President Duterte's first 6 months through the eyes of gov't officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Has change come as promised? For administration officials, it's too early to say.

But they add the country is slowly getting there.

Officials in CNN Philippines' Townhall on Thursday said the Duterte administration is still addressing problems inherited from its predecessor. They added public support is crucial in doing so.

AFP Official: Terrorism, the biggest threat the country faces

Abu-Sayyaf-Last-Stronhold-falls_2_CNNPH.jpg Military inspecting as Abu Sayyaf’s "last stronghold" in Basilan falls.

For the military, terrorism is the "biggest threat" facing the country.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the peace campaign that was launched as Rodrigo Duterte took office, dovetails with this concern.

"We in the Armed Forces are praying that we put some sense into our kababayans [countrymen] from the left side that it's about time that we come into an agreement on the joint declaration for the cessation of hostilities," he said.

Padilla said since the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels, "there has been a period of peace that has been enjoyed in many parts of our country where most clashes have occurred," particularly in Eastern Mindanao, central Philippines, and Samar area.

"It's more than two months now when the guns are in silence, and we would like that to continue on because eventually it is not really the soldiers who benefit out of it but the ordinary citizens, the businessmen, students, families," Padilla said. "We are firmly, very supportive, of all these undertakings."

Padilla, however, mentioned that the growing threat comes from local terror groups that are influenced by foreign terrorists. These are the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, Maute, and Ansar Al-Khilafa Philippines.

He noted more than a hundred members of the Armed Forces lost their lives last year fighting local terrorist groups — to ensure the country's safety.

Watch: Duterte, officials visit wake of slain soldier

"Last year alone, we sacrificed 181 lives. They are your heroes. They are our heroes," Padilla said. "Your soldiers, your airmen, your sailors, your marines and every civilian working for the Armed Forces are serious about their task."

Martial law: AFP will never go down the road of abuses again


Padilla said the military doesn't see any compelling reason to declare martial law at this time.

But he noted the threat posed by terrorism. "It is a looming threat, that's why preparation is key."

Padilla urged the public to practice what he called "shared security responsibility" to prevent the spread of terrorism, and discourage the declaration of martial law.

"If each one of us contributes to shared responsibility concept, then we can guard our communities, our cities, our localities better than if you rely only on your police and military," he said.

Also read: AFP spokesperson: No reason to declare martial law; peace talks ongoing

Should martial law be declared, Padilla said the military is ready to "go down that road" if the compelling reason is valid and it's a legal order.

But he assured the public, the military will avoid what happened during the Marcos regime once the country is under martial rule.

"I can guarantee you that the AFP will never go down the road of abuses again," Padilla said.

South China Sea

01_South-China-Sea (1).png Photo shows construction at the Fiery Cross Reef.

On external defense, Padilla said the Armed Forces will heed the wisdom of the President. Mister Duterte had said he will abide by the arbitral court ruling.

Padilla said the military is open to the holding of bilateral talks with China "so we can thresh out the problem ourselves."

Watch: Yasay: Philippines has 'quietly' acted vs. China's actions in South China Sea

Traffic: A matter of discipline for everyone

EDSA-Traffic_CNNPH.png According to online database Numbeo, the Philippines is the fifth country in the world — third in Asia — with the worst traffic conditions.

On another pressing concern, Inter-agency Council on Traffic (iAct) Deputy Chief Manuel Gonzales reported "a decrease in the number of traffic time," particularly on EDSA.

Bombarded with student complaints on traffic in Metro Manila, Gonzales said travel time on major roads has improved by 10 to 15 minutes.

Gonzales, though, admitted there's still room for improvement in managing traffic.

Also read: Transportation department slammed for lack of solid plan for emergency powers proposal

He said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and iAct will be simulating the "zipper lane" on EDSA beginning January 20, at 9:30 a.m.

The zipper lane is an experimental traffic scheme where a lane will allow counter flow for south-bound vehicles from Cubao to Ortigas during rush hour.

"We have been intensifying enforcement activities. We have deployed more enforcement officers along Commonwealth and EDSA," Gonzales said.

On the whole, Gonzales said government will focus on disciplining traffic violators, mototrists, and pedestrians.

"On the part of the MMDA and the iACT, the problem on traffic is not just a problem of the MMDA and iACT, it is the problem of the entire citizenry," he said.

"We urge everybody, the public esp the motorists to be disciplined in using the highways… 'Yung mga jay walkers, dapat they should be disciplined also. [Jaywalkers should be disciplined also]," he added.

Gonzales also alerted the public that MMDA and iAct will also implement experimental traffic schemes on C5, Commonwealth Avenue and Roxas Boulevard.

DILG, PNP on war on drugs: The poor and the rich are treated the same


On an equally pressing issue, Interior Undersecretary John Castriciones said the anti-drug campaign targets both the rich and poor.

Castriciones said the offenders only differ in their response, especially to the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Oplan Double Barrel and Project Tokhang.

"Sadly, most of these users are poor people… They fight back, they defend it with their lives. As a result, they die," he said. "What about the rich people? They don't fight back, they raise their hands, and they call the best lawyers in town."

Also read: Duterte challenges bishops, priests to take on drug problem: Says I can be 'extra-decent'

He said it is not the "general rule" to kill people, even as they stick to the President's orders to obey the law.

Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas of the National Capital Region Police Office's public information section said they also conduct operations in upscale villages.

"We also have knocked and pleaded in the houses in Dasmariñas, Forbes. It's not just in the poor areas," Molitas said.

Data from the Interior Department and PNP show drugs abound in 34% of barangays nationwide, and 92% of barangays in Metro Manila.

"For Metro Manila alone, we haven't even finished even half," Molitas said.

Authorities admitted getting rid of drugs cannot be accomplished in six months.

"Members or players of drug syndicates are well-placed. They're in barangays, there are mayors, congressmen, and probably senators as well," Castriciones said, adding there may also be protectors from the Judiciary.

"We ought to admit the fact that the Duterte admin has only been in power in six months. We need more than that," he said.

Molitas encouraged the youth to also do their part and be vigilant against drugs.

Meanwhile, Castriciones assured families of victims of vigilante-style killings, "the local government units are trying their best with the limited resources, to address this issue."

And to the public, authorities asked for cooperation.

"We know for a fact that this cannot be solved by the government alone. It needs a lot of help from the people," Castriciones said.

PNP data show 1,523 suspects were killed in anti-drug police operations from July 1 to October 7 last year.

Over 26,000 individuals were arrested, while roughly 5,900 deaths were linked to the drug war, including vigilante-style killings classified as deaths under investigation.

Influential leaders like outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have condemned the killings.

Catch the initial telecast of CNN Philippines Townhall: The President's First Six Months in Review on Saturday, January 21, 9 p.m.