SONA 2018: A Summary
Illustration by Phoemela delos Santos
President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 23, 2018. His third SONA highlights the administration’s performance for the past year and urged everyone, particularly from fellow politicians and government agencies to cooperate with the administration’s goals for the upcoming year and beyond. Despite an hour-long delay from its original commencement time, the address went successfully and marked as a significant shift from his previous address wherein there were no profanities or cussing present.
Before the session began, lawmakers in Congress signed a manifesto of support and voted congresswoman and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) as the new speaker of the House, effective immediately. This also removed incumbent speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez from the position but political analysts declared that the vote may be unofficial. This in turn delayed the address due to the validity of GMA’s position and opened questions to whomever may seat beside the Senate speaker and holds the mantle as leader of the House so far. Regardless, the impasse had been broken off as House speaker Alvarez sat beside Senate speaker Tito Sotto during the entirety of the president’s speech.
President Duterte talked on topics about different sectors such as businesses, conditions of the OFWs, the drug war, foreign relations, agrarian sector and tax reforms. He started with the ongoing battle with illegal drugs in the country. He stated, “The war againstillegal drugs is far from over. It will be relentless and chilling.” He believed that illegal drugs such as shabu, heroin, cocaine and cannabis waste lives and ruin relationships and still wanted to continue on the fight. He also told his detractors, “If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of our demonstrations, your protests are misdirecting, you got it wrong.” Furthermore, he emphasized on the justifications of the drug war, “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.”
He discussed on the corruption within the administration, urging lawmakers and officials alike to curb and stop corruption. He stated that “[It is] like a leech that [bleeds] the government. It saps the morale of the honest and dedicated government workers and destroys those who succumb to the temptations and eventually, it is the innocent who suffer and bear the consequences.” He asked government officials to keep eye on malicious behavior and swiftly implement these laws, especially the Ease of Doing Business law within their agencies so justice would catch up with those who steal government funds. On the departments with red tape-related reports, he urged them to make their services customer-friendly; to make themselves efficient, effective and responsive.
On the issues regarding Mindanao, he touted its history as a “crossroad of peace and harmony”, saying that he commits to provide the Muslim folks with basic legal tools to charter on destiny within the constitutional framework of the country. He also said that the Bangsamoro Organic law had been passed and would be signed and ratified 48 hours after submission. Furthermore, the administration is now processing on the increased budget for Mindanao and stating that he promised to give the budget before the end of his term.
President Duterte praised the soldiers who have been in action during the Marawi crisis, while also making a pledge that ISIS and its allies would never gain foothold in the country. However, he said that the administration would welcome the decimated terrorist groups who have seen the error of their ways with open arms, so that they could become productive members of society.
On international relations, Duterte discussed on the policies and relationships with other ASEAN countries, saying, “[The administration] shall continue to reach out to other nations and to assert [and] pursue independent foreign policy.” He lauded the success of the 50th ASEAN anniversary and 31st summit last November, explaining that it strengthens the bonds with the countries and meeting with the leaders on combatting piracy on shared waters is a testament of country and good neighbors to shared responsibility. The event also showcased the Filipino-trademarked hospitality, organization capability and artistic talent.
Duterte discussed relations with China, stating, “Our re-energized relations with China has also led to an unprecedented [level] of cooperation between our nations on our war against transitional crimes and shared intelligence on the discovery and dismantling of Chinese-led laboratories [headed by the] Wu syndicate.” Furthermore, he declared, “[this] doesn’t mean we waver on our interest with the West PH sea. We engage bilateral and multilateral platform called the ASEAN-China and Philippine-China bilateral consultation mechanism.”
President Duterte condemned the abuses of OFWs from other countries, especially in the Middle East. However, he lauds on the sacrifices made by the migrant workers and their help in improving on the country’s financial and economical prospects. He said that the administration would still continue to work with foreign nations to help the country as dependable partners. He summarized these statement as to “promote the greater good for the greatest number.”
President Duterte boasted that the administration’s campaign against ENDO resulted in the regularization of nearly 300,000 workers as of this month. Furthermore, on July 1, he signed Executive Order (EO) 51, which sought to protect workers’ right to security of tenure.
However, President Duterte remarked that “[he] understands that this does not satisfy all sectors” since he himself couldn’t amend the law, saying that “[the] power is not vested upon me by the constitution. It is simply not part of my territory.” Although, he called for the legislation to end ENDO.
President Duterte called for the urgent passage of the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund bill to help alleviate the conditions of coconut farmers in the country. Also, he asked business owners to cooperate with the administration in charging fair prices on rice and urged to shift to rice tariff system to help the farmers. He asked the intelligence agencies to track down and expose perpetrators of economic sabotage and rice cartels.
President Duterte discussed the conditions of Boracay, stating that it became a representation of government negligence while also being aware on their part of inaction. He said, “I will not allow this decay to continue. We tend to restore its environmental integrity alongside alleviating laws that disrupt livelihood momentarily.” He urged LGUs to proactively enforce our laws and “not wait for us to swoop down on your areas just to do your duty and work.”
Furthermore, he urged the Senate to pass the National Land Use Act – a policy that enables requirements for housing and environmental preservation. He conferred on his approval and endorsement to Congress on the passage of creating a new department that specializes on disaster risk management and reduction called the Department of Disaster Management.
“We must learn from the experiences of Typhoon Yolanda and other man-made disasters.” He said.
He warned the mining industry, “Do not destroy the environment or compromise our [natural] resources. Try to change management radically because this time you will have restrictive policies [such as prohibition of open pit mining].”
President Duterte congratulated the Senate for the TRAIN law while stating that some incorrectly blame the law for the increase of prices of some goods. The administration can not stop TRAIN law and regarded that the law has already been helping poor families cope with the rising prices. He also mentioned the fuel discount vouchers given to Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) and other franchisers and fast-tracking rice subsidies for all. On July 2018, all 5 packages of tax reforms had been submitted to Congress, which include tax increase on tobacco and alcohol.
Duterte hoped that the administration would aim to cover all Filipinos against financial health risks and overhaul the healthcare system for all citizens regardless of income status.
On Constitutional Reform, he clarified that he had no illusions of occupying the office longer than what the Constitution required. He thanked the Consultative Committee on the charter change for the draft federal constitution, assuring the Filipinos that Federalism would help everyone and improve lives.
During the entire address, the president showed no statistics and accomplishments of the administration during the past year. He also failed to discuss the consequences and the administrative actions on the economic inflation, the “Build,Build,Build” program, the future of the Bangsamoro Law and details of the constitutional change.
In a short 45-minute session, he left the plenary session, promising, “I will do the best as I can.”