The Consequential Vote

by Phylicia Abary
Image: Artypixall / Flickr

The Republic of the Philippines is going to hold its next presidential elections on the 9th of May, 2022. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the circumstances facing the ever-nearing election is a far cry from what the nation had encountered in 2016.

With the date growing closer by the day, it is imperative that the past six years be put into perspective to gain insight regarding what the Philippines needs in the next sexennial years, and how to gain a head of state that will lead us closer to gaining them. 

The Country and its President: What President Duterte Brought About 

The results of the 2016 elections saw Rodrigo Duterte of the PDP-Laban partylist emerging victorious  with 16,601,997 votes, in contrast to that of his main opponent, Mar Roxas, the appointed successor of then president Benigno Aquino III, who received  6.6 million votes (CNN Philippines Staff, 2016). Duterte secured a good standing with the public through the assurance of swift justice to the problems faced by the country, with an emphasis on illegal drug handling and use. 

As President, there were several issues of importance which Duterte wished to address, namely, as it pertains to matters within the nation’s education, healthcare, infrastructure, and law enforcement sectors. 

In the sect of education, he had advocated for free tertiary education, most specifically on the college level. Success has been found in that accord with the passing of Republic Act (RA) 10931, known as the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act”. It includes a provision wherein any Filipino student would be able to have free undergraduate education at any affiliate government educational institutions given that they passed the required entrance policies set by the university or college in question (Congress of the Philippines, 2017). This RA cameto full effect in 2018, a year after it was passed (Montemayor, 2018).

His administration has also found success in the field of healthcare, as he has signed RA 11223, the Universal Healthcare Act, in 2019 (Ranada, 2019). This called for the National Health Insurance Program to be established, handled by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), with all Filipinos automatically included in its systems and availing of the various health services it offers (read: Duterte signs universal health care law). 

One of the programs passed by the Duterte administration is the Build, Build, Build program wherein their primary goal was to improve upon and bring about the “Golden Age of Infrastructure” in the country (Subic-Clark Alliance for Development, 2016). Several plans have already been enacted concerning this project, with varying claims on their completion and success.

On matters of law enforcement, President Duterte has had quite the questionable run. The “War on Drugs” policy was his hallmark during his presidential campaign, and is currently at the forefront of his presidential advocacy. Many of those suspected to be involved in drug-related proceedings have been put down. 

Not Quite There: The Missed Shots of the Duterte Administration

Despite all of the glamour of the aforementioned achievements of the Duterte administration, they have their flaws. 

Funding for the projects the Duterte administration wishes to implement are lacking all across the board. While students have the opportunity to take their tertiary education for free, there have been issues concerning where the government would be able to acquire the proper finances to fund the proceedings of RA 10931, resulting in  several policy makers opposing the passing of the act (Ranada, 2017). Infrastructure plans have been slighted due to the lack of finances driving them, and most expenditures have caused the government to take out loans  to complete several projects, with only 34% of the total projects proposed by the administration completed in 2020 (Macaraeg, 2020). 

The education and health sectors have not been doing well in light of the pandemic. The distanced learning approach set by the government has not been entirely effective, with a lack of proper resources for the masses to be able to continue with online learning (Hernando-Malipot, 2020). The health sector, on the other hand, has been struggling to keep up with the rising COVID-19 cases (read: Philippine medics struggle to cope in overwhelmed hospitals as lockdown eases). While the government has scrambled to aid them, none of the efforts have been effective, as the country has gone into another pandemic-induced lockdown a year after the first one had been set in place due to, yet again, the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases (read: Philippines Covid-19: More than 25 million people in Manila ordered into lockdown over Easter as cases soar). 

The most controversial part of President Duterte’s administration is the “War on Drugs” policy  that the government has undertaken. As of 2020, more than 8,000 people have been killed due to this endeavor. Amidst  allegations of human rights abuses, inquiries regarding the legality of  these affairs have been raised.  In addition, the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights has criticized both the Philippine government and the Philippine National Policy for its conduct in carrying out Duterte’s War on Drugs policy. (BBC News, 2020). Despite this, as well as the ongoing pandemic ravaging the country, there is no stopping Duterte’s  incessant War on Drugs policy. Even the Justice Secretary admits to the gaps in proper investigation of suspects before their apprehension often leading to their subsequent deaths (Aspinwall, 2021). 

Many more observations of the Duterte Administration can be found here: Duterte Promise Checklist: Major accomplishments, failures 

Now in his final year of presidency, it is debatable whether or not Duterte had achieved his goals for the country. Perhaps the Duterte administration should have aimed better for the targets that they were supposed to hit, instead of those that they weren’t supposed to aim at in the first place. 

2022 Elections Upcoming: What the Country Needs

At present, it is clear that the Duterte Administration has had both its ups and downs. Looking further than that, there is one clear message that this sends: it is crucial for the country to participate in the upcoming 2022 elections. 

The president of a country is supposed to be able to lead the country and make  decisions to improve the lives of its citizens.. As seen through the consequential actions of the Duterte administration, along with all of the administrations of the country prior, the individuals in power only possess it due to how they were placed into office by the consequential vote of the nation. 

Looking back at the Duterte Administration, and the Philippines that had developed under the President’s term, it is crucial that we ask ourselves what is it  that the country as a whole needs – what the Filipino needs, and elect into position those who will be able to help them. 

It is high time to register to vote, and to cast a vote. Voting is important as it is what dictates who will decide what the future of the Philippines will look like, much further into the future than the six years of their term. All those eligible to vote must register to do so, and influence the course of Philippine history now. 

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the failures of the Duterte Administration, it is clear that the Filipino requires a better education system, better control of funding and finances for all sects of the society and  proposed projects that gear towards better development, as well as a more responsive government in terms of national-scale issues as a whole, amongst other things. While incredibly condensed, these points are not negligible in what must be considered in the upcoming elections. 

Do your part. Register to vote here: Official COMELEC Website :: Commission on Elections

As May 2022 approaches , we must make our move, not merely for the sake of ourselves, but for the betterment of the country. It is, afterall, better to vote and see the lesser evil win rather than regret the missed opportunity to install them into government office.  

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