Favorable Numbers

Now that President Rodrigo Duterte is on the second half of his six-year term of office, he should utilize the opportunity of having favorable numbers in Congress to fulfill his programs and policies. 

Based on the results of the 2019 midterm elections, it seems that President Rodrigo Duterte will have the needed numbers both at the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nine of the candidates of Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) grand coalition won in the Senate race, elevating the number of the President's Senate allies to around 20. The dominance of HNP at the House of Representatives will be more obvious given the number of representatives who identify themselves with the administration.

The President should exploit this looming opportunity in pushing for the fulfillment of his programs and policies now that he is on the second half of his six-year term of office. One of them is the promise of finally implementing long overdue political and economic reforms. Time is not on his side since three years will not be enough, but anything can be possible with the majority of senators and congressmen being his allies.

Economic reforms should be on top of his agenda. With the economy doing well and the country receiving much attention from potential investors, the President should tap into his Senate and House allies to formulate long overdue economic reform measures that would do away with protectionist policies that have been in place since the time of Corazon Aquino in 1986, starting with the removal of the infamous "60/40" rule that limits foreign ownership of equity to only 40 percent, which will result to not only an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow and creation of more business and employment opportunities for Filipinos but also enable the Philippines to attract high-quality foreign investors, especially those who can help further develop key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, exporters, and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and bring prosperity and development to far-flung portions areas. A Duterte-friendly Senate and House of Representatives should also help the administration in implementing the next tranches of tax reform measures, most especially the second tranche, otherwise known as the Tax Reform for Quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) Bill, which will reduce corporate taxes from the current 30 percent to 20 percent, and help fix the tax incentives scheme, which should provide agriculture and fisheries, MSMEs, and exporters incentives for them to grow and strengthen further, become globally competitive and profitable, and lift more Filipinos out of poverty through job and enterprise creation in all corners of the country. Other key economic reforms that must be pursued and fulfill with the help of more Duterte allies in Congress include implementing measures that would reduce the cost of power and improve the quality of telecommunications and Internet services, and reducing the number of permits and licenses, and processes needed for local and foreign entrepreneurs to start a business in the Philippines.

On the other hand, the road towards the realization of President Duterte's promised political reforms, especially constitutional amendments that would lead to a shift from the current unicameral presidential system of government to one that is federal parliamentary in nature. Through an act of Congress, the 1987 Constitution may either be amended or replaced altogether, which will start the process that will lead to the formulation and implementation of political reforms. At the same time, having the needed numbers in Congress will enable President Duterte to help prepare all institutions of government, both national and local, for the transition towards the federal parliamentary system. Most important of all, the pressing need to overhaul the country's electoral system, especially the development and implementation of a hybrid voting system that mixes both manual and electronic methods, can be fulfilled with President Duterte pushing for it before his Senate and House allies.

I hope President Duterte will take advantage of the opportunity of having favorable numbers in Congress. The remaining three years of his six-year term may well define his legacy as President of the Philippines. He should not waste this chance, especially with him not only having more senator and congressmen allies but also having the backing of eight out of ten Filipinos, proof of which was the victory of HNP candidates during the recently concluded midterm elections.

About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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