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[Y-SPACE] No more of Duterte and his allies in 2022: Magparehistro ka!

by Maria Nicole Dominique Dimayacyac

Based on the current figures of the World Population Review, there are 71,885,584 adults in the Philippines. On June 17, the Commission on Elections revealed that the Philippines already has 60 million registered voters, including the 4,863,455 first-time voters and reactivated voters combined. With 52 days left until the last day of voter registration, a shortfall of 11 million, more or less, individuals remain unregistered.

Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution Article 5 Section 1, "Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age..." Given that the 2022 national elections will be a 'make-or-break' moment for the Philippines, those eligible to vote must exercise their right and ensure that past mistakes are never repeated.

For a specific reason on why you should register to vote, the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, and his allies must be out of the equation.

The Philippines has become more corrupt.

In 2016, President Duterte promised to eliminate corruption, but it appears that what happened is the opposite. In 2017, 605 kilos of crystal meth worth ₱6.4 billion, and at least 1.6 tons worth about ₱11 billion in 2018 were smuggled into the country. In 2019, the Philippine Health Insurance Inc. was exposed to a "ghost dialysis" scheme in which dead patients were allegedly used to file kidney treatment claims. In 2020, while in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately ₱15 billion of PhilHealth's funds were allegedly pocketed by the agency's "mafia" members in the state-run health insurer. A bribery scheme, known as “pastillas,” was exposed in 2020 which officials from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) were paid bribes to allow hundreds of thousands of Chinese to illegally enter the country to work for the Philippine offshore gaming operators. More so, according to Transparency International's 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, the Philippines ranked 115th among the least corrupt countries out of 180.

Press freedom is still being threatened.

From 127th out of 180 countries in 2017, the Philippines has continuously dropped in the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 138th in 2021. According to Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network in 2019, since President Duterte took office in 2016, at least 69 attacks and threats against journalists have been linked to government officials and uniformed personnel. This current government has consistently pressed journalists who question President Duterte and his ways. Not only did they campaign against the news website Rappler and Maria Ressa – who faced baseless cases of tax evasion and libel – but they also refused to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest TV network, depriving millions of Filipinos of their right to information. Moreover, the rampant pro-government trolling and red-tagging to those who continue criticizing the government, especially online. Unfortunately, President Duterte's words to journalists in 2016 were true: "freedom of expression cannot help."

Millions of Filipinos continue to feel hunger and experience poverty.

Poverty has steadily decreased over the last two decades, from 26.3% in 2009 to 16.6% in 2018 as per the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Besides that, the most recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) data showed that 49% of Filipino families now consider themselves poor, with 4.2 million families experiencing hunger. As many Filipinos are already living below the poverty line – and then COVID-19 hit, further crippling the economy and forcing many out of work – the Duterte administration still fails to provide adequate assistance to the hungry and poor. As early as November 2020, the Bayanihan 3, a ₱420-billion economic relief package that aims to strengthen our economy by providing financial assistance to its most vulnerable sectors, particularly the poor, workers, and small businesses, was introduced in Congress. However, President Duterte has yet to declare it urgent, denying his people help and support.

Thousands of Filipinos were killed in the absence of justice.

According to the June 2020 figures of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, there have been at least 8,663 drug-related deaths since the start of the anti-drug campaign of President Duterte. However, human rights groups estimate that the death toll from the drug war could be as high as 20,000 to 30,000 if extrajudicial killings and collateral damages are included. Of these thousand cases, only a few resulted in the conviction of police officers, the majority of which were only caught on camera. Moreover, even if the Department of Justice (DOJ) admitted to the United Nations in February 2021 that the Philippine police did not follow protocol in anti-drug operations, the second report of Investigate PH in July 2021 still concluded that the PNP was still covering up the killings during anti-drug operations, intimidating victims' families and potential witnesses, and obstructing the DOJ's review of most killings.

Endless Chinese threat in the West Philippine Sea.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague established the legality of the Philippines' claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in international law. More so, President Duterte promised to raise the Philippine flag in the Kalayaan Islands during his campaign and his first few months in the presidency. However, while Filipinos await his promise, he rather went to China and incurred billions of dollars in loans for infrastructure projects. Then, a few months later, we had Chinese workers in the country, offensive actions by China in the WPS, and a president claiming that if the Philippines' legal victory is insisted to China, war will break out. This only leads to the conclusion that President Duterte has abandoned our sovereign rights, particularly the livelihoods of thousands of Filipino fishermen.

To make matters worse, the COVID-19 response is a failure.

If not, then the government should be improving its COVID-19 response rather than relying on the various adjectives of community quarantines. But just a few days ago, the national government decided to return the capital region to ECQ on August 6. As of this day, according to the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has a total of over 1.6 million confirmed cases and 29,128 deaths, with 78,480 active cases. Further, based on Bloomberg’s COVID Resilience Ranking latest data, the Philippines ranked 49 out of 53 economies, with a score of 45.5.

With all that was mentioned, if you still think that the same style of leadership that has ruled the Philippines for the past five years is effective, then sure, be a contributor to the Philippines' demise. Just keep in mind that for this country to survive post-pandemic, a different leader than Duterte or any of his allies is what we need. Filipinos deserve better than inconsistent leaders and band-aid solutions. We have lost so much but let us not lose our Bayanihan spirit. It is both our right and our responsibility to choose the right leaders. We have the ability. Use it wisely for the benefit of all.

Maria Nicole Dominique “Nikki” Dimayacyac, 21, is a small girl with big dreams. She is a Journalism student at Cavite State University and a consistent Dean's lister who prefers feature writing over straight news writing.

YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.

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