In an interview with SMNI Network early this week, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who proclaims himself to be the appointed son of God, urged Rodrigo Duterte not to retire from politics and continue serving the people.
Calling him a hero, Quiboloy heaped lavish praises on the president, comparing what Duterte had done in government during the last five years to the heroism of Dr. Jose Rizal, whose writings inspired Filipinos to revolt against Spanish rule in the late 19th century.
In the interview, Quiboloy was trying to convince Duterte that there was clamor for him to stay in power, probably as vice president, after the president’s own partymates adopted a resolution convincing him to run.
But what would you really expect from a man who openly supported Duterte in the 2016 elections?
Do you expect a televangelist based in Davao City, who gifted Duterte cars and a house when he was still a mayor, to ask the hard questions?
Journalists are trained to make an interviewee uncomfortable and squirm on the seat but Quiboloy is not a journalist and the television network he owns rarely criticize or hold the Duterte administration to account.
Quiboloy’s interview sought to highlight the accomplishments of the Duterte administration in eradicating the drug menace and corruption in government and dismantling the oligarchy.
Assessing objectively the president’s performance on these three areas — drugs, corruption and dismantling oligarchy — Quiboloy painted a different picture.
When he ran for president, Duterte promised to end the drug problem in six months and end corruption. Almost five years after he was sworn in as president on June 30, 2016, the drug menace still exists.
There were reports Davao City, Duterte’s own hometown, has become the gateway of illicit narcotics, including high-grade cocaine, based on seizures made by law enforcement agencies.
The unabated killings related to police anti-illegal drug operations suggested the drug trade remained alive and street peddling did not stop in the poor neighborhoods in the capital and other urban centers.
What is happening nationwide mirrors the situation in Davao City, where Duterte tested the brutal and bloody war on drugs when he was mayor in the early 1990s.
A Redemptorist priest, Fr. Amado Picardal, who was based in the southern city for many years, documented the rampant extrajudicial killings in the guise of a war on drugs and petty criminality in Davao City from the 1990s until 2010.
About 1,400 people died during Duterte’s reign of terror. The killings subsided during times he was not the mayor but escalated during times he was in power.
But as bodies piled up, the drug problem worsened in Davao City and in the country. The number of victims varied. From official police reports, about 7,000 died in legitimate police anti-drug operations, which resulted in shootouts.
Outside the “nanlaban” narrative of the police, thousands more were killed vigilante style, with cardboard placards hung around the neck of the dead.
The war on drugs was a failure. Duterte did not make good on his promise.
Duterte also failed to stop corruption. When he finds nothing wrong in accepting gifts of cars and a house as a public official, even not as a president, then something must be wrong with his idea of fighting corruption.
A former president who was convicted of plunder also found nothing wrong accepting money from gambling lords as long as an official was not taking it from the government’s coffers.
The law is strict in prohibiting public servants from accepting gifts.
But Duterte boasted of getting gifts from China, even telling the public he had asked Beijing to send him and his family anti-Covid-19 vaccines.
His record of punishing corrupt officials is lackluster. He has removed his own appointees for corruption, only to reappoint them to other juicy positions with vast opportunities to overprice public contracts, ask for kickbacks, and take bribes.
The level of corruption has risen under Duterte based on surveys done by international agencies. The coronavirus pandemic did not stop corruption. Talk is rife that people close to the government have found opportunities to make money in contracts to purchase testing kit machines, personal protection equipment, face masks, and face shields.
Duterte has often trumpeted his success in fighting oligarchs — something his predecessors did not do — beating his breast as champion of the poor.
He shut down the country’s largest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, the crown jewel of the Lopez family, who are no longer active in politics and are not in the top 10 list of the country’s richest families.
Duterte also loved to threaten utilities tycoons — Manuel Pangilinan and the Ayala family — but they are not oligarchs. The real oligarchs who the president did not dare touch are those close to his government. Take the Villars, one of the richest families in the country, for example.
Three members of the family are in politics — a senator, a congresswoman and a Cabinet member.
Some of the richest lawmakers in both houses of Congress, who are into construction, property development, mining and other businesses, are allies of the president.
Duterte did not dismantle the oligarchy. He went after rich families perceived to be his enemies.
But, in general, businesses suffered under Duterte because of his poor management of the pandemic response, which resulted in the collapse of the economy.
Before he became president, the Philippines was the fastest-growing economy in this part of the world. The Philippines is experiencing the longest recession in history since the debt-burdened administration of Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1980s.
Now, it is considered the laggard in the region, with multilateral financial institutions predicting the country won’t get back to pre-pandemic economic growth until the fourth quarter of 2022, six months after Duterte steps down from power.
On June 30, 2022, President Duterte would hand over power to a new leader saddled with the Herculean task of undoing what he had done in the last six years.
Six years were wasted. Duterte’s rule will long be remembered as a vindictive, corrupt and pro-China administration whose hands are soaked in blood. He has squandered the economic miracles of past presidents. That is Duterte’s legacy.