The time has come once again for the President of the Philippines to face Congress, the media, the people and foreign diplomats for the third time in his term of office, to address the State of the Nation. The event was long anticipated as the country hopes to hear what President Rodrigo Duterte has to say regarding some of the current developments in the Philippines, many of which are due to policies he had put in place. Security was heightened around the Batasang Pambansa Complex over the weekend, and on Monday, date of the address, attendees from Congress and other dignitaries were encouraged to dress in simple or Filipiniana attire.
CNN Philippines reports that the 3rd State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte took place late in the afternoon of July 23. Originally scheduled for around 3 or 4 PM, a recent changed in the House Speakership delayed the address until past 5 PM. When President Duterte finally took his place at the speaker’s podium at the Batasan Plenary Hall, it was sunset.
To the country and to the world, the Duterte Administration has been synonymous with a bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. True to form, the President started with an update on that, followed by a promise that it will continue for as long as narcotics remain prominent in crime. To advocates of human rights, the loudest protesters on the drug war, Duterte countered that he cared for human lives first before rights, calling their indignation misdirected. Surveys indicate Filipinos support the drug war despite the repercussions.
Other matters of import that the President touched on include the Bangsamoro Organic Law, now finalized. Duterte had perhaps hoped to sign it during the address were it not for the House of Representatives’ failure to ratify it, though he hopes it could be done within 48 hours after SONA. Boracay also got a mention, with the President hoping to resolve the government shortcomings of the island’s ecological deterioration and rehabilitation, and repeat that to the country as a whole.
Next on his agenda was the matter of removing the “End of Contract” (ENDOC) clauses in employment. The President explained that he has not been able to issue an Executive Order to that effect because doing so was unconstitutional in his interpretation. Nevertheless, Duterte promised that he would prioritize the betterment of life for Filipinos even if any policy would go against some established interests.
On the front of international relations, President Duterte reaffirms the newly more cordial relations between the Philippines and China, but again asserts that the country will not be subservient to its larger neighbor and will continue to assert territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Congress had asserted in the days leading up to the SONA that the President will avoid talking too much at length and will stick to concise facts; indeed, the entire address of President Duterte amounted to just over an hour, with it concluding at past 6 in the early evening.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News