SONA IV PRESIDENT DUTERTE Repeats OLD PROBLEMS, Alongside New Developments

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Every forth Monday of July, every year, the President of the Philippines goes before a Joint Session of Congress in order to address them, and the country via TV, radio and internet streaming, regarding the economy, politics and social condition of the Philippines. The State of the Nation Address (SONA) may have been under recent scrutiny for being turned into a fashion show by well-dressed legislators, their families, and celebrity audiences, but the message delivered then by the Head of State is important. This Monday was also the fourth SONA by President Rodrigo Duterte, and true to his dogged determination, the same unresolved topics from his previous speeches were reiterated.

CNN Philippines reports that the State of the Nation Address by President Duterte on the late afternoon and early evening of July 22 saw a retread of the general issues that he prioritizes for his term in office: the war on drugs and government corruption. But while he is stressing the importance of solving these problems for the fourth time in a row, there is also a manifested weariness in his delivery of these points in his platform, promised during the 2016 Election campaign. It is understandable, as his original 3-6-month timetable of making the Philippines drug-free is past overdue.

In signature fashion, President Duterte has tried to deflect his growing frustration at the undelivered drug war deadline by resorting gallows humor. At one point he jokingly hoped that the country be struck by a Big One-like earthquake to cull the corruption from the country. He does make some serious declarations, including a paraphrase of the 2015 “Heneral Luna” film dialogue accusing the Filipinos of being their own worst enemy. “We are our own tormentors,” he thundered. “We are our own demons. We are rapacious predators preying on the weak.”

Not all of the 2019 SONA was doom and gloom. President Rodrigo Duterte also made note of more recent accomplishments such as exposing massive fraud in PhilHealth. He also gave a detailed explanation on the delicate situation in the West Philippine Sea with China, to justify the lopsided fishing agreement in the country’s exclusive economic zone. The President also made mention of legislation proposed by his former aide and now-Senator Bong Go, including more solo-parent benefits and upgrading the current Overseas Filipino agency into a full Department of the government.

No mention was made in the address this year regarding the President’s initiative for a charter change that would start the transition into a federal government. Its absence due to lack of public support may also account for more of Duterte’s grim humor, such as inviting would-be coup plotters to strike quickly, while he is in a mood to “resign.”

Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News

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