6 Years of Iron, Blood, and Injustice: Recapping the Duterte Administration (Part 6)

by Probe

The presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte is certainly one that has proven to be memorable. Yet, whether it be his decorum and speech, his stark disdain for drugs, or his use of unconventional methods in obtaining or maintaining peace and order, Filipinos are divided on whether to view this regime in a positive or negative light. Now in the final part of this six-part Probe series, we continue to look back at the incumbent president’s reign, before we soon welcome the nation’s new chief executive.

2022: Closing the Regime

President Duterte continued to make his mark on the Philippines even in his last six months in office.

Right on National Women’s Month in March, the president approved raising the age of consent from 12 to 16, officially signing this decision into law as Republic Act No. 116481. Many, both locally and internationally, rejoiced at this historic event, with the United Nations Children’s Fund noting that, “the passage of this legislation is an essential step towards fulfilling children’s rights to protection from sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, regardless of their sex, orientation and gender identity and expression.”

One month later, Duterte also vetoed the SIM Card Registration Bill, which aimed to require social media account providers to give their real names and phone numbers when creating an online account. The bill was previously criticized for having vague descriptions,  possessing the potential to breach users’ privacy and security, and for risking the possibility of identity theft. With similar past policies in countries like Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, and Ireland being deemed ineffective, Duterte’s decision to dismiss this bill may have contributed to preserving the online safety and data privacy of each individual.  

However, looking back at the entirety of his rule, one may say that the gravity of harm he has brought to the country outweighs the accomplishments of his reign.

It was six years of the War on Drugs, misprioritization and false achievements, police brutality and impunity, suppression of press freedom, silencing critics and others considered enemies of the state, and savage elimination over peace negotiations—six years filled with iron-fisted leadership, bloody trails of extrajudicial killings, and injustice overflowing in many different sectors.

According to a June 2022 report, the Duterte administration had allegedly killed 6,252 individuals in police anti-drug operations, with an additional 27,000 to 30,000 victims of vigilante-style killings; 427 activists, human rights defenders, and grassroot organizers; 166 land and environmental defenders; 23 journalists and media workers; 66 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors; and 28 mayors and vice mayors.

Duterte also ends his reign with the Philippines recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, if not still going through it. Leaving the country still in a state of neglect and loss, a myriad of Filipinos sought hope from the momentous 2022 National Elections to cry out for change. 

Unlike his predecessors, President Duterte chose not to endorse any presidential candidate even to the very last day of campaign season. Nonetheless, his neutrality contributed in solidifying the rule of yet another power-hungry leader, with the final results of the elections showing Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as president-elect, and Sara Duterte—the outgoing president’s own daughter—as vice president. Sara Duterte was inaugurated as the 15th Vice President of the Philippines on June 19. 

Two days from now, a new administration begins—and while the Marcoses’ return to power may be discouraging for some, that does not mean all hope is lost. The fight for democracy did not and will not end with the election; the battle to uphold our democracy is, in fact, just beginning.

Although the country’s highest post will soon belong to Marcos Jr., true power lies in the burning passion and noble pursuit of the Filipino people. Better days are possible because each Filipino has the ability and responsibility to call for and actively participate in sparking change, should they simply choose to do so.

May we not allow the past six years of iron, blood, and injustice to leave us defeated, but be further motivated to denounce any kind of inequality and oppression, and stand up for what is right and good for every Filipino.