At noon on June 30, Rodrigo Duterte officially became the President of the Philippines. In his inaugural speech, he told us, "The ride will be rough but come join me just the same."
The man was not kidding. It's just been two weeks into his administration and we've already seen a gamut of developments and disturbances. Sure, there are heartwarming moments that make us go "Finally!" However, there are also baffling and unsettling events that leave us speechless or throw us back to darker times.
That said, we've listed the 12 issues that range from cute, impressive, to downright disturbing.
1) The first Executive Order
The Big Picture: In his initial EO, Duterte ordered the streamlining of the government's anti-poverty efforts by placing 12 agencies under Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr.
They are the following:
- Cooperative Development Authority
- Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council
- National Anti-Poverty Commission
- National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
- National Commission on Muslim Filipinos
- National Food Authority
- National Youth Commission
- Office of the President-Presidential Action Center
- Philippine Commission on Women
- Philippine Coconut Authority
- Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor
- Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
The first EO likewise consolidated the functions of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, the Office of the Appointments Secretary and the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) under the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, which is headed by Duterte's longtime executive secretary Christopher "Bong" Go.
Fine Print: Apparently, as a GMA News Online report pointed out, "Duterte's first EO contained an error in citing the constitutional provision that gave the him control over the executive branch's departments, bureaus, and offices." Presidential spokesman Ernesto "Ernie" Abella indicated that Malacañang has taken note of the matter and that they will act accordingly.
2) The PAGCOR appointees
The Big Picture: Comedian Arnell Ignacio and singer-composer Jimmy Bondoc are just two of Duterte's celebrity supporters. It's worth noting that Bondoc, who gained fame with hits like "Let Me Be the One," wrote the song "Takbo" for Duterte.
That said, nobody really expected Ignacio or Bondoc to get into government service via the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Fine Print: Bondoc felt the need to address the people who doubted his capability to serve as PAGCOR's AVP for entertainment. He released a statement wherein he vowed, "I am an honest man. If I ever take money or kickbacks and the like, come to my house and cut off my hands."
Coming from a guy who plays the guitar, that's really something.
3) Kind words for the Abu Sayyaf
The Big Picture: In his speech during the Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr celebration in Davao City, Duterte said: "I'm not including the Abu Sayyaf [when I talk about] criminality. You’ve never heard me say that they are criminals."
Duterte added, "It is a different set up there because these are the guys who were driven to desperation." He cited the government's "failed promises" to the Islamic separatist group as the cause of the al-Qaeda-linked group's desperation.
Fine Print: Duterte's people will probably say his comment was once again taken out of context. Whatever the case may be, the statement about not classifying terrorists as criminals isn't exactly going to reassure everyone that it's more fun in the Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf just recently beheaded Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall after the government refused to give in to their demand of millions-worth of ransom money.
If these terrorists are not criminals, what are they? Arguably, aren't all lawbreakers just people driven to desperation as well?
4) The drug-related death toll
The Big Picture: Duterte said he would wage an all-out war against drugs and that blood would flow in the streets in his bid to stamp out the illegal drug trade. That is now our reality.
In a Monday, July 11, interview with GMA News, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner Robert Cadiz said, "Since [President Rodrigo Duterte] took his oath of office, [it seems like] there is an average of 10 in EJK (extrajudicial killings) cases per day." Cadiz added, "I think that is alarming."
A number of people are actually okay with these killings. They see it as "instant justice."
Fine Print: In a Philippine Daily Inquirer opinion piece, Atty. Jose Manuel Diokno, chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group, was quoted as saying: "President Duterte’s war on crime has spawned a nuclear of violence that is spiraling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law, and without reason."
5) Record-breaking surrenders
The Big Picture: Perhaps, due to the scary statistics of the administration's anti-drug campaign, hordes of self-confessed drug peddlers and addicts have surrendered to the authorities. Just like that, they turn themselves in.
Fine Print: The authorities didn't expect the influx of these so-called "surrenderees." They can't all be accomodated in jails. While waiting for their rehabilitation programs to start, what will they do? Should they put some sort of mark on their houses to signify that they've already surrendered? Otherwise, they may be targeted by vigilantes.
6) Lowering the age of criminal reponsibility
The Big Picture: Known Duterte ally Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez and Capiz 2nd District Rep. Fredenil Castro filed House Bill 002, which aims to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine years old as a deterrent to the use of youth in the commission of crimes.
Alvarez and Castro stated, "Most children above this age, especially in these times when all forms and manner of knowledge are available through the internet and digital media, are already fully informed and should be taught that they are responsible for what they say and do."
Fine Print: Many lawmakers oppose the bill. Among them is Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the principal author of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which was passed in 2006. Pangilinan said that the police should go after the crime syndicates that use kids in committing crimes. He said the kids should not be targets. He stated, "Eh di habulin yung sindikato. Bakit yung bata yung hinahabol (They should go after the crime syndicates. Why would they go after kids)?"
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale also expressed her disapproval of the proposal because she thinks "nine-year-old children are too young and are not yet capable of discernment."
7) The plan to "share" the West Philippine Sea
The Big Picture: The country's long-running territorial dispute against China over the South China Sea (which should really be called the West Philippine Sea if we're going to be strict about our claim) has intensified in recent years. In 2013, the Philippine government under then President Noynoy Aquino finally brought its case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)—an international tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands. The PCA has 119 member states.
A few days before the PCA's July 12 ruling on the dispute, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) chief Perfecto Yasay said something about teaming up with China in the use of the disputed area's natural gas reserves and fishing grounds. "We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory. How we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping," Yasay said in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
When he was asked if his statement meant that the two countries would have "joint fishing rights" in the Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc) again, Yasay replied: "Maybe so. It is something that can be agreed upon. It's my understanding that in the long course of history, Scarborough Shoal has been the traditional fishing grounds not only for Filipinos but also Vietnamese, Chinese. We can continue with this arrangement. The resources there are God-given for all and for everyone to enjoy. We can work at joint benefit in so far as using the marine resources in the area." (via InterAksyon.com)
At least one critic tagged Yasay a possible "traitor in the making" for the things he said, which made it sound as if he was supporting China's territorial claim.
Fine Print: Naturally, Yasay's statements were seen as the Duterte administration's stance on the dispute. It didn't help that when the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, the Palace didn't exactly jump for joy at the ruling even as other Pinoys jumped for joy and released balloons.
8) The hotlines
The Big Picture: In his first Cabinet meeting after his inauguration, Duterte vowed to put up a complaint hotline. "I am setting up a complaint office, 24 hours, manned by 10 operators, covering the entire country. The number will be 8888. They can report to me any complaint and there will be a manager who will redirect the complaint to the proper office," he explained.
Presidential Communications chief Martin Andanar later told the press that the "8888" complaint hotline and the "911" emergency hotline would be launched in August.
Fine Print: The 8888 hotline alone is sure to get flooded with calls. All we can suggest is that maybe they can add more operators for it.
9) Duterte to prioritize Concon and FOI
The Big Picture: In a July 4 press briefing, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella revealed that Duterte is pushing for a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) as a mode of changing some provisions of the Constitution.
Abella pointed out that that ChaCha (charter change) is among the priorities of the President as it would pave the way to change the country's form of government to federalism.
Abella stated, "As far as we know, President Duterte favors ConCon [because] it’s more consultative and with more representation."
Abella added that Freedom of Information bill (FOI) is also a priority of the present administration which it intends to communicate to Congress for legislation.
Fine Print: This isn't the first time that we're encountering ConCon, ChaCha, and FOI. We've done this dance before with past administrations. Then again, all we can do for now is wait and see if the Duterte administration does what no administration has done before.
10) Intensified peace talks
The Big Picture: Duterte himself said that he is now "working overtime" with Cabinet Secretary, Leoncio Evasco, to prepare for the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
During the Hari Raya Eid al-Fitr celebration in Davao City, Duterte told Muslim leaders and delegates, "I have to go to Jolo to talk to (MNLF chairman Nur) Misuari and maybe I'll order the military to just let him rest for a while, for him to move around Mindanao to get the consensus among the followers (of the MNLF)."
A Davao Today article also noted that Duterte said that if he could convince both the MILF and the MNLF to a framework on peace, "there will be a reconfiguration of the territory."
Fine Print: Referring to change in the less-than-ideal situation in Mindanao, Duterte remarked, "It will not come overnight, not next year. It will be something in two to three years. I assure something will change before the end of my term." Bottom line: There are just some things you can't rush. The Mindanao conflict is something that has plagued the country for a long time.
11) Duterte takes a commercial flight to Davao City
The Big Picture: Seeing the President go through airport security checks and getting on a commericial flight is awesome. Duterte did just that on July 8, when he got on a Philippine Airlines flight to Davao City.
Fine Print: With Duterte expected to go through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) frequently as he spends time in Manila and Davao, criminals and scammers at the airport may finally stop their operations. In any case, Duterte has prohibited authorities from arresting passengers who somehow turn up with bullets in their luggage.
12) Duterte follows his own tradition and fashion rules
The Big Picture: Duterte has always said that he can't stand ceremonies and formalities. Thus, Duterte was a no-show at the first Palace flag-raising ceremony under his administration. Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella explained, "This is a ceremonial process. The President is a not a person who stands on ceremony. He's really an action person but you can expect him to show up when action is really needed."
When he attended the 69th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Clark, Pampanga earlier this month, Duterte paired his barong Tagalog with jeans.
Fine Print: Let's face it. There are some things only a President can get away with.
This story originally appeared on Cosmo.ph.
*Minor edits have been made by the FHM.com.ph editors.
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