Many among the political detractors and critique of Rodrigo Duterte have claimed that the President’s trust rating and popularity have declined based on the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. Such speculations came out after media networks reported a drop in Duterte’s satisfaction numbers based on the latest results of the SWS survey.
However, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque contended that though there’s a drop in the numbers, President Duterte still enjoys a grade of “very good” by any standard.
The said poll results revealed that President Duterte’s satisfaction rating had a 17 percentage points drop from a peak of +79 percent net rating in the November 2020 survey to a +62 percent net rating in the latest survey in June 2021.
But according to Roque, even with the drop in numbers, Duterte’s satisfaction rating is still very high compared to his predecessors since the end of the Martial Era.
Comparatively, data shows that previous presidents in their final year in office have relatively low satisfaction ratings compared to President Duterte. For instance, President Corazon Aquino had +24 in April 1991; President Fidel Ramos had +49 in June 1997; President Joseph Estrada, unfinished term; President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had -31 in June 2009; and President Benigno Aquino had +30 in June 2015.
Duterte’s trust/approval rating has been consistent over time. During the first three years of his administration – from July 2016 to July 2019, – survey after survey yielded strikingly similar results: Duterte has the backing, support, and trust of most Filipinos.
Duterte received an impressive 88 percent approval rating from Filipinos halfway through his term. In September 2020, Duterte’s Pulse Asia Survey, reached a historic high of 91 percent trust/approval rating as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic. This was despite the many criticisms thrown at Duterte by his political detractors and enemies on the national response of the government to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hence, in many ways, the consistently high and very good satisfaction or trust ratings of the incumbent president is a continuous nightmare for the political opposition and Duterte’s many critics for they have not succeeded in converting the Filipino people to their cause despite the many desperate attempts to discredit Duterte and his administration.
With the forthcoming 2022 national election, the consistent and relatively high popularity and very good satisfaction ratings of Duterte are like “thorns in the flesh” of the political opposition.
In fact, the consistently high trust and approval ratings for Duterte and his administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most essential political capital and foundation that the administration’s candidates for the impending 2022 national election can capitalise on.
This is also the very thing that Duterte’s political enemies wants to extinguish. Why is that?
One of the many reasons Duterte has remained popular with a high trust rating among Filipinos is because of the commendable performance and accomplishments during his presidency.
If one were to judge his administration objectively and based on results and achievements, it is but fair enough to say that his administration contributed and accomplished much.
If we recall, the first 100 days of President Duterte in office produced a handful of changes by responding to pressing issues and concerns in the country. Some of the most critical initiatives carried out in the first three months of his presidency included: (1) the elimination of the “tanim bala (planted bullets)” scam at airports; (2) the creation of a task force on media security; (3) the implementation of a nationwide ban on smoking in public places through an executive order; (4) the waiving of government fees and charges for first-time job seekers; (5) cutting-red tape in government; (9) the reduction of government spending by prohibiting the use of luxury cars and air travel by government officials; (6) the granting of students fare discounts for public transportation; and (7) the resolute and robust campaign against corrupt government departments like the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Custom (BOC), and the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Duterte during his 100 days in office also did the following: (a) issued Executive Order No. 02 also known as the Freedom of Information (FOI) Program, that requires the full disclosure of all public documents and any information requested by any Filipino from all government offices under the executive branch; (b) the establishment of a “one-stop-shop” for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs); (c) the streamlining of government transactions, especially the processing of permits and licenses to simplify government transactions to minimise if not eradicate opportunities for graft and corruption; (d) the order for LGUs to cut the time/period for new business registrations to two days instead of more than a week processing, and to automate the front-line services of LGUs and other transactions; (e) the launch of 911, - the “emergency/rescue hotline” of the country, and also 8888,- the “public complaint hotline” and (f) the creation of an office at the BOC centralising collections.
The Duterte Administration also made changes in the labour and social welfare sectors. These include: the institutionalisation of feeding programs for public school students/pupils; free medicines and financial support to indigent patients; the passage of the anti-hospital deposit law; mandatory Philhealth coverage for persons with disabilities (PWDs); increased bed capacities in favour of government hospitals in far-flung areas; increased Social Security System (SSS) pensions for senior citizens; the prohibition on illegal labour subcontracting resulting in the regularisation of hundreds of thousands of workers; the passage of the Magna Carta of the Poor Law; the two-fold increase in the salaries of policemen, soldiers, jail officers, firemen and even teachers, while raising the wages of government employees through the continued and sustained implementation of Executive Order Nos 76 and 201 (Modifying the Salary Schedule for Civilian Government Personnel and Authorizing the Grant of Additional Benefits for the Civilian, Military and Uniformed Personnel); and the passage of the Republic Act. No. 11148 or the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act” (the First 1000 Days Law) to scale up nutritional intervention programs in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
Furthermore, the Duterte administration will be remembered for Malasakit (Care) Centers all over the country. Malasakit Centers refer to a chain of one-stop-shop centres for medical and financial assistance provided by various agencies of the Philippine government for indigent Filipinos. As of July 2021, around two million Filipinos were assisted through Malasakit Centers.
There are around 142 Malasakit Centers across the country to date and it will probably increase in numbers in the coming days. This is the initiative of Senator Bong Go which started in February 2018 when he was still Duterte’s Special Assistant and Head of the Presidential Management Staff.
President Duterte and his administration will also not be forgotten for the passage of Republic Act No. 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act", a landmark law that allows deserving Filipinos to enrol in any state university and college all over the country free of charge. The passage of this law is benefiting millions of young Filipinos. To date, more than 1.6 million students have received free tuition already.
Another landmark law is the Universal Health Care Law. From 2019 to 2021, more than 109 million Filipinos have been covered by Universal Healthcare in the country.
The Duterte administration is credited also for the passage of the Magna Carta of the Poor Law; the massive distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries. Around 229,289 hectares of land were also distributed to beneficiaries from 2016 to 2021. The Duterte administration will also be known for the passage of the Free Irrigation Act of which around 937,040 farmers have benefited from as of May 2021.
President Duterte is also considered a “housing king” among all Philippine presidents since 1975 according to the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development. Under his presidency, over a million houses have been built. Duterte has built an average of 195,687 low-cost housing units a year since 2016 which is 12 percent more than the 174,000 units during the previous administration.
The Duterte administration has also built and bankrolled a total of 1.076 million housing units from June 2016 to June 2021 – 98 percent for socialised housing and two percent for low-cost buyers. It is also on track to hit its target of 1.2 million housing units by June 2022.
This is Part 1 of a series of articles.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The ASEAN Post.