In a forum organized by the Third World Studies Center, the UPCIDS Program on Peace and Conflict Transformation (PCT Program), and the UP Department of Political Science; experts attempted to identify the course of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency. “Ang Direksyon ni Duterte,” held in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy in UP Diliman, featured talks on key issue areas in Duterte’s administrative agenda: constitutional change, national security, and economic policies.
Convenor of the PCT Program and political science professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer compared current efforts towards a federal and parliamentary system to strategies used in the early 1970s for constitutional reform. She recounted how the 1971 Constitutional Convention was compromised by the declaration of martial law, leading to a new constitution largely produced by Malacañang. The difference between then and now, according to Professor Ferrer, is that there remain institutional avenues for the public to participate even as there may be serious doubts regarding the premises and intent of the Malacañang-led initiative today.
Describing the country’s armed forces to be ‘overstretched’ primarily due to the major military operations in Marawi City, defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio questioned the probability and sustainability of declaring martial law nationwide. Aside from the operations against the Maute group, Mr. Custodio discussed various other security issues including the growth of CPP-NPA forces, the observed restraint exercised by the MILF, and the current situation in the West Philippine Sea.
Mr. Ricardo Reyes sees a continuation of the previous administration’s macroeconomic policies in Duterte’s term, paying attention to some of his unimplemented promises such as putting an end to contractualization and prioritizing land reform. The Laban ng Masa National Coordination Member also expounded on proposed tax reforms, the government’s ‘borrowing binge’ for massive infrastructure programs, and a possible debt crisis in the Philippines as a result of this borrowing behavior.
In the forum, the speakers agreed that the direction to which President Duterte’s administration is heading remains unclear. They emphasized the need for the public to remain vigilant in these times.