Lawmakers on Duterte's 1st 50 days: 'Change is here'

MANILA, Philippines – For better or for worse, "change" has come to the country, according to lawmakers of different political persuasions who lauded and criticized the first 50 days of the Duterte presidency.

"I'll just describe the first 50 days in 3 words: shock and awe," said Zamboanga City 1st District Representative Celso Lobregat on Thursday, August 18, the 50th day of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

"Change is here and the President is serious in what he's doing. The effects are really shocking to those who are [opposed to] him and awe to those who want the change," said Lobregat.

The Duterte administration has embarked on an intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign across the country, to fulfill a key campaign promise to suppress crime and drug use within 3 to 6 months.

As of August 15, there have been 5,632 police operations, 8,623 drug suspects arrested, and 612 fatalities, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

The PNP also noted that the crime rate during Duterte's first month in office is around 10% lower than the crime rate in July last year.

According to Davao City First District Representative Karlo Nograles, the 91% all-time high trust rating of Duterte indicates that the public is responding "very well" to the President's tough stance against criminality and drugs. 

The survey period of the Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated poll, however, covered only July 2 to 8, or the first week of the new administration.

Nograles also lauded Duterte's decision to issue an Executive Order calling for a full public disclosure of all offices, though only under the executive branch. (READ: Freedom of information: What's lacking in Duterte's EO?)

"[With the] freedom of information Executive Order and so many other positive acts, I think the first 50 days of the new President has been very productive and an excellent beginning to his presidency," said Nograles, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations.

Still, his brother, PBA Representative Jonas Nograles, said the people cannot fully expect Duterte to accomplish all his goals in just 50 days. 

"You can't immediately expect changes you're asking about since we're still operating [under the] 2016 budget....Tingnan natin sa 2017 budget deliberations kung okay na 'yung changes na na-promise niya (Let's see during the 2017 budget deliberations if the changes he promised are okay)," the party-list representative said. (READ: Duterte on his first 50 days: 'I'm trying my very best')

The younger Nograles and Lobregat are vice chairpersons of the House Committee on Appropriations which is set to begin its deliberations on the proposed P3.35-trillion 2017 budget on August 22.

Violations against due process, name shaming 

It is not all praises for Duterte at the House which is dominated by his allies. For Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, the new administration's first 50 days which is mostly focused on the war on drugs, is a "failure."

"There may be success in terms of political will, seizures of drug shipments, drug suspects surrendering etc but this has spawned EJKs (extrajudicial killings), violations of due process with the name calling and shaming, and a PNP that's losing its professionalism by resorting to shortcuts," said Baguilat, who is seeking a congressional probe into the over 100 summary executions of drug suspects.

Baguilat added that while he supports Duterte's pursuit of peace talks with communist rebels, "a harsh verbal tirade against the Reds strained the talks for awhile."

"I am appealing to him to be more magnanimous in accepting criticism and to engage less in word wars," the Ifugao lawmaker said.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, for his part, called out the President for attacking Senator Leila de Lima days ahead of a scheduled Senate probe into the spate of drug-related killings that the former justice secretary will lead.

Villarin said Duterte had resorted to “putrid and vitriolic language” against the senator, who became emotional as she rebutted Duterte on Thursday. (READ: De Lima to Duterte: Have decency to spare my friends, family

“If this is about her call for an inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings committed under the President's war against illegal drugs, we remind the President, using his own words in the campaign trail, that if one has nothing to hide, one has nothing to fear. In the same way that President Duterte fulfills his duty to the Filipino people, Senator De Lima is faithfully doing hers,” said Villarin.

“Being popular does not give anyone the excuse, much less the right, to intentionally inflict personal harm upon others. No one can ever be right in doing something that is inherently wrong, not even the President,” he added. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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