On Monday, July 22, 2019, the nation heard President Duterte make a litany of his achievements of the past three years and the challenges he faces in the remainder of his six-year presidency.

Duterte has been a very good president.  At least that is what people, the common people, think about him.

Duterte’s public approval with his performance is at record high – 85%, double the ratings of President Trump. Duterte’s satisfaction rating is 80%, according to the Social Weather Stations.

No president before Duterte enjoyed such a stratospheric satisfaction rating at mid-term.  Maybe, survey ratings have suffered inflation too. 

Or maybe, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) has been asking the wrong people or the wrong number of people—as respondents.   But that is the number—an 80% satisfaction rating.  If you want to dispute that, you will have to organize your own polling business (not very profitable and credible these days), assemble your own base of respondents (usually to get a base of 1,200 you will need 1,800 people to ask and that cost P2 million per survey), and ask questions innovatively –like degrees of satisfaction — “very satisfied” and “somewhat satisfied”.  

It is like asking a wife – Are you very satisfied with your husband? “Very satisfied” means he makes good income or is a good provider, is hardworking, submits to his wife, and does not go astray.

“Somewhat satisfied” means he has a good job which could be better, makes money, which could be higher; works naman, although he should work harder, and comes home every night (even if he had been on a date).  If that is the basis, then all husbands will have a very high satisfaction or approval rating – I am sure, of between 70% and 80%.

To me, either the respondent is satisfied or not.  There are no degrees, no ifs and buts.

In his first three years, President Duterte passed measures that are populist, pro-poor, or both.

They include free college education, universal health care, free irrigation and the expanded conditional cash transfer program. He also doubled the salaries of policemen and soldiers and promised a similar pay hike for some 830,000 state teachers.

The middle class, meanwhile, will remember Duterte for laws on expanded maternity leave (105 days), greater access to mental health care and HIV/AIDS support. 

On universal health care, outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said, “this means that every Filipino will be enjoying their right to have health assistance by becoming part of the National Health Insurance Program. Forms of assistance include preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services.”

Duterte also ordered free wi-fi in public places. To cut red tape, he signed the Ease of Doing Business Act, improving on the Anti-Red Tape Act. 

“At midpoint, President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys broad and profound support from our people. They appreciate the sincerity, the hard work and the visionary strategy of this administration,” gushes Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, the leader of Duterte’s economic team which designed Dutertenomics.

“The whole idea of Dutertenomics was that a rapid expansion of state capacity both financial and political to thrust the economy on a higher growth trajectory. This should create mass middle class and lift five million families over the poverty hurdle,” explains economist Joey Salceda, congressman of the second district of Albay.

The Philippines projects a rise in infra spending from P858 billion in 2017 to P1.84 trillion, or from 5.4% of GDP to 7.3% of GDP. The Dutertenomics model would have simulated impact of 9%-10%, much higher than the current official forecasts, figures Salceda.

“Indeed there is a single-mindedness in the economic team to execute the Build Build Build strategy with projects under construction rising from P1 billion in 2017 to P40 billion in 2019, and projects with financial close rising from P126 billion to P992 billion and projects under procurement from P115 billion to P531 billion,” says Salceda. 

Salceda says, “the President has a strong grip on his Cabinet which has consistently spoken in a unified voice on issues and no open public acrimonious debate among departments of policy differences have surfaced.”

One unique feature of Duterte’s management style, has been to appoint retired generals to key positions possibly because they are trained to strictly follow, notes the Albay solon, command and no second-guessing of the superior’s preference.

And even the Congress has provided robust legislative support with the House approving all 25 items in the presidential plate although Senate delivered only six.

Indeed, “no other President has enjoyed sustained mass popularity since EDSA, and at par with Ramon Magsaysay’s,” recalls Salceda.

Dominguez says “the economic managers have formulated a bold catch-up program to achieve a GDP growth rate of over 6% this year.” 

“We will accelerate infrastructure disbursements and hasten implementation of projects so that public works spending hits the targeted 5.2% of GDP by the end of the year. We will fast-track the implementation of priority socioeconomic programs. We aim to bring up the growth of our agriculture sector to at least 2% per annum. We look forward to working closely with Congress to continue improving the ease of doing business.”

The Rice Tariffication Act has made quality rice more affordable and accessible to Filipino consumers, thereby bringing down inflation. In fact, rice retail prices are now cheaper by P5 to P10 per kilo compared to last year, reports Dominguez.

DOF Chief Dominguez says “the passage of the TRABAHO bill will encourage even more competitive investments to enter our economy. The reduction of corporate income tax rates will bring our tax regime closer to the regional average and the rationalization of fiscal incentives will create a level playing field for our enterprises and attract new players to compete.”

Dominguez reports:

“We will now have a One Central Business Portal that will be available online and through mobile phone, transforming the business registration experience into a convenient facility that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Sundays and holidays. These reforms will greatly enhance the ease of doing business,” says Dominguez.

“Our people are beginning to reap the rewards from a well-managed economy. Unemployment is at its lowest in 40 years. From an average of 6.9% in 2010 to 2015, the unemployment rate has averaged 5.5% from 2016 to 2018. The latest data for April 2019 showed unemployment has dipped further to 5.2%.”

“The drop in the unemployment rate reflects in the reduction of poverty incidence. From 27.6% in the first half of 2015, poverty incidence has significantly declined to 21% in the first half of 2018.”

“The decline in poverty incidence indicated by official figures is confirmed by opinion surveys that measure self-rated poverty. A recent SWS poll showed that the number of Filipinos who consider themselves poor fell to 38%, the lowest number ever.”                               

— Tony Lopez