“Dominguez explains: Duterte’s final legacy is a confident and hopeful Filipino people earnestly looking to a future of sustained progress”
As president, Rodrigo “Digong” Roa Duterte was among the most popular leaders of all time. That includes dictators and despots under whose reigns surveys can be calibrated.
Tatay Digong had an 87 percent approval rating and 4 percent disapproval. The approval rating is the highest in the world. His disapproval is the lowest – in the world, per surveys.
In 2022, Duterte’s 87 percent approval was much higher than many of the most admired world leaders, like the 77 percent of Narenda Modi (India), 71 percent of Lee Hsien Loo (Singapore,) 68 percent of Joko Widodo (Indonesia), 63 percent of Andres Obrador (Mexico), 62 percent of Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Malaysia), 54 percent of Merlo Draghi (Italy), 51 percent of Anthony Albanese (Australia), 45 percent of Olaf Scholtz (Germany), 42 percent of Fumio Kishida (Japan), 40 percent of Joe Biden (USA), 38 percent of Justin Trudeau (Canada), and the 33 percent of the unlamented Boris Johnson of UK. This is data compiled by Bobi Tiglao.
In April 2022, an SWS poll showed Duterte had 65 percent net satisfaction rating, beating all his post-1986 predecessors BS Aquino III (+27 percent), Gloria Arroyo (-17 percent), Joseph Estrada (-7 percent), Fidel Ramos (+19 percent), and Corazon Aquino (+7 percent).
Rough and cursing all the time, even on prime time TV, Duterte achieved peace and order by ordering the massacre of drug lords and drug recidivists (over 6,000 died) and going hammer and tongs against communist guerillas and Muslim separatists and terrorists.
He sought to break up the entrenched oligarchies and monopolies, demolish media barons and their lying machines, and collect huge amounts from large corporate tax evaders.
Bold in foreign policy, he veered away from US stranglehold and pivoted to China for its tourists, loans, aid, and projects (many of which Beijing did not deliver).
He never went to Washington DC for a state visit but got back the three Balangiga bells that symbolized the biggest defeat by the US Army in a single battle overseas, 75 years before America’s Vietnam debacle.
As he ended his presidency, however, Duterte agreed to the return of US troops in the Philippines, a smart move given China’s recent belligerence in the West Philippine Sea and Taiwan Strait.
For the long term, Duterte’s biggest achievements were three: 1) containing the worst pandemic in a century; 2) Build, Build, Build where his administration spent P4 trillion to modernize the economy and raised infra spending to 4.9 percent of GDP, and 3) doing business became easier and better.
He reduced red tape, reduced corruption; gave tax breaks for businesses, big and small.
He signed the most revolutionary pieces of pro-business legislation, like the Ease of Doing Business Act, CREATE (the largest business income tax reduction in history), FIST (Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act, a major response to the financial crisis), Bayanihan I to III, TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (personal income taxes reduced for 99 percent of taxpayers, lowered the tax on inheritance to just 6 percent, expanded the VAT base, taxed sugary beverages, and raised taxes on petroleum products and autos), the Retail Trade Liberalization, Public Service Act, and the Foreign Investment Act.
For his part, Duterte’s finance secretary, Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez claims three major Duterte achievements on the economic front: Tax reforms, infrastructure investments or Build, Build, Build; and the law mandating the return of coco levy funds to farmers.
BBB, Sonny claims, created 6.5 million jobs. It reduced poverty because it created jobs and made logistics, doing business, and creating value chain much easier.
TRAIN reduced the personal income taxes for 99 percent of taxpayers. CREATE Law provided tax relief to businesses with the 10 percent reduction in the corporate income tax (CIT) rates of micro, small and medium enterprises, as well as 5 percent reduction on CIT for bigger corporations.
“Through TRAIN, the government has basically given out a 14th-month pay every year to wage earners,” Dominguez reckons.
Duterte increased taxes on sin products three times, the only president to do so. Higher excise taxes on “sin” products – cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapor products and alcoholic beverages– funded the Universal Health Care program.
TRAIN and other enacted packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program raised P575.8 billion in added revenues from 2018 to 2021.
“This has resulted to (sic) high credit ratings for the country, which not only brought down borrowing costs and allowed bond issuances with very tight spreads, but also benefited private borrowers through low interest rates,” Dominguez points out.
Other reforms: Ease of Doing Business Act and the Philippine Identification System Act; amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Public Service Act and the Foreign Investments Act; establishment of the Overseas Filipino Bank; and accelerated digitalization of the bureaus of Internal Revenue and Customs.
“Through bold tax reforms and better tax administration, we were able to raise our revenue effort to a two-decade high, and our debt-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio to a historic low,” Duterte’s finance chief, says.
The Rice Tariffication law lowered prices for rice and the inflation rate, prices by liberalizing imports of the staple.
Dominguez explains: “Rice is no longer a major inflation contributor and palay (unmilled rice) farmers benefit directly from the law by providing them at least P10 billion each year for mechanization, high-quality seeds, access to credit and training.
“The next administration will inherit many hard-won reforms. They will assume the office with the basic groundwork for rapid and inclusive growth already in place. President Duterte’s final legacy is a confident and hopeful Filipino people earnestly looking to a future of sustained progress.”
Meanwhile, the enactment of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund law fulfilled a Duterte promise. The coco fund is more than P100 billion.
Investors were aware of the Duterte reforms. They voted with their feet. Foreign investments hit $10 billion per year in 2020 and 2021.
Duterte promised little, but delivered the most, among all presidents.