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Duterte’s promises and his first year in office: Politics and governance

Nothing less than federalism would appease Mindanao and bring peace and prosperity to the region, Rodrigo Duterte stressed during the campaign in the run-up to the May 2016 elections. Now he is the President, federalism remains his clarion call. Speaking to a local government summit in Davao City in December, he said that he would even step down to give way to a federal system of government—which would diffuse the concentration of power in Manila and give the regions more independence when it comes to dealing with internal affairs. "I think, the only acceptable arrangement, as of today, this moment of our generation, and [for] the lives of the Moro people, is federalism. Other than that, bakbakan 'to," he said.

Apart from his vow of making federalism a reality, here are other promises Duterte made on issues of politics and governance.

On December 7, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 10, which created a 25-member Consultative Committee to review the 1987 Constitution within six months from the day it would be convened.

On December 21, supporters of the shift to federalism gathered during the National Federalism Congress organized by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

A report by the Philippine Information Agency on January 16 said that according to the DILG Task Team on Federalism, almost 32,000 individuals nationwide participated in the information drive on federalism.

On May 31, before the Senate adjourned its first regular session sine die, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said the Congress will prioritize the shift to federalism once the second regular session opens in July.

Duterte vowed that he would issue an executive order to implement the Freedom of Information under his administration by "Day One."

Although a month late, Duterte did fulfill his promise, signing an executive order in July 2016 mandating government offices under the executive branch to allow every Filipino access to information, official records, and other public documents.

In his budget message to the Congress last year, Duterte said it was “Congress’ turn to immediately pass the long overdue FOI law.” Since then, however, both houses of Congress have yet to pass their respective versions of the FOI.

For months now, the FOI bills are still pending second reading approvals both at the House of Representatives and the Senate . The chairpersons of the committees which handled the FOI deliberations say that several legislative priorities pushed back the discussions on the FOI.

“I believe there’s still a good chance that the FOI will be enacted this year. I will try to make sure that the bill moves forward once session resumes next month,” ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, vice-chairman of the House committee on public information, said in a text message to GMA News Online. Tinio was the chairman of the panel when the FOI hurdled the committee level. He was removed, along with other committee chairpersons, over their vote against the death penalty proposal.

Communications Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan, whose office oversees the implementation of the FOI in the executive branch, said the bill is on Malacañang’s list of legislative priorities. “After seven months of monitoring implementation, we at PCOO believe that a law must be passed. One, to impose stiffer penalties. Two, to limit existing exceptions. Three, to cover all of government,” Ablan told GMA News Online.

During a speech on August 7, 2016, after visiting the wake of soldiers killed in combat with communist rebels, Duterte as the President promised to give Ferdinand Marcos a hero's burial .

"I will allow Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He was a soldier. He was there to fight for his country," he said.

After the Supreme Court ruled 9-5-1 to allow the burial, the dictator was laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on November 18. The rites were unannounced and the media was barred from covering the event.

Under the Duterte administration, former President and now Congresswoman for Pampanga went from hospital arrest to travel abroad, her lawyer said on June 27.

"She is fine and her health is steadily improving. She had undergone medical treatment abroad. And at present she is undergoing regular therapy and treatment for pain," lawyer Larry Gadon told GMA News Online.

"Her condition has greatly improved compared to the time she was detained by the Aquino administration," Gadon added.

On May 23, 2016, Duterte revealed that he offered to pardon Arroyo once he assumed the presidency. But Arroyo "declined" the offer.

“Ayaw niya. I offered her. I said, ‘When I become President, I will pardon you’. I talked to her. Sabi ko, ‘Ma’am, gusto mo i-pardon kita? Not because we’re friends, but because I do not think there is a good case against you, as a prosecutor and as a lawyer',” Duterte said during an interview in Davao.

Arroyo was released from detention at the Veterans' Memorial Medical Center on orders of the First Division of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on July 21, 2016. The same court dismissed her plunder case.

She was arrested, then detained, in 2012 for allegedly misusing P366 million of intelligence funds allotted to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

In a press briefing at Malacañang on Tuesday, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez noted that a meeting he attended earlier that day would help ease of doing business "leapfrog" in the Philippines, "especially when it comes to getting business permits and licenses."

"From where we came from, just on the business permits alone, what used to take over 10 days, we've shortened it to two to three days already. Simplification of form, reducing the number of signatories down to two," Lopez said.

"What we intend to do now, we are automating that and we really want to make it a less than one day approval system. But when we talk of, like involving other agencies—SEC, BIR—we want to cut short also that process," he added.

The DTI is working with New Zealand, ranked first worldwide in ease of doing business, to automate the system and put it on mobile "in the near future," Lopez stressed, saying that the DTI remains focused on streamlining the process of obtaining permits.

On Wednesday, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) revealed a move to allow all applications for business permits and licenses to be done online.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) fulfilled an October 2016 directive granting drivers' licences a longer validity period of five years in the National Capital Region.

"Upon the directive of President Duterte during his first SONA, the LTO has extended the validity of driver's licenses from three years to five years, effective October 8, 2016," the Department of Transportation (DOTr) told GMA News Online on Tuesday.

"Bidding has been completed and distribution of cards is targeted to start in August," the DOTr added.

However, the DOTr and the LTO have yet to reply when asked about plans to extend the privilege nationwide, or if plans have started for such a move.

The National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has long been calling for the government to release more than 400 political prisoners.

However, only around 20 were freed for participating in the peace talks with the government.

The government peace panel emphasized that releasing all political detainees is not a precondition to a bilateral peace agreement.

In a speech in Davao City in February, Duterte called on the Communist Party of the Philippines not to ask him to release all political prisoners. "Now they want 400 released. My god, that is already releasing all. Para na akong nag-amnesty, which is usually given after a successful negotiation," he said.

The military, he said, would not approve of such a decision. "Kaya ang sabi ko, huwag n'yo akong ipitin because the military might not like it. And then the military would oust me, would kill me. You have nobody talking to you," he said. — Erwin Colcol, Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez, Margaret Claire Layug, Rie Takumi and Joseph Tristan Roxas/BM/VDS, GMA News