
As to our relations with the other countries under his now trademark "friends to all, enemies to none" policy has met with moderate success. Of course, the country's standing in ASEAN has been fortified with his ways while our relations with the US and China, the world's two biggest powers, has been quite beneficial although the critics continue to pound him for his alleged pro-Chinese tendencies. On the other hand, his handling of our relations with the European Union, UK, Australia, New Zealand and the other Asian powers, Japan and South Korea have yet to be scrutinized for any hint of success or failure. Suffice it to say that we have had a fairly good ride on the international front.
While we can say that the last five years have seen us gaining ground in fine tuning the building blocks for a country we can all be proud of, there remains a lot of challenges before we can really step up the gas towards that goal. It is to PRRD's credit if he can outline in this his last SONA the said challenges ahead and advise on possible ways to overcome the same based on his own experience over the past five years. Some of PRRD's advisers said that his SONA piece has been prepared days ago and that it will be short and sharp. Apparently, their worry is that he may decide to do a lot of "ad libs" which will surely shock and awe a lot of people. Our best wishes as always as he leads and prepares the country for his exit in June 2022.