On imminent win: Duterte challenged to take first real steps as pro-people President

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Research group IBON said that, if elected, 2016 national elections frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would have risen to the presidency on a surge of frustration with traditional politics and chronic economic backwardness. The clamor for change deserves economic policies biased for the poor and the national economy and that break from the failed neoliberal economics of the outgoing Aquino administration.

According to IBON, Duterte does not even have to wait to be formally declared president-elect of the Philippines to articulate economic policies that will genuinely benefit the Filipino people. As it is, IBON noted that Duterte has the thinnest economic policy agenda among the presidential candidates and that it is still continuous with the failed policies of the past.

IBON said that the clamor for change deserves a genuinely radical pro-people agenda. While campaigning, Duterte said that he was not beholden to any elites or big business interests, even boldly claiming that he will be “the country’s first Leftist president”. A few key policy choices would go far in establishing this as not mere rhetoric to get popular support. Duterte can announce that if he becomes president he will:

Distribute land for free to farmers and implement a Php750 national minimum wage, which would immediately benefit tens of millions of Filipinos and their families;

Stop privatization that makes social services and public utilities expensive and inaccessible for the majority of poor Filipinos and genuinely expand the public school and hospital system, for instance, which would ensure that all Filipinos have the education and health care they are entitled to;

Tax the rich and big corporations more while reducing or eliminating the tax burden on the poor majority, which generates government resources for social and economic development while sending a clear signal of being pro-poor and unafraid of domestic and foreign elites; and

Suspend all free trade talks, review existing deals, and use the nationalist provisions of the 1987 Constitution to develop the Philippine economy, all of which are crucial steps to regaining sovereignty over the country’s labour, natural resources, and economy.

IBON said that daring policy choices are needed to give substance to Duterte’s presidency. Many were attracted by his bold promise to rid the country of criminality, drugs and corruption in “3-6 months”. Even bolder declarations to eradicate poverty and exploitation are needed as the first steps to real change for the Filipino people. The vast powers of the state should be used to promote economic democracy rather than neoliberalism that benefits a few, the group said.

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