Are we getting anywhere with a tough-talking president?

During his presidential campaign, Rodrigo Duterte vowed that if he becomes president, he would solve the illegal drug problem in six months, adding that the drug war would be bloody. He also promised to stamp out corruption.

Well, barely after a year in office, in August 2017, President Duterte conceded that the drug problem could not be solved by one president in a single term. But the result of his illegal drug war is no less bloody. Estimates on the death toll of his illegal drug war range from the official Philippine National Police data of almost 4,000 to 12, 000 (Human Rights Watch). This has prompted calls for an independent investigation and even prosecution before the International Criminal Court.

The body count increases while there has been no dent in the drug problem in the country.

President Duterte also promised to stamp out corruption. He even dismissed some members of the executive branch supposedly because of this. But still, in a recent report by Transparency International, corruption in the Philippines has gotten worse, with the country going down from 101st out of 180 countries to 111th place. The Philippines has been tagged as among the ‘worst offenders’ in Asia.

“These countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths.”

This should not be surprising, as the President has taken it upon himself to intimidate, ban, and even push for the closure of media agencies that catch his ire.

He promised peace, but the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front appears to be in limbo while that with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines has been effectively terminated by Duterte himself.

Not only does President Duterte’s tough-talking not getting the country anywhere, it even threatens to put the country in a worse situation. A perfect example is his views about women and its implications on the problem of violence against women.

Recently, President Duterte was quoted ordering soldiers to shoot women guerillas of the New People’s Army at their vagina. “If there is no vagina, it would be useless.” President Duterte practically encourages violence against women and even insults them by saying that their worth is tied to their genitals.

Worse, the presidential spokesman, a former self-proclaimed human rights lawyers, Harry Roque called it as just a ‘funny joke.’

But this was not the first time President Duterte made disgusting jokes relating to women. When he talked about an Australian woman who was kidnapped, raped and killed allegedly by terrorists, he had the gall to joke that he should have been given the first opportunity to rape her.

A few days after declaring martial law in Mindanao, President Duterte ‘joked’ that if soldiers rape three women, he will take responsibility for it.

Of course, it will be too much to say that the Duterte administration has not implemented any substantial policy change.

One major measure successfully passed by President Duterte’s allies in Congress is the TRAIN or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law. Signed into law in December 2017, it was touted by the Duterte administration as its “best Christmas and New Year’s gift to the Filipino people.”

Since the January 2018, there have been six oil price hikes already. The inflation rate in January 2018 has now reached 4 percent, a jump from the December 2017 rate of 3.3 percent and the 2.7 percent of January 2017.

The much-touted increase in tax exemptions, under TRAIN, would have no effect on the poor majority as minimum wage earners were already exempted under the old tax system. To make matters worse, the exemptions for dependents have been removed. Thus, only single or childless individuals earning an annual income of more than 50,000 up to 250, 000 would have some tax relief.

On the other hand, everybody bears the burden of price spikes resulting from higher excise taxes, especially of oil products.

Tough talk, tough times ahead.  (bulatlat.com)

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