The incoming administration of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte Jr. declared that it would hit the ground running. And it appears that they would be true to their word. Already, Duterte and his team have begun showing its policy directions through its position on issues, some of which are alarming and some laudable.
First, it has outlined an eight-point economic agenda. This has, most probably, assured the business community but it has drawn criticisms from progressives for its consistent adherence to the neoliberal framework, which may have generated economic growth but has failed to build a solid foundation for the economy, and has excluded the poor majority.
Second, the incoming Duterte administration has put outgoing president Benigno Aquino III and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to task for losing Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands to China. Duterte has accused Sen. Trillanes of holding 16 secret meetings with Chinese officials, which, Duterte said, resulted in China confirming the weak defense capability of the Philippines thereby, emboldening the former to aggressively assert its claims. For this, Duterte’s team charged both Trillanes and Aquino with treason. This indicates that the incoming Duterte administration would not allow the country’s sovereignty to be trampled upon.
Third, presumptive president Duterte has declared that it would push for the restoration of the death penalty, and would even replace the method of execution from lethal injection to hanging. This has earned the nod of a segment of the population, from the business community, professionals and the masses alike who are fed up with the inability of the past administration to solve crime. But this pronouncement has also drawn criticism from the church, human rights organizations, and a segment of the population, from professionals and the masses who believe that the death penalty has never deterred crime. The death penalty is also irreversible: one could not bring back the life of one who was unjustly and wrongly executed. They also believe that with the flawed justice system, where real criminals who have the resources could hire good lawyers and bribe their way out of jail, the poor masses are the ones who are being sacrificed to satisfy the hunger of some for vengeance.
Fourth, the Duterte administration vowed to abolish the pork barrel fund, a major source of corruption that President Aquino refused to abolish even as it extolled its “daang matuwid.”
Fifth, this early, the incoming Duterte administration has already undertaken efforts to jumpstart peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Bangsamoro armed groups. It has already appointed the person in-charge of the peace efforts Jesus Dureza, and the head of the government panel for the peace negotiations with the NDFP Silvestre Bello III, who also headed the panel during the previous Ramos administration, when the most number of agreements were forged. It declared that it would release political prisoners as goodwill measure and has offered four Cabinet positions to the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The implications of the potential positive progress of the peace negotiations on the Filipino people are huge. If successful, this will forge the nation’s unity, which would have positive effects on the economy, the assertion of the country’s sovereignty, and on effective, far-reaching political reforms.
The peace negotiations would hopefully address the people’s yearning for justice and begin resolving the root causes of the armed conflicts the government is engaged in with both the NDFP and the Bangsamoro people. The peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been stalled at the stage of defining the parameters of autonomy and self-rule of the Bangsamoro people. The peace negotiation with the NDFP, on the other hand, is already at the stage of forging an agreement on social and economic reforms before proceeding to political reforms and finally, cessation of armed hostilities and disposition of forces.
To benefit from these are not only the parties concerned but also the whole Filipino people. Who would not benefit from the unity of the Filipino and Bangsamoro peoples? Who would not benefit from the achievement of peace based on justice? Who would not benefit from addressing, and eventually resolving, the roots of poverty and social injustices, the problems of economic backwardness and instability, and the plague of corruption and political dynasties? Who would not benefit from a free nation governed by people who make the needs, rights, and interests of the Filipino people a priority?