Last July 24, President Rodrigo Duterte gave his second State of the Nation Address (SONA). In front of over two thousand guests which included [key guests], Dutere delivered a two-hour long speech in English with some statements and stories in Tagalog and Bisaya. Although previous reports from Malacanan said that the SONA would last for 50 minutes, Duterte, in his typical fashion, often diverged from the teleprompter to give impromptu jokes, stories, and comments. Yet, despite the lengthy spiel, one major thing failed to make a mark: the accomplishments of his administration for the first year.
Every year, a SONA is given on fourth Monday of July in the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex. The incumbent president is expected to give a speech that describes the current state of political, economic, and social affairs of the country. Additionally, the president should summarize the administration’s accomplishments so far and present the plans and programs to be introduced until the end of the term. However, last July 24, Duterte failed to coherently present both failed to his accomplishments and plans amidst his profanities, ramblings, and imitations.
Yes, he vows to continue his War on Drugs with just same amount of fervor, determination, and ruthlessness. For him, illegal drugs remain to be the source of “the ruin of the youth, the disintegration of families, and the retrogression of communities.” However, he refuses to account for the growing number of Filipinos who have died due to vigilante killings that have become the norm in his administration that condones violence. No plans of actions or programs were mentioned. In PDEA’s recent report, the number of drug-affected barangays has increased in the last month. So, if drugs are really the cause of all this criminality and greed, what is actually being done about it?
Martial Law, having been extended to December 31 just a few days prior, also made an appearance. Duterte celebrates the Armed Force of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and we share the same sentiment. We are grateful for the sacrifices our beloved soldiers and police officers make everyday to ensure our safety. But what is being done to make their sacrifice no longer necessary? Duterte says that they are working on modernizing the military, but how?
The speech was sprinkled with some plans and proposals. Duterte mentions specific plans like the National Land Use Act, tax reform, and Hotline 8888 but all in brief statements sandwiched between tirades against his staunch critics. AFP modernization, OFW welfare, and communist rebellion were also some issues raised, but not expounded upon. Campaign promises like ending contractualization, solving traffic in Metro Manila, and the freedom of information bill were dishearteningly absent from the speech.
As the administration goes into its second year, it is hard to know what to expect. While each one of us can create our own evaluation of the past year and come up with predictions for the next, it would help us, regular citizens, hold the government more accountable when we know what plans the government have in store. Conversely, it also makes it easier for us to support government projects and programs if we know what they are. Amidst the confusion and hate, it has become even all the more important that each and everyone of us Filipinos remain vigilant and aware of the actions of the government so that we may provide our support or our criticism. At the end of the day, we all want our country to develop and prosper, but not at the expense of the lives of our kababayans.