MANILA — Five years ago, President Rodrigo Duterte swept to power under the slogan, “change is coming”, defeating his rivals with a man-of-the-people persona and a pledge to crush crime.
A plurality of 16 million people voted him to power, despite accusations of extra-judicial killings during his 2-decade tenure as Davao City mayor, his off-color language, a rape joke, and cursing the Pope.
Observers say he succeeded in tapping Filipinos’ disgust of the elite and government failure to curb poverty after decades of liberal democracy.
Duterte, 76, is not eligible for re-election, but fulfilling his campaign pledges could help the chances of his chosen successor in the 2022 elections.
With less than a year before he steps down, here’s a recap of how Duterte’s key promises to the Filipino people stack up against his track record.
Duterte in 2016 asked voters to give him “3 to 6 months” to “get rid of corruption, drugs, and criminality.
He unleashed an anti-narcotics campaign upon taking office and has defended the program fiercely, especially from critics such as Western leaders and institutions which he says do not care about the Philippines.
But “shabu” remains a major concern in the Philippines, 5 years into the drug war, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in June.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in over 200,000 anti-drug operations conducted since July 2016, according to official data. Human rights groups estimate the number of people killed could be several times higher.
Many suspects have been put on "drug watch lists" and subjected to anti-drug operations, a situation which on many occasions ends in a deadly shooting that officers claim was self-defense.
A prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested a full-blown inquiry into the alleged crimes against humanity under Duterte's flagship campaign.
Duterte refuses to submit to the probe. In 2019, he withdrew the Philippines from the ICC after it launched a preliminary examination into the war on drugs.
However, the court could still investigate crimes committed while the country was a member, ICC's former chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said.
The Supreme Court has junked petitions questioning Duterte's withdrawal from the ICC, but it also reiterated in a ruling released this July that the Philippines is still obliged to comply with the ICC treaty.
Opinion polls show approval and support for Duterte's fight against drugs and crime, but most Filipinos are also worried about becoming a victim of extra-judicial killings.
Based on an SWS survey in December 2019, 73% said the number of illegal drug users has fallen since Duterte took office in 2016. However, 76% also agreed that many human rights abuses in the campaign against illegal drugs have been committed.
Duterte's administration has had its fair share of scandals and allegations of graft and cover-ups in state agencies ranging from prisons, the state insurer, immigration, airports and customs, to police and the drugs enforcement agency, few of which led to convictions or high-profile resignations.
The President this year signed a law that granted him powers against red tape during national emergencies.
Duterte last year ordered government agencies to increase transparency in their procurement processes, and ordered a state-wide graft probe.
In 2017, he created the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission. The body claims hundreds of government officials and personnel have been fired for corruption.
But former Supreme Court Justice Samuel Martires, who Duterte appointed as Ombudsman in 2018, has been criticized for several policies.
Martires has moved to stop lifestyle checks and restricted public access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, which he said has been weaponized against officials.
Opinion polls by the SWS in 2019 show that the public has not rated the administration "excellent or very good" on eradicating graft and corruption. It got a "good" classification based on +31 net satisfaction rating in December 2019, down 10 points from +41 in March 2019.
FOREIGN POLICY, WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
Duterte since the 2016 poll campaign has said in various instances that he would not go to war with China over its refusal to obey the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in 2016 that junked its claims to the West Philippine Sea.
He also emphasized a desire to move away from the US, the Philippines' defense treaty ally and China's superpower rival.
Duterte has since set aside the Philippines' victory in the PCA in exchange for Chinese aid and loans. However, some of his critics say the Duterte pivot to China has turned him into a lackey of the Asian giant.
In May, Duterte said the PCA ruling was scrap "paper" that belonged to the wastebasket. He also said his supposed election promise to ride a jet ski to challenge Chinese incursion in Philippine waters was a "pure joke", and that those believed it were "stupid."
But later that same month, he said he would keep Philippine ships in the resource-rich waterway.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has filed diplomatic protests over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.
"Hindi tayo mamimigay ng teritoryo, pero hindi natin sisirain ang pagkakaibigan sa bansang Tsina na ating kaptibahay dahil lang po sa hindi nareresolba pag-aagawan ng teritoryo," Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said of the administration's foreign policy on July 19.
(We will not give away any territory, but we will not ruin our friendship with China, our neighbor, just because of the unresolved territorial dispute.)
On the same day, Duterte said he would talk with US officials about the Visiting Forces Agreement between Manila and Washington after threatening on several occasions to have the accord abrogated.
A month before he was elected President, Duterte told voters, "The moment I assume the presidency, contractualization will stop."
"Endo" or "end of contract" is a practice in which some employers end contracts on the fifth month and renew it for 5 months at a time to avoid granting workers regular employee status.
But, in 2019, Duterte vetoed an anti-endo bill that he certified as urgent, to achieve what he called a "delicate balance" between the interests of employers and employees.
Following the veto, "all the sectors have not been voicing out their opinions on this, even the Department of Labor," Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Jacinto Paras said earlier this July.
"So, medyo hindi naging priority ito ngayon," he said.
(This is somewhat not a priority now.)
"As far as the number one priority of the President, he is pushing the approval by the Senate of the Department of OFWs," said Paras.
Duterte had promised “inclusive” peace talks with communist and Moro rebels.
In 2018, he signed a law that created the Bangsamoro region, which authorities hope would boost peace after decades of fighting that had killed thousands and mired the area in poverty.
The region has more powers than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it replaced.
As for communist rebels, Duterte in 2019 ended peace talks with them, following alleged attacks against security forces. Suspected communists and NDF peace negotiators have also been arrested or rearrested following the collapse of the peace talks. A number of leftist leaders have also been killed in what are believed to be extra-judicial killings.
Security forces also launched anti-insurgency operations meant to crush the over half-a-century-old communist rebellion during Duterte's 6-year-term, but an end to the conflict is nowhere in sight during his last year in office.
The Duterte administration has also since been accused of "red-tagging" or linking to the communist movement politicians, celebrities, and human rights defenders, among others.
Duterte had promised to spread wealth more evenly in a country where over a quarter of the 100 million people are poor. In 2016, he said he would pursue his predecessor’s infrastructure and fiscal efficiency drives to lift growth to at least 7 percent.
The government has continued the previous Aquino government's conditional cash program for the poorest Filipinos.
In 2017, Duterte signed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) that reduced personal income tax and raised tax on fuel, cars, tobacco, and sugary beverages.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic left businesses struggling and millions jobless last year, only 16 percent of Filipinos did not consider themselves poor, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.
With the second highest COVID-19 tally in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is banking on its COVID-19 vaccination drive to safely reopen the economy and allow more people to return to work this year.
In March, Duterte signed a law that reduced corporate income tax to help pandemic-hit businesses recover.
INFRASTRUCTURE'S GOLDEN AGE?
Duterte's administration in 2016 promised to ramp up spending to build more roads, rails and bridges in what is hoped to be a "golden age" of infrastructure.
The Build, Build, Build program received the second highest allocation with PhP1,323.1 billion or 29.4 percent of this year's national budget.
The infrastructure push "is expected to generate 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs and catalyze business activities all over the country," said the budget department.
Duterte in 2016 said he would cancel mining projects causing environmental harm.
In April this year, he lifted a nearly 9-year moratorium on new mining agreements, which he said could support economic growth and the administration's multi-billion peso infrastructure drive.
Mining remains a controversial issue in the country due to past cases of environmental mismanagement.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized miners for polluting rivers and destroying forests.
The President has also pressed developed countries to cut carbon emission, a primary driver of climate change.
In 2018, he ordered the rehabilitation of holiday island Boracay, followed by Manila Bay the next year.
The Philippines in 2019 also sent back dozens of shipping containers full of trash to Canada.
Earlier this June, the government said it would investigate a report that Chinese ships were allegedly dumping sewage in the West Philippine Sea.
In May 2016, Duterte told the country’s main telecom providers to speed up the internet, or he would junk laws that prohibit foreign competition.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last January reported to Duterte that internet service providers have improved their download speed, his spokesman said. However, Philippine internet speed continue to lag the speed in other Asian countries, said the NTC.
In 2017, Duterte approved a law that would provide free internet access in public places.
The government is now seeking a $21-million refund from the foreign contractor of the free WiFi project over its slow pace, Malacañang said in May this year.
Duterte, who promised the poorest Filipinos access to medical services, signed in 2019 the Universal Health Care Act, which provides automatic healthcare coverage for all Filipinos.
Two years before this, he signed a bill granting free tuition in state colleges and universities.
Duterte in 2019 said he had fulfilled most of his promises, except for solving the country's traffic problem.
But the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year caused annual traffic congestion to fall in most countries for the first time in at least 10 years, disrupting long-held traffic patterns like the dreaded morning commute to work, a report said.
Duterte, the first President from Mindanao, had promised that he would shift government power away from "Imperial Manila".
He also called for a shift of the system of governance from unitary to federal saying this would spur countryside development, but the move has not prospered.
More importantly, his key economic managers have cautioned against the enormous price tag of shifting to federalism.
In June, he approved the devolution of some functions to local government units from the national government so that the latter "can assume more strategic and steering functions to address persistent development issues."
Duterte and his defeated running mate promised to recover the coconut levy fund to benefit over 2 million coconut farmers and the local coconut industry, within 100 days of taking office.
The President in February finally signed a measure establishing the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund.
Duterte earlier vetoed the measure in February 2019 over fears it may be "unconstitutional" and "lacked safeguards against abuses." In the same month, Duterte vetoed its twin bill on the reconstitution of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos established a coco levy fund taxing coconut farmers between 1973 and 1982. The fund was allegedly used by his cronies for investments for their personal gain.
Duterte in 2016 promised to release then jailed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In July 2016, she walked free from nearly 5 years of detention at a military hospital after the Supreme Court dismissed her corruption charges.
Arroyo went on to become House Speaker in 2018, in a power play widely credited to the President's daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
The President in 2016 also promised the burial at a hero's cemetery of the late Marcos patriarch, who was accused of widespread plunder and brutality.
Duterte delivered in November 2016, 27 years after Marcos's death, arguing that as a former military man and head of state, he met the criteria for a place in the heroes' cemetery.