Press Release
September 11, 2018


*Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on President Duterte's latest public address

President Rodrigo Duterte's widely anticipated public address was a complete disappointment. It was a total waste of time and precious government resources. Instead of presenting concrete measures to address the country's soaring inflation and rice crisis, President Duterte spent a good part of his "tete-a-tete" with his legal adviser trying to justify his revocation of Senator Antonio Trillanes's amnesty, discussing his paranoia over a so-called October destabilization plot and his bloody war on drugs. It exposes President Duterte's priorities: destroy the political opposition and silence dissent.

Whatever measures, if any, President Duterte offered to address the country's twin rice and inflation crises, they were vague and lost in his stories of destabilization plots. Even President Duterte's order to raid the warehouses of rice hoarders is not new, as it is a standard obligation that people expect any government to fulfill.

President Duterte should snap out of his fantasy with destabilization plots, roll up his sleeves and start working. Strong economic policies, not wild conspiracy theories, will address the country's rice crisis and untamed inflation.

As part of the opposition, I have already offered constructive proposals to collectively address the economic crisis. These include suspending further taxes mandated by the TRAIN law until the inflation rate subsides, a decisive shift in rice policy, a faster infrastructure program to generate jobs, a wage hike, a cash transfer to poor families and cutting the Value Added Tax (VAT).

"Laying the predicate for nationwide Martial Law"

But beyond President Duterte's conspiracy theories, I have deep fears that the event is a precursor to President Duterte declaring nationwide Martial Law. Its focus on destabilization plots, the so-called benefits of Martial Law and the narrative of strongman rule lay the predicate for President Duterte's slide into full authoritarian rule. I call on all democratic forces and freedom-loving people to exercise extreme vigilance, to not allow the country to fall under dictatorial rule.

President Duterte should start really listening to the people instead of simply and routinely addressing us. The people demand strong leadership, not empty bravado. They need a reliable leader, not just a tough talker. The people yearn for democracy, not tyranny.

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