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The year that ended last night – 2016 – was as a big year for the Philippines. The nation elected a new president but he was not of the same mold as previous leaders of the country. He promised change and in so many areas of the national life, this is what we are undergoing today.
President Duterte proceeded to carry out his campaign promise – that he would root out the drug menace in the country – from Day One of his administration. The drug problem has turned out to be much bigger than anyone had thought. In the total effort to eradicate it, thousands have been killed, raising fears of human rights violations. Among some international leaders.
At the same time, the new administration took steps to end the decades-long rebellion of the New People’s Army (NPA), military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Peace talks have been held in Oslo, Norway, while separate efforts are underway to meet the legitimate demands of the Moro liberation forces for greater autonomy in their areas in Mindanao.
At the start of the new year, the new administration is moving to clean up many agencies of the government to weed out the corrupt and the incompetent. Within three weeks of his assumption to office, the President issued an executive order to open the decisions, actions, and records of executive offices to public scrutiny. He is now pushing for a Freedom of Information Law to cover the entire government, including the legislature and the judiciary.
Congress has already approved a National Budget for 2017 which sets aside billions of pesos to carry out the administration’s program for change – through massive infrastructure projects all over the country, through social and educational services aimed at uplifting the poorer sectors of the nation, and, hopefully, through programs that will move the private sector to set up commercial activities that will provide more jobs for the people. And a Constitutional Assembly will seek to carry out one big change sought by the President – a federal form of government to stimulate more even development for the country.
In our international relations, the big change sought by the administration is for a more independent foreign policy.
This will help the Philippines navigate through the never-ending international rivalries and disputes ever threatening to break out into open conflict.
In this new year of 2017 which begins today, we hope that the many changes that began last year with the election of President Duterte will lead, first of all, to peace here in our own land and in our relations with other nations.
And we hope that the government programs that have been launched will help bring about a better life for our people, so that they will not be squatters in their own land, and so they will not have to leave their families to find work abroad. This would be the biggest and the greatest change of all.