Victories and controversies as Duterte presidency enters homestretch in 2021

In one of his dating moves, Duterte closed the world-renowned Boracay Island to tourists for six months in 2018 to give way to rehabilitation works, and ordered the clean up of the heavily polluted Manila Bay.

The President has taken steps to ensure lasting peace in Mindanao including the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim MIndanao (BARMM), which was a result of the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in July 2018.

The BARMM, which replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, enjoys expanded land and water jurisdiction, fiscal autonomy and increased share in national government resources, among others.

The Philippine economy grew at an average of 6.5% from 2016 to 2019 before it plunged into recession this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pro-Duterte candidates won nine of 12 Senate seats that were contested in the 2019 midterm elections, while the opposition ended the campaign empty-handed.

War on multiple fronts, controversies

Like his predecessors, controversies and challenges also hounded the tough-talking Duterte and his government over the past four years.

“There are definitely missed opportunities in the last four years given his continued popularity, both Houses of Congress controlled by his allies, the weakness and lack of unity of the opposition, etc,” University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela Atienza told GMA News Online.

Congress has yet to pass Duterte’s proposal to shift the country’s form of government from presidential to federal in a bid to address economic and power imbalances, and the reimposition of the death penalty for drug offenders.

A self-proclaimed socialist, Duterte tried to reach a political settlement with the communist rebels by extending concessions such as the temporary release of the rebels’ peace consultants from prison and the appointment of left-leaning personalities to the Cabinet.

Four years later, the prospects of peace have become remote as ever as the negotiations collapsed after Duterte lamented what he said were continued attacks by rebels on troops and civilians.

In early December, he declared that there would no longer be any ceasefire between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army until the end of his term.

Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao in response to ISIS-inspired Maute rebels that laid siege to Marawi City in May 2017 and allegedly attempted to establish a caliphate for the terror group.

The five-month battle between government troops and the Maute rebels killed more than a thousand people and left the once bustling city in ruins. Officials have promised to complete the rehabilitation of the city by December 2021.

Frustrated with the alleged rampant corruption in government, Duterte told the nation several times that he wanted to resign. In October this year, he ordered a Department of Justice-led task force to investigate allegations of corruption across state agencies.

“Corruption, especially in high places, continues,” Atienza observed, even as Duterte fired several officials for alleged corruption, incompetence, and excessive travels


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