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The President’s first 100 days

THERE is a tradition in Philippine politics of a 100-day ”honeymoon period” during which critics are urged to keep from lashing out at a newly elected president of the country for any perceived error of judgment or action.

In the last 100 days since President Duterte took his oath of office in Malacañang on June 30, 2016, he has been generally lauded by the nation for the changes he has been pushing in government and in the national life. Criticism of his actions have come mostly from abroad – from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States – over his anti-drug campaign and the 3,000 people killed so far, many of which are feared to be victims of human rights violations.

There is a corollary tradition of assessing the President’s “First 100 Days” in office – which could go either way for the President. Thus far, the general feeling is that it is good President Duterte came at this time to act on the drug problem which has surprised everyone with its enormity. The lone voice calling for a probe of the killings, Sen. Leila de Lima, has been hit with removal from her Senate committee chairmanship and threatened with a sex video in the House.

Now that the 100-day honeymoon period is over, some lawmakers have come out with a mixed review of the President’s record. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez cited the sharp drop in criminality and the President’s call for a more independent foreign policy. He deplored the President’s wrongly linking a Pangasinan congressman to drug trafficking, but lauded him for later apologizing for the error. Minority Leader Rodolfo Farinas cited the President for his quick action on legislative priorities, particularly his early filing of the bill for the 2017 General Appropriations Act.

On the national economy, the World Bank had a positive assessment. The Philippines, it said, may well surpass the forecasts of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 6.4 percent in 2016 and 6.2 percent in 2017. “The Philippines remains one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia and the Pacific despite the weak global economy,” the World Bank declared.

But most Philippine officials and social and economic leaders are likely to hold off on any assessment of the Duterte administration at this time. As former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pointed out at a forum last Monday, it is too early to judge. “Let him do his job. In the end, we will chastise him or idolize him,” he said.

It is advice which most people would be wise to take. President Duterte has proved himself to be truly a man of action, but he has unexpectedly found himself in trouble because of some off-the-cuff remarks, which he has had to clarify later or apologize for. Last Wednesday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella advised those who may be wondering about these remarks to use their “creative imagination” and not take the statements literally.

President Duterte has six years to achieve what he was elected to do. We have all the confidence that he will do it.