After providing an input on the Global and National Situation before sisters of the OSA, a nun asked me where President Duterte is taking the nation. My response was that it is not clear because the President could say one thing then his staff would try to explain that it was not what he meant. Also, he could be passionate about addressing a serious problem such as illegal drugs, which his predecessors ignored, but the way his government is going about it is wrong: through a killing spree mainly targeting the poor.
But thinking deeper about the question, one may ask, what has the Duterte administration done for the poor so far?
Just recently, Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano finally distributed the land of Hacienda Luisita. But would the Department of Agrarian Reform do it if not for Secretary Mariano who was a peasant leader and former Anakpawis Party-list representative before he was appointed? The Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of the land became final on April 2012, almost five years ago, and it is only under Mariano when it was distributed.
Social Welfare Sec. Judy Taguiwalo has been doing a lot in addressing the problems of responsiveness of the department during calamities, in cleaning up the list of beneficiaries for the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, and even in uplifting the conditions of the employees of the department. But would the department have done it without the leadership of Taguiwalo?
Of course, it is President Duterte who appointed the two.
It was reported in the news recently that President Duterte ordered that the housing for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) be distributed for free.
The cancellation order by Environment Sec. Gina Lopez on the 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) or mining concessions of mining companies along watersheds would also benefit the people a lot. However, the Chamber of Mines has already filed an opposition to her appointment before the Commission on Appointments to stop her and it remains to be seen if Malacañang would support her or overturn her cancellation order.
But aside from these, the poor have hardly benefited, if at all, from the policies being pushed and implemented by the Duterte administration.
The salaries and wages of rank and file employees and workers have remained the same; contractualization is still being practiced; landlessness is still prevalent; prices and rates of basic goods, services, and utilities remain high. And social inequities remain, as well as the system that perpetuated it.
On the other hand, the more than 7,000 killed in the Duterte administration’s lethal war on drugs came mostly from the poor. And the two main pieces of legislation being pushed hard by the administration– the revival of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal liability – would likewise mainly affect the poor, especially with the country’s flawed justice system that is vulnerable to corruption and the legal maneuvers of expensive lawyers. The move of our honorable congressmen to remove the crime of plunder from those punishable by death, to save themselves and their ilk, shows who is the main target of the death penalty.
In the rural areas, the declaration of the all out war by the Armed Forces of the Philippines would also mainly affect poor peasants and indigenous peoples who are being targeted on mere suspicion of aiding the New People’s Army, especially those resisting projects affecting their land and environment such as mining, logging, and the like.
Already, development workers have been arrested in Bacolod City and Baguio City, Rogina Quilop and Sarah Abello-Alikes respectively. Two activists, Ferdinand Castillo of Bayan-Metro Manila and Edison Villanueva of Gabriela-Southern Tagalog were also arrested.
Rodrigo Roa Duterte was elected president by a wide margin on the promise of change. Criticized for his profanity-laden campaign speeches, he said he was cursing because he was expressing the people’s anger and frustration over the status quo. And he said his heart is for the poor majority.
However, there have been no changes in the policies and programs that have perpetuated poverty for the majority.
It’s true that the Duterte administration has only been in office for a little more than seven months of a six-year term and a lot could still happen. But with the direction being taken by the Duterte administration so far, change doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, especially for the poor majority.