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100 Days: Activists praise Duterte achievements, criticize shortcomings

Activists commended the achievements of the Rodrigo Duterte government in its first 100 days in office while pointing out its shortcomings in a report presented at the Quezon City Sports Club last October 5.

Groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the Duterte government must be congratulated on its assertion of Philippine sovereignty and  its peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,  pointing out that he is the only Philippine president who has done both.

“These two accomplishments will allow us to make important reforms to our economy and push harder for nationalistic development,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said.

“For us, it is very significant that he supports the interest of the Filipino masses against meddlesome and abusive foreign interests,” Reyes said.

Militant workers also praised Duterte for the president’s pronouncements against contractualization.

“We highly appreciate that it was more than a campaign promise and that steps are being taken,” Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog said.

Labog also told the gathering the Department of Labor and Employment is taking steps to prevent abuses by employers, especially manpower agencies.

Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist, on the other hand, called the policy reforms achieved under the Duterte adminstration “unprecedented, historic, and positive,” citing the reforms achieved under the progressives in the administration.

Casilao said Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano is working to distribute hundreds of hectares in Hacienda Luisita and has convinced Duterte to convene the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council for the first time in nearly ten years.

“They implemented serious and agreeable reforms. They have proven that their appointment is more that simple rhetorics,” Casilao said.

More issues to address

Amid all the successes, however, were issues that the progressives felt were left hanging.

Dr. Joseph Carabeo, secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), was disappointed in the Department of Health’s decision to further cut the budget for public hospitals.

“We were initially pleased by president Duterte’s mandate to improve our health system, even sending DOH secretary Paulyn Ubial to Cuba to learn from their strong public health care system. However, it seemed they learned nothing,” Carabeo said.

Carabeo bemoaned that privatization of public hospitals is still being implemented, citing as an example the ongoing demolition of Fabella Hospital.

“There is still no salary increase for health workers, and our doctors and nurses are decreasing in rural areas, in contrast to Cuba’s good example,” he added.

Benjie Valbuena of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers assailed the Department of Education for focusing more on the alternative learning system while the long-standing problems within the educational system remain.

“The dwindling amount of teachers and classrooms has not been paid much attention,” Valbuena said.   “There must be revisions to teachers’ salaries and the content of the current curriculum.”

Valbuena further revealed that DepEd Order No. 221, which allows soldiers to use schools are barracks is also still active.  “This continues to endanger students and holds our indigenous brethren back,” he said.

Reyes condemned the extrajudicial killings caused by the administration’s war on drugs.  “In this regard, we disagree with him.”

“The drug issue is not a police problem will not be solved by killing every drug addict and pusher. The Duterte administration must address and solve socioeconomic factors that cause it,” he said.

Contradictions

The progressives said that the people should be aware of contradictions from among the president’s allies, namely those who continue to push for neoliberal interests.

They cited recent pronouncements made by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Erneso Pernia speaking against the Department of Agrarian Reform’s current programs, and cabinet secretaries constantly clarifying Duterte’s profanity-laden statements regarding several institutions and personalities, namely US president Barack Obama and the European Union.

Casilao, for one, does not see any reason for the president’s men to do so. “The secretaries should take what the president says as a policy statement. They, as his men whose power emanates from him, have no right to be changing his words and context,” he said.

Casilao believes that the various secrataries and spokespersons speaking out of turn stems from Duterte previously stating that he will give them leeway to do their job.

He added that it was important that people understand that the content and nationalistic reasons behind Duterte’s words were more important than his manner and phrasing.

Reyes reiterated that the progressive organizations will still take to the streets and hold demonstrations.

“In the first 100 days, the Duterte administration has achieved much. However, we are still far from true change,” he said. “There are positive steps being taken by the government, but there remains so much left to do.”

Reyes added, “the contradictions from within and outside the administration and getting worse, and the Filipino people must prepare and watch them closely. That is why we will remain in the streets, marching and holding protest actions.” # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)