Has change come?
It will be one year since Rodrigo Roa Duterte became president on the back of a campaign promise that “change is coming.”
To assess what has been done for the Filipino people since he took office, it’s but right that the Filipino people judge the situation for themselves. In much the same way that Ronald Reagan in his famous television debate with former President Jimmy Carter, asked the American people, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” we should ask the Filipino people questions about life under Duterte that only they can answer. Let us now ask:
Do you feel safer now than you did a year ago?
Has the drug problem been solved as President Duterte promised he would do in six months?
Is your faith in the Philippine National Police stronger?
Has crime incidence gone down? Is there better peace and order?
Do you believe that the PNP is now less corrupt, more efficient, and more protective of the people?
Do you believe that the country’s enemies, such as terrorists, have been crushed?
Is the New People’s Army weaker than a year ago and less able and less willing to launch attacks against the government?
Has the peace talks with CPP-NPA been beneficial to the people?
Has the government begun to address the roots of terrorism?
Is peace with our Moro brothers nearer?
Is unemployment less than a year ago?
Is self-rated poverty lower than a year ago?
Is food more affordable to more people?
Is inflation lower than last year’s?
Are rice prices lower? Do consumers have better quality of rice at lower prices?
Have we increased foreign direct investment faster than our neighbors have?
Is the investment climate better?
Have we liberalized foreign investment restrictions as candidate Duterte said he would?
Has growth been rebalanced from “imperial Manila” to the provinces?
Is GDP growth higher than last year?
Are our laborers much better off? Do they have more jobs than before?
Is the traffic situation better?
Is it easier and faster to get license plates? Your driver’s license cards?
Is service in the MRT better? Faster? More reliable?
Is your experience with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport better? Are the toilet facilities cleaner and better smelling? Are the air-conditioners functioning well?
Are immigration lines in the airport shorter? Is immigration processing much faster? Are customs and immigration officers friendlier?
Has our image as a tourism destination improved?
Has telecom service become better? Is the mobile broadband speed provided by the telcos much faster and cheaper?
Has your faith in the bureaucracy improved? Do you believe that government officials are more efficient, more capable, and more honest than they were before Duterte became president?
Have there been any political reforms?
Is the Philippines now more respected and looked up to internationally?
Has the country improved in international rankings on corruption?
Has the Philippines really adopted an independent foreign policy?
Has our foreign policy enhanced our prestige? Brought tangible economic, political, and social benefits to the people without compromising our independence and dignity?
Has the status of women improved? Has the government provided an environment conducive to the respect of women?
Is Philippine democracy stronger now more than ever? Are Philippine institutions stronger? Are they functioning in accordance with our Constitution?
Is there no more pork barrel? Congressional earmarks?
Is there healthier respect for the truth? Is there better professionalism and competence in the government’s public communications?
Are the Filipino people more united than ever before? Or is the environment more politically divisive?
Has the burial of former President Marcos allowed the country to “move on?”
Has the oligarchy been dismantled? Has a big-time tax evader been charged and convicted? Have monopolies been dismantled?
Is there more transparency in government operations? In its infrastructure program?
Is the press freer now than last year? Do the journalists feel respected and less threatened? Have those who have murdered journalists and radio announcers been brought to justice?
Is the quality of life better?
Are you more hopeful, more secure, and more at peace with the world since Duterte took over?
Has change come? Is it for the better?
Calixto V. Chikiamco is a board director of the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.