SONA 2016: Digong’s Crusade

Photo by Mahmoud Al-qammari

Photo by Mahmoud Al-qammari

“We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back. Finger-pointing is not the way. ”

President Duterte’s opening statement in his first State of the Nation Address is obviously throwing a shade to his predecessor.

We were told that the speech shall be short, estimated to run for about 30 mintues, but the tough-talking President went off tangent from his script — which just proved that the President is one that cannot be packaged. He is his own person. And despite the formalities, he had managed to crack jokes in between — giving us a glimpse of the charisma which was largely responsible for his winning. Without a doubt, he knows the language of the people.

Because we’ve been used to certain formalities, the President going off script was a breath of fresh air. It was a speech for the masses. It was a peek through the mind of the country’s most powerful man. He was candid.

However, the question remains: Is it enough?

Because more than presenting the State of the Nation, the first SONA is a reiteration of the administration’s main priorities and action plans.

Being first and foremost, a State of the Nation, it failed to paint an effective picture of what our current state is. There was a lack of facts and figures, except for statistics on illegal drug use.

Instead, it was peppered with promises for the Filipino people. He raised common issues which directly impact the life of an ordinary Juan. He did not just talk about building infrastructure but also acknowledged the daily grind commuters face when taking trains. He talked about people waiting in line and spending countless days securing documents from the government. He included the plights of the informal settlers and the indigenous peoples.

From peace talks, starting small businesses and registrations, carbon emissions, mining, to international concerns.

Four things stood out: his war against drugs and crime, federalism, corruption, and peace.

In 100 minutes, he managed to cover a range of issues, no matter how vague, and had talked directly to each Filipino watching and listening to every word he uttered.

Some may have been satisfied, impressed even, with the President's speech.

But critics are still left wanting clearer pronouncements and a much firmer ground on the argument about human rights.

He has heavily championed his war on illegal drugs and criminality, and again this was reiterated during his first SONA.

How far will this administration go to achieve its goal of clearing the Filipino society of this evil?

Just like any war (maybe rather implicitly) he warned that this one will be bloody.

Then it becomes problematic. Because the lack of apathy and dismissal of the figures with regard to the extrajudicial killings cannot be taken lightly. His aggressiveness, although at most welcome, is also fearful.

The problem with drugs is not a simplistic matter, after all. The main problem of why the problem is prevalent remains: Poverty. And unless it is addressed, other pressing problems will continue to reel its ugly head.

Will the president then be successful in materializing his vision for the country? Will this administration be successful in carrying out all its plans?

The Filipino people are tired of ideals. They want actions and visible changes. They hope that idealism would transform into reality. A reality everyone can experience, hopefully in six years.

As we listen, we hear him say he's putting the interest of the Filipino people and the country, first and foremost.

But we, as citizens of this land, what can we do?

If surveys are to be trusted, over 90% of Filipinos place their trust on this man who 16 million of us chose to lead the country.

But do we trust one another to be constantly vigilant, looking out for the interest of our neighbors; do we trust one another to uphold human dignity and not cause harm to our fellow Filipinos; do we trust one another to cooperate with the government in bringing out peace and realizing a better way of life for every Filipino?

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While the government is always ready to help you, you must first help yourself. We cannot legislate financial and economic progress for you. It is you and you alone who can do that. You can chart your fate, but do it within constitutional and legal means.
— President Rodrigo Duterte