SHIFT

Gone are the days when House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez can be dubbed as a “company union” or “majority’s minority.”

Speaking to media on the eve of President Duterte’s 1st year in office, Suarez braced himself for a fight and announced that his bloc will fiscalize and ask for a massive reorganization in non-performing offices of the administration when it proposes the 2018 National Budget to Congress. “this will be a very interesting budget hearing. the minority intends to ask for a massive reorganization of inefficient  offices before we even consdier approving their budget those who doesnt perform will have to go. away na ito.”

Suarez wants the president to have a vision for the country. “i think the president should be a visionary. pag kasi malapit ka na sa political twilight mo youve learned a lot youve seen wekaness failure and success sa akin lang eto ang insist ng minority sa susunod na programa maging visionary na tayo.”

asked to specify which agencies are in their crosshairs, Suarez said only the campaign against drugs passed their scrutiny., “marami rami yun.  as ive said ang medyo nakapasa lang ng konti fight on drugs remmeber the growth  of this country is private sector driven until now “

Generally, Suarez rated Duterte a 6 on a scale of 1-10 for his first year in office because the administration has failed to address other pressing problems of governance.. “ll give him a passing grade. 10? ill give him a 6. why not 5 why not 7 as ive said hes doing well with what he promised but the agency that used to deliver basic servceis confront problems of poverty hunger emloyment is still there.”

Suarez acknowledges that the president delivered on his campaign promise to curb the narcotics trade in the country to a certain extent. “i will not debate with him mukhang tama siya  when we found out the gravity of the drug problem in the country  yung elimination parang sinabi niya na during the campaign na uubusin ko yang mga yan  hindi niya sinabi kakasuhan niya sinabi niya uubusin niya… assessment of that nacurb niya yung growth huminto pagtaas ng gumagamit in this 1 year the fact he manged to put a cap on it is a monumental achievement but the big drug lords are still there”

A leading voice against Duterte in the House, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat disagreed calling he war on drugs a misstep, “As for the downside, Baguilat said the most glaring misstep of the Duterte government was its ill-conceived and bloody war on drugs that has taken thousands of innocent lives and made a mockery out of the justice system. “

Baguilat likewise criticized the president’s seeming disregard for the primacy of human rights, which is a universal tenet and a crucial point of unity in the community of nations. Baguilat said the president has been casually dismissing human rights saying that drastic moves have to be made to win the war against drugs. Baguilat again stressed that he was supportive of the moves to rid the Philippines of crime and drugs, but that there was a right way of going about the plan.

For his part Suarez hopes the president can go further in his next year in office. “bigyan na natin ang pangulo ng 1 year learning curve  on confronting this issue but dito sa susunod na taon i hope yung kaniyang operatives can identify where are they comeing from who are the people involved”

Duterte’s perennial staunch critic in the House, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman was unforgiving. Lagman pointed out that , President Duterte undertook that within three months of his assumption to office he would eradicate the drug problem. He failed within the said period and asked for a six-month extension, which has already expired. Yet, the drug menace has not been subdued.“He refuses to realize that the drug menace is both a health and poverty issue, not simply a police matter.””

administration congressmanAKo Bicol Party List rep. Rodel Batocabe gave the preisdent high marks for his leadership in the war on drugs”8.7– duterte has  considerably improved the peace and order situation in our towns and cities. Ask urban residents  and most of them will tell that you that they feel safer now and can walk along alleys  at night. “

However, for Suarez, the economy remains a weak point in Duterte’s government.

Still Suarez would like to think the president is still adjusting to the job. “i give them a year leanring curve pero itong 2017 prinepare budget ng 2018 and remember 2018 is a campaign budget for 2019  dapat tama na yan. “

Suarez, a close ally of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, says the Chief Executive can learn from Arroyo. “i’ve worked with past presidents when it comes to eocnomic management none of them can beat gma pinakamagaling si gloria pagdating sa eocnomics but done good measures as a matter of fact yung inenherit ni PNoy naka-lay na programa implement na lang”

Lagman had stronger words against Duterte when it came to the economy. Lagman says,” the implementation of many of the other items  in the president’s economic agenda has barely scratched the surface like  Phase 1 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) as well as the infrastructure program. “

Lagman also notes that The March 2017 SWS survey on self-rated poverty shows that more Filipino families consider themselves poor compared to three months earlier in December 2016. ” The latest SWS survey reveals that 50% of the survey respondents or an estimated 11.5 million families rated themselves poor, a marked increase from the 44% or 10 million families in the December 2016 survey.”

Baguilat meantime  cheered Duterte’s work on the economy.  his statement further said, “The leader of the independent minority also cheered on the Duterte government’s economic agenda that seeks to cut poverty and promote inclusive growth. Baguilat said it was commendable that the government has said it would build on the gains of the previous administration for faster growth.”

The infrastructure development program was also laudable, said Baguilat, who nevertheless said he hoped it would not be pursued at the expense of fiscal responsibility. He also hoped it would not result in an undue burden on taxpayers, given the government’s ambitious tax reform agenda.

Batocabe also praised the president for the economy. “Third, the economic reforms iniated by his predecessors are being continued by his economic managers, thereby makingthe phil a rising economic star. What should is to further hasten infrastructure esp in the rural areas to further pump prime the cleconomy. The. CHallenge is to maintain and sustain the gains  to offset any loss arising from crisi like the marawi rebellion.   The wish listo sould also include a long lasting peace among rebel groups, the eliminationof  tterrorism, a robust economythat  creates domestic jobs and a president that will unite and further galvanize the country to progress”

However For Baguilat, the government seemed too preoccupied with the drug issue – which was not even considered a major concern prior to the elections of 2016 – that he has forgotten his many promises during the campaign such as solving traffic, putting an end to labor contractualization and pursuing real agrarian reform. “One year of course is not enough to assess an administration’s achievement versus promises. But on the basis of his mantra that change is coming, the change has not been encouraging,” Baguilat said.

administration congressman ,1-Ang Edukasyon Party-list and Assistant Majority Leader Salvador Belaro said, “To the credit of the administration, the departments and attached agencies carry much of the workload of the President’s agenda, so their work reflects also upon the top leader. In our view, the main accomplishment of the administration are the 2017 national budget and the policy directions and focus expressed in the Philippine Development Plan, particularly the chapters on the human resources, social services, environment, food security, energy, and infrastructure. Our rating is 8.0 which gives ample room for more accomplishments in the years ahead.”

On the other hand, Lagman also cited Duterte’s failure to End to the traffic mess, and Obliterate“endo” and rampant contractualization even as he panned Duterte’s foreign policy. Lagman pans President duterte’s new alliances with China and Russia.”  President Duterte’s dalliance with China is particularly worrisome. He was pathetic when he admitted helplessness when Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened to go to war if the Philippines would enforce its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.Duterte’s acceptance with alacrity of the Chinese promises of aid and investments appears to be in exchange for not enforcing the arbitral award of the United Nations-supported Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines over the vast and resource-rich areas of the West Philippine Sea, including the Philippine Rise, formerly called Benham Rise.”

Lagman added, “Sacrificing Philippine sovereignty for contingent aid and investment from an expansionist and militarist China is definitely not a measure of an independent foreign policy.”

Yet Lagman’s ally,  Baguilat saw the new alliances as a plus for Duterte. “On the plus side, Baguilat cited Pres. Duterte’s strengthening of diplomatic ties with more countries, particularly China and Russia, but added that it should not be pursued at the expense of proven beneficial relationships with major partners such as the United States and the European Union,” Baguilat’s office said in a press release.

 Lagman also mentioned Duterte failed in Forging of peace agreements with the CPP-NDF and the Muslim separatists. Lagman notes that the projected peace accord with the Muslim separatists has not even started when martial law was declared in Marawi City and the entire Mindanao. “The precipitate and unwarranted declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao have pushed back the peace settlement with the mainstream Muslim insurgents farther to the periphery.”

Baguilat also had better words for Duterte on this regard. “He also lauded the president’s efforts to pursue the peace talks. While the talks have been stalled once again, Baguilat said that at least the pursuit of peace that will ultimately lead to prosperity, particularly in Mindanao, remained on the table and that the avenues for communication with rebel groups remained open, ” said Baguilat’s office.

But for all the President’s faults, Suarez said the president has this going for him. “he’s honest  that’s paramount pag honest ang isang tao magkaroon ng konting weakness failures errors narerectify yan naayos yanpero if you are a crook wala nang solusyon yan ultimately the objetcive is personal  yung asset ng pangulo wag lang magbabago. its up for him order his boys to work better perform well. he managed to get rid of some allies political key officers friends he get rid of some of these people.”

Suarez had been the target of constant criticism by Lagman for being too friendly to the majority. Lagman’s bet for the minority leadership, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, lost the minority leadership selection to Suarez last year. traditionally, the runner up in the speakership is the minority leader, but in last year’s process, those who did not vote for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez held a separate vote for the leadership—selecting Suarez. Baguilat’s group ihas himself, Lagman, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, Magdalo rep. Gary Alejano, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza and Capiz First District Rep. Emmanuel Billlones.

Separately, Baguilat in his own assessment  has given Duterte an overall grade of 4 out of 10 at the end of his first year in office, saying  he needs to drastically improve his performance if he really wants to use his considerable political capital to deliver on his promise of real and effective change.”

Lagman on Wednesday came up with his own assessment and said that despite his “unpresidential” demeanor, profane language, abusive rhetoric and flawed policy statements,” President Rodrigo Duterte, in his own inscrutable way, has held the nation together one year into his incumbency.

Yet Batocabe also praised Duterte for his communication skills. ” Second, duterte is a great communicator who effectively connects with our people . Just giving them hope and something to lookforward to isachievement enough. “

Lagman said that the President has galvanized a vast majority to believe in his campaign promise that “change is coming”.  However Lagman added that The people still await the coming of authentic change.

Lagman observed thatthe President’s popularity/trust rating has started to erode as people fail to see the fulfillment of his campaign promises and post-election agenda.

When it comes to the legislature, Suarez however was proud of the performance of the Lower House even if the 17th Congress, in its first regular session, managed to pass only 4 laws—-the 2017 Budget, the posptponement of the 2017 barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections and 2 franchises.

The Alvarez Speakership however launched a controversial investigation on the narcotics trade at the state penitentiary during the term of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and 2 highly publicized probes on fellow allies of the administration: the probe of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Tonyboy Floirendo Jr’s family crown jewel TADECO plantation inside the davao penal colony initiated by Alvarez  and the  use cigarette excise funds of Ilocos Norte under Governor Imee Marcos initiated by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas.

The Alvarez speakership also fought a bruising battle for the passage of the bill reimposing the death penalty, even if it meant stripping allies who are against the bill off their leadership posts—including President Duterte’s key ally, Former President, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

Arroyo was a deputy speaker and once rumored to be a dark horse for the speakership purportedly with Floirendo’s support.

Alvarez also initiated probes on the PAGCOR-Vanderwood transaction on the construction of a Casino-Hotel at the Museong Pambata and scrutinized on several occasions the performance  of the Department of Transportation under secretary Art Tugade, who like Alvarez is a key ally of Duterte.

Suarez however said the Speaker is simply doing his job. “i think the speaker is  doing that

hes doing his job as speaker  inaaway niya lahat tama yang ginagawa niya”

Suarez explained that this is a departure from previous speakerships which to him were rather docile. ” nung araw kasi  during the past administration congress is  submissive. we just toe the line and follow what is mandatd  what is ordered by the executive and by the reigning  political power parang siansabi ng nakaraang administrasyon pagbubukas ng session trabaho ng congress di nagagawa katulad ngayon after the SONA sasabihin sa atin  sasabihin before etong ating gagatsusin eto project na gagawin natin aprubahan ninyo  and congress will always yield. not anymore”

Suarez however concedes that a factor for the Congress’ performance is it spent a lot of time on matters that do not immediately translate to tangible benefits to all, like the death penalty bill. “i thinkw e have done our job part of the majority i think theyve done the same but as ive said nagkaroon kasi tayo ng highly debatable issue  katulad ng death eanlty halos doon nafocus ang issue natin consumes maybe easily 25-30% of our plenary hours was eaten by that issue para sakin di masyadong sensitive etong natitira 5 taon siguro the rpesidnet shoudl also focus his mind on coming up with programs na magugulat tayo”

Suarez acknowledges Congress’s performance leaves more to be desired. “we came up wtih some bills thats been turned into law i think  we came up with 4 laws kuwan naman iyon learning curve yun 1 year pa lang. for what we have passed there are some waiting for the approval of the president mabagal sila. but  as ive said well have to come up with some meaningful visions visionary ka na dapat look ahead.”

Suarez also wants the President to exercise his political leadership over hisallies in  Congress to get more things done. “we focused our attention on measures like postponement of election budget, yung issues that ika nga will not benefit solving economic measures confront unemployment hunger ill ness lahat yan di nabigyan pero as ive said learning curve one year partida mo na yan i think the president should ika nga ay use his whip this coming year meaning  maybe what we call mga supposedly trusted enforcer should be more dillgent in confronting issues”

President Duterte marks his first full year in office on Friday, June 30.

(sots Suarez)