Did Duterte keep or break his promises? A checklist

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The echoes of President Duterte’s campaign promises still reverberate in Malacañang, as he maintains a strong stance on the drug war and shifts his policies on others. Photo by JAKE VERZOSA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It has been more than six months after President Rodrigo Duterte was elected to office. The singular man who has always marched to the beat of his own drum has been characterized as a president who is not afraid to make strong statements regarding the most pressing issues concerning the country — climate change, conflicts in Mindanao, labor contractualization, traffic — even as he may sometimes change his mind.

Significantly, the administration has been marked with its relentless drive to stamp out illegal drug use: a strong stance for which Duterte had been known for ever since he was mayor of Davao. Like any other administration, however, his tenure has seen both policy turnarounds (i.e., signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change after initial rebuffing) and several promises fulfilled (i.e., support for the Reproductive Health Law).

While there are still five years to go to his term and changes are inevitable, here’s a quick progress report on the promises Duterte made during the campaign trail, and how he fares on the same promises today.

War on drugs

Promise: Before being elected president, Duterte reiterated his unrelenting position against illegal drugs: “If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because as the mayor, I'd kill you.” (May 10, 2016)

Actions: As of March 11, 2017, Duterte has created an interagency body against illegal drugs, composed of 21 agencies to spearhead the fight against illegal drug use. The Executive Order creating the body, EO No. 15, “ensure[s] the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users.” The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will lead the 21 agencies in carrying out anti-drug operations, prosecuting drug cases, conducting a nationwide advocacy campaign, and implementing drug rehabilitation programs. See the full text of the EO here.

Ever since he launched his nationwide anti-drug campaign, the president has also received flak from local critics, media, and international groups for statements and actions expressing apparent disregard for human rights violations committed in the name of his bloody drug war. As of March 15, 2017, the Philippine National Police recorded 2,602 deaths during police operations from the time the war on drugs was implemented in July 2016 until Jan. 30, 2017. PNP statistics also disclose around 7,500 drug-related deaths over the past six months due to the fallout on the war on drugs.

Death penalty

Promise: “What I would do is to urge Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging … If you resist arrest ... you offer a violent resistance, my order to the police or the military is to shoot to kill.” (May 15, 2016)

Actions: Duterte has strongly advocated for and supported the inclusion of drug crimes in the death penalty bill which has recently passed the third reading in the House of Representatives. He questions, however, why rape was taken out of the list.

Reproductive health

Promise:Sabi ko ibalik ko talaga ang family planning. It will do us good — walang kasamaan ‘yan … I am a Christian, but I am a realist and we have to do something about our population.” (May 22, 2016)

Actions: On Jan. 9, 2017, Duterte signed EO No. 12, providing funds and modern support for family planning. The EO is seen to strengthen the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law. See the full text of the EO here.

Same sex marriage

Promise: “If it reaches me in whatever capacity, I'll consider it [legalizing same-sex marriage].” (Feb. 18, 2016)

Actions: None yet, but he reversed his earlier stance on March 19, 2017 and opposed same sex marriage while addressing a Filipino community in Myanmar, saying, “Wala nang he or she — 'yan ang kultura nila. Kayo lang. Hindi pwede sa amin. Katoliko kami.”

China – Philippines conflicts over maritime resources

Promise: "There will never be an instance that we will surrender our right over Scarborough Shoal … That is not a territorial issue. It is an issue about being obstructed or impeded because of the constructions there and we cannot exercise freely the rights under UNCLOS of the 200-mile economic zone that is exclusive to us.” (June 2, 2016)

Actions: Duterte said that he has no power to stop China’s reported plans to build structures on Scarborough Shoal. He will confront China, however, if they attempt to take resources from Philippine territory. In a press conference on March 23, 2017, he stated: “During my term, there will be a time I will confront China with the arbitral judgment.”


Promise: Calling for responsible mining after being elected to office, Duterte told mining companies: “If you cannot do it right, then get out of mining." (June 22, 2016)

Actions: Duterte firmly stands by the actions of his Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who takes a hard stance against mining: she has canceled 75 mining contracts approved previously and ordered the closure of 23 mines operating on coastal watersheds last month. Apparently addressing mining companies in a conference last week, Duterte stated: “All you contribute to the country is about ₱70 billion in taxes … We can live without it. I would rather follow Gina. Maghanap-buhay na lang tayo ng iba, get the ₱70 billion somewhere else and preserve our environment.”

Climate change

Promise: Initially, Duterte scoffed at ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which set lower carbon emissions and which, in his view, penalized developing countries. “Sabi ko, ‘Kayo gumamit na kayo ng carbon sa pinakamatagal na panahon. Kami gusto naming maging kagaya sa inyo pero kapag pinigilan ninyo kami dito kasi ganun lang, eh sabi ko kalokohan iyan.” (October 31, 2016)

Actions: Duterte signed the Paris Agreement on Feb. 28, 2017, which allows the Philippines access to the Green Climate Fund. The fund aims to assist developing countries in limiting greenhouse gas emissions as well as help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.


Promise: “There is no silver bullet to solve the traffic problem now,” Duterte said during the third presidential debate on April 24, 2016. He suggested more trains to be added and improvements be made to the Metro Railway Transit and Light Railway Transit systems.

Actions: Most recently, the MMDA and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is looking into congestion pricing in order to solve the EDSA traffic crisis. The policy seeks to tax motorists for using the national highway, with higher prices for peak and rush hours. The government agencies are coordinating with Singapore, which uses a similar scheme.


Promise: Saying it will take him a week to end contractualization, Duterte said on the campaign trail: “I will talk to the House Speaker and the Senate President ... I will talk to the majority: You need to pass this bill immediately. I need it first week of my administration.” (April 24, 2016)

Actions: The government signed Department Order (DO) 174, the rules on contractualization, on March 16, 2017. The DO bans labor-only contractualization, outsourcing work due to a strike, and "555" or "endo" schemes that arrange five-month contracts that fall short of regularization — issues already arguably addressed by the law and other department orders.

The DO was met with immediate protests by labor groups, who pray for a total ban on all forms of contractualization and agency hiring, and who state that the DO actually favors abusive employers. “Malinaw naman na sinasabi ni Pangulong Duterte na payag siya na wakasan yung kontraktwalisasyon pero sa ngayon, lalo lamang nagpalala sa hanay ng manggagawa,” said Ray Cagomoc, spokesperson of Kilusang Manggagawa.

Peace talks

Promise: During his SONA, Duterte said: “To the CPP/NPA/NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day … Let me make this appeal to you: If we cannot, as yet, love one another, then in God's name, let us not hate each other too much.” The conciliatory tone did not extend to the Abu Sayyaf. (July 25, 2016)

Actions: Duterte halted peace talks with rebels in light of their demands to release all political prisoners and several attacks upon members of the military. While the administration remains open to peace, the recent killings of four policemen in Bansalan, Davao del Sur may influence peace talks with the New People’s Army (NPA), who is allegedly responsible for the attacks.