MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivered on July 25, 2016 his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). In it, he made a detailed litany of plans and vision for the country, not only in his first year, but also for his full term as the Chief Executive.
Duterte then made reiterations of the promises he made on the campaign trail like the war on drugs and criminality. He also provided more details on his overall approach in certain issues, like peace, transportation, and tax reform.
While he was quick to lay out direct plans during his speech, translating these words into action was going to be a greater challenge, especially creating concrete ones in time for his next annual report in front of Congress and the Filipino people.
With almost a year having passed and his second SONA taking place on the July 24, 2017, it is important to analyze whether he delivered on his most prominent promises or not. Here are five of the most prominent promises he made and acted upon since his 2016 SONA:
Duterte’s war on drugs
In the 2016 SONA, Duterte said, “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars or below the ground if they so wish.”
While he has not accomplished ushering in a drug-free Philippines yet, and in fact asked for extension beyond the initial three to six months of drug war, he has made notable and widely known actions on campaigning against illegal drugs. A year later, the war on drugs continues.
The Guardian reported that anti-drug operations and vigilante killings have carried over into 2017, with over 7,000 deaths having taken place since the inauguration of the Duterte administration.
Of these deaths, over 3,600 have been at the hands of vigilantes or unknown hitmen.
THE KILL LIST by the Philippine Daily Inquirer has also reported over 440 deaths where the identity of the victim has remained unidentified, as well as over 100 only known by an alias. The Kill List covered drug-related deaths that occured from June 29, 2016 to February 16, 2017.
Lasting peace with rebels
President Duterte also vowed he would make efforts to put an end to the conflicts between the Philippine Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after decades of armed struggle.
“To the CPP, let us end decades of ambuscades, we are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day. To immediately stop violence in the ground, restore peace in the communities, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF effective immediately and call on…the NDF and its forces to respond.”
Despite the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, it was revoked six days later after CPP failed to meet 24-hour deadline. Additionally, the New People’s Army allegedly ambushed Philippine Army in Compostela Valley.
In August 2016, a temporary bilateral ceasefire eventually took place, and peace talks began.
The first round of peace talks took place on August 22, with two rounds coming after. However, the Philippine government and CPP failed to meet the other party’s demands and reported violations of the ceasefire took place.
According to Inquirer.net, among the CPP demands that Duterte could not meet was the release of over 400 political prisoners.“I would not honor any agreement that would violate the Constitution. I never promised to release all political prisoners. You don’t release them because they committed a crime,” he said.
On February 4, Duterte ended unilateral ceasefire and has not resumed peace talks since. Duterte would later declare an all-out war with the rebels, stating he would not resume peace talks without a “compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation.”
On the all-out war, Duterte said, “I’m ready for all-out war another 50 years,” urging the military to deploy all available assets.
In his SONA, Duterte also said, “At the household level, there must be sufficient income for all Filipinos.”
In line with this, Duterte revealed plans of a tax reform in order to make the lives of his constituents more affordable.
“My administration will pursue tax reforms towards a simpler and more equitable tax system that can foster investments. We will lower personal and corporate income tax rates,” the President said.
The tax reform bill exempts those with annual income of 250,000 or less from income taxes, and reduces the maximum rate of income tax over time from 32% to 25%. Furthermore, the exemption for the 13th month pay and other bonuses has been raised to P100,000.
In May 2017, House of Representatives (HoR) passed the said bill, which is pegged to earn 82 billion pesos of annual income.
However, some representatives expressed dissent towards the supposedly pro-poor reform, given how it will collect new duties on petroleum products and sweetened beverages in lieu of the decreased personal income taxes.
According to ABS-CBN news, a P10-per-liter excise tax will be imposed on non-alcoholic sweetened beverages, which include carbonated drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, sports drinks, juices, teas, coffee, and cereal and grain-based drinks.
Furthermore, fringe benefits will also be taxed, which may offset whatever expenses are saved from income tax reduction.
More, faster trains in Manila
Another notable promise from President Duterte’ first SONA was the installation faster and more efficient public transportation.
Duterte made plans to add four new Metro Rail Transit trains, and to have them move 20km/h faster. He also promised to extend the hours of the Light Rail Transit by one hour, and to extend its lines.
Duterte said, “Passenger capacity congestion shall be addressed by increasing the number of running trains from the current 16 trains with a total of 48 cars per hour, to 20 trains with a total of 60 cars per hour; increase train speed from 40 kph to 60 kph.”
In May, the extension of the LRT line 2 officially broke ground, with completion scheduled to take place within a year. The line will then cover Recto, Manila up to Masinag, Antipolo.
Duterte has also fulfilled his promise of extending the LRT hours by an hour, with all lines now operating until 10:30 pm.
The new MRT trains are yet to be deployed, however.
Improved macroeconomic policies
Duterte also promised to continue the improvement and development of the local economy.
“My administration will continue and maintain current macroeconomic policies and even do better,” he said. “We will achieve this through prudent fiscal and monetary policies that can help translate high growth into more and better job creation and poverty reduction.”
Duterte proceeded to release a 10-point socio-economic agenda, which covers his targeted areas for improvement throughout his term.
This agenda includes continuing and maintaining current macroeconomic policies, instituting a more effective tax reform, increasing the ease of doing business, improving social protection programs, and promoting the development of science and technology.
The 10-item agenda also aims to increase the rate of infrastructure development. In line with this, an P8.4-trillion massive infrastructure expenditure was promised for the next six years.
In April, Duterte revealed that this expenditure covers plans of major infrastructure development projects, the majority of which have been the construction of new railways to improve commute efficiency.
This includes the construction of a subway project connecting northern Manila to the south as well as a Mindanao railway extension from Tagum to Digos.
The Philippine Star also reported that Duterte has made plans to connect the North and South Luzon Expressways, as well as for the construction of several new bridges. — RealTalk, July 24, 2017