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Duterte held nation together, but change is yet to come — Lagman


President Rodrigo Duterte was able to "hold the nation together" in his first year in office but Filipinos have yet to see authentic change, according to one of his fiercest critics.

"Despite his unpresidential demeanor, profane language, abusive rhetoric and flawed policy statements, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his own inscrutable way, has held the nation together one year into his incumbency," Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who leads the so-called "Magnificent 7" congressmen, said in his assessment of Duterte's first year in office.

"The President has galvanized a vast majority to believe in his campaign promise that 'change is coming.' The people still await the coming of authentic change," he added.

In his evaluation, Lagman noted what he thinks are the successes and failures of Duterte in achieving his campaign promises, such as the anti-drug campaign, decongestion of traffic,  end to contractualization, pursuing the peace process, implementing an independent foreign policy, and poverty alleviation.

Lagman said that with the self-imposed three-month deadline and an extension to six months, Duterte failed to address the drug problem in the country.

"[Duterte] failed within the said period and asked for a six-month extension, which has already expired. Yet, the drug menace has not been subdued. He refuses to realize that the drug menace is both a health and poverty issue, not simply a police matter," he said.

At the same time, Lagman noted that Duterte has yet to fulfill his campaign problem of solving traffic problems.

"The traffic gridlock, particularly in Metro Manila, intensifies daily up to a point of almost standstill. Considerable man-hours, opportunities, and fuel are lost or wasted due to the traffic chaos," he said.

And to the laborers, the Albay representative also pointed to the President's promise of gainful employment.

"One of the oft-repeated vows of presidential candidate Duterte was that he was going to stop the illegal practice of “endo” which is the pre-termination of an employment contract or relation by the employer before the worker attains six-month tenure to qualify him as a regular employee," he said.

"Contractualization remains an instrument of exploitation of labor. Instead of affording workers the right to sell their labor power directly to the capitalist end-user, they are forced to sell cheap to the middleman," he added.

Department Order 174, which was issued last March, did not put an end to contractualization as well, Lagman said.

"[It] merely intensified its regulation by requiring independent service contractors to have adequate capital and the wherewithal of production like machines, tools, and equipment," he said.

Lagman said the efforts to conduct peace talks with communist rebels, which is also one of Duterte's campaign promises, "are now back to the drawing board."

"The precipitate and unwarranted declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao have pushed back the peace settlement with the mainstream Muslim insurgents farther to the periphery," he said.

Lagman likewise found it "unbelievable" that Duterte's concept of "independent foreign policy" is rejecting traditional partners like the United States and European Union member-countries and forging alliances with Russia and China.

"President Duterte’s dalliance with China is particularly worrisome. He was pathetic when he admitted helplessness when Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened to go to war if the Philippines would enforce its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea," he said.

"Helplessness is never an option as recourse to the United Nations and enforcement of international agreements are readily available," he added.

On economy, Lagman said the gross domestic product growth rate under Duterte's first year in office is "still respectable or at least tolerable," even though the figures dip from 7.1 percent in the third quarter of 2016 to 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

"Philippine economic performance in the maiden year of the Duterte administration is not bad," he said.

Lagman said, however, that change has not come for millions of poor Filipinos.

Citing a March 2017 Social Weather Station Survey, Lagman said that an estimated 11.5 million families considered themselves poor, a stark increase from 10 million families in the December 2016 survey.

"This is the first time that self-rated poverty increased since 2014.... No administration can claim success if mass poverty persists or even aggravates," he said.

Duterte's first year is in office on Friday, June 30. — BAP, GMA News