It may seem like Rodrigo Duterte has gone quiet these past few months. With elections coming up, headlines have been focused more on his potential successor and other election related issues. This quietness may seem uncharacteristic since people have witnessed him make headlines regularly with his brutal remarks against his critics or questionable policy decisions. His legacy is not a quiet one either. The noise of the victims of the recent extrajudicial killings of the drug war, Bloody Sunday, up to the Bataan 5, the noise of fisherfolk trying to reclaim our territory in the West Philippine Sea, and the noise of thousands of bankrupt farmers and unemployed Filipino workers who lost their jobs due to a botched pandemic response have overwhelmed whatever legacy the Duterte regime wants to achieve.
Duterte, who won in 2016, promoted his flagship programs such as the Build, Build, Build program, as well as his whole of nation approach on insurgency. Along with those platforms, he vowed to end contractualization, increase salaries of police and military personnel, and an overall boost in the economy.
Economic development has always been a staple in a candidates platform since it is quantifiable and is an intersectional aspect that can impact other platforms. Seeing economic development in one’s platform may sound promising but execution and the question of who benefits most from this should be kept in mind. With that, we question if the Duterte regime lived up to their promise or did they continue to uphold and normalize neoliberal policies that benefit only a few.
Employment: Quality and Quantity
The current administration boasts economic development mainly because of the Build, Build, Build program which focuses on infrastructure development to help boost the economy. But according to Ibon Foundation, an independent research think tank, the Duterte administration has had the weakest economy since the post war era since Philippine independence. Manufacturing was collapsing, shared GDP is the smallest since 1950 even before the pandemic began with less than 19%.
Along with its flagship economic program such as the BBB, there’s no doubt that it has created jobs; yet a lot (if not all) of these jobs are contractual, meaning they are not permanent and are unable to sustain the everyday needs of the Filipino. The pandemic has hit the economy the hardest and the majority of unemployment can be attributed to the halting of the economy but the Philippines has already hit record unemployment even before the pandemic hitting its peak in April 2020 with nearly 13 million unemployed reaching a 28% unemployment rate. From 2017 to 2019, the Duterte administration has had the lowest job generation on the average with over 300,000.
According to IBON’s comparison of unemployment numbers from post Marcos administrations with Duterte, it shows a significant difference by the thousands. Under Duterte, unemployment increased by 1.3 million from 2.4 million in 2016 it grew to 3.7 million in 2021. Arroyo (2001-2010) came in second with 632,000 unemployment increase, Estrada (1998-2001) with 611,000, Ramos (1992-1998) with 449,000, Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) with 68,000, and Benigno Aquino III (2010-2016) decreased by 261,000.
In the ASEAN, the Philippines has the biggest unemployment increase with 5.3 percent as of 2020, highest unemployment with 6.5 percent as of November 2021. These numbers may already seem harsh but one can truly see the effects when we also contextualize it with the current inflation rate of 4.5 percent annually which also gives the Philippines a top spot in the ASEAN. This means that as people lose their jobs, their spending capacity is lessened while commodities continue to become more expensive, further disabling them financially. On top of that, the Philippines also earns the top spot for the biggest increase in super rich wealth with 30.5 percent. This further validates the statement “the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.” This also tells us that this administration’s policies have favored more the wealthy few and the elite.
A few months into the pandemic, unemployment has only worsened. With the on and off lockdowns lacking long term support for daily wage and irregular workers, people are left to fend for themselves. Lockdowns have become detrimental especially without free mass testing and proper compensation. According to IBON, 17.3 million families lost P13,000 to P32,500 in incomes on average in the past 17 months due to lockdowns. Despite the government’s massive borrowing binge, “ayuda” or a cash subsidy of P5,000 is not enough to sustain one’s living especially with crippling restrictions caused by lockdowns.
Agricultural Death Sentence
One of the most notable decisions of this administration for the agricultural sector is the enactment of the Rice Tarrification Law or RTL. The goal of this law is to create a globally competitive agricultural industry especially when it comes to rice production. Yet according to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the law “is equivalent to a death sentence for the local rice industry and rice farmers.”
The law liberalizes rice trade by imposing tariffs on imports in lieu of quantitative restrictions. But according to AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women, farmers over the country lost around Php 165 billion pesos due to RTL with around 20.2% of circulating rice in the country being imported. Farmers were forced to sell grains of rice for as low as Php 7 per kilo, lower than the cost of production and labor at over Php 17. In Central Luzon, the rice capital of the country, farmgate prices range from Php 9 to 12 while they dropped to Php 7 in Bataan.
It can also be considered that the agricultural sector under the Duterte administration is at a crisis since most policies have been detrimental to the development of the said sector. Aside from the RTL pushing rice farmers to bankruptcy, the average budget share for the entire agricultural sector has been the lowest budget share in 21 years with 3.5 percent in agriculture and agrarian reform in the 2017-2022 budget according to Ibon Foundation.
End the Legacy
These are only a few of Duterte’s “achievements” throughout his six year term. In the words of Sonny Africa, “Ang mas malaking challenge is we stop the decay in Philippine politics and economy na nagtuloy under Duterte.” The 2022 elections are not a golden ticket to a new brand of governance. These are all “illusions in our very fragile democracy” according to Rosario Guzman, IBON’s research head. But the 2022 elections are still a window, no matter how small, take the chance to push for a more progressive, pro-development, democratic, and people-centered policies and governance. The last thing we need is continuing a legacy built on disinformation and corruption. [P]
Graphics by Christopher
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