The Wars of Duterte

 If Duterte is able to lift the sword and thrust it against the enemies of the state, he might just be able change the political terrain in May 2022 and bring the people to the fold of what can be.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on February 2, 2021.


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) started his term with the signing of Executive Order (EO) No. 2, series of 2016 on freedom of information (FOI) at the executive branch.

The EO requires all executive departments, agencies, bureaus and offices “to disclose public records, contracts, transactions and any information requested by a member of the public except for matters affecting national security and other information that falls under the inventory of exceptions” as provided in the measure. The signing of the FOI would have heralded a new norm, but no moral suasion was made by PRRD to get the legislative branch and the judiciary to adopt the same and enforce it.

With only 18 months to go or 480 days, the Duterte administration does not appear to be a lame duck going to the sunset of its term to end in June 2022. Whether we accept the 97 percent approval rating as real or a fluke, the pandemic has given all executives a stage on which to shine, compared to legislators who, without demeaning their role because they provide the budget and the legal basis for dealing with the pandemic, are limited to oversight. And the klieg lights are focused more and more on the executive branch with the vaccine rollout.


The Duterte wars are in multiple fronts and all strategically pushed or tuned out, depending on the prevailing terrain. These wars cover illegal drugs, terrorism, Communist Part of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front corruption, child exploitation and abuse. As he laid it all down in an official statement, “my administration has always believed that freedom from illegal drugs, terrorism, corruption and criminality is itself a human right.” Such framing triangulated his war on illegal drugs and so-called killings that his critics had raised before the International Court of Justice. Duterte has, likewise, signed EO No. 92, taking steps to protect children from exploitation and abuse and creating the National Council Against Child Labor. He stated that “government efforts to protect the rights of children will be amplified to prevent, reduce and eliminate any form of child labor.”

And in these wars, Congress assisted PRRD through the passage of Republic Act (RA) 11479 or the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” and the recently signed RA 11521, which amended RA 9160 or the “Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001.” The law further expanded the scope of predicate offenses by including the commission of tax crimes and violation of the Trade Management Act on the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The list of covered persons include real estate developers and brokers, who engage in the buying and selling of real estate properties, along with Philippine offshore gaming operators and their service providers.

The AMLA amendment strengthens the functions of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) by giving it the authority to require, receive and analyze covered or suspicious transaction reports from covered persons. The law further grants the council the power to investigate, issue a subpoena and conduct search and seizure.

Congress likewise passed measures on Ease of Doing Business (RA 11032) and Anti-Red Tape (RA 11517) that ensured the needed policy reforms to contain corruption and less human intervention in every governmental process. Still, there were the missing drugs passing through Customs, illegal drugs in penal institutions, smuggling in different ports, missing sacks of rice and much more that has led everyone to conclude that more sounds than bites define Duterte’s efforts; until he started naming names in light of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and pork barrel issues. Calling out the names of legislators and district engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways has made everyone uneasy since the point person doing the bidding was Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica.

With the Philippines in the 115th spot out of 180 countries in the 2020 Corruption Perception Index of anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, observers are saying the effort being made by Belgica is just a charade. No big fish; conviction appears to be a wait and see. The Philippines retained its low score of 34 out 100 possible points but slipped two notches down in the ranking from 2019. Duterte’s naming of these politicians comes at a very propitious time with the filing of certificates of candidacy coming very soon. What makes the Belgica strategy unique is that he submits his lists to PRRD and gets the support of lawyers assigned to the task force to build an airtight case. Belgica also has the support of uniformed personnel as well as air assets to go in and gather evidence and build a case against these individuals.

If Belgica is named as head of the PACC, he will be the sword of Damocles hanging over heavy hitters, who might turn out to be the slay master in Arthur’s table, propped up to end the chapter of the ridiculed hillbilly, who has risen far beyond the expectations of many. If Duterte is able to lift the sword and thrust it against the enemies of the state, he might just be able change the political terrain in May 2022 and bring the people to the fold of what can be.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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