Philippine President Duterte's State of the Nation Address (Sona)
DUTERTE’S SONA – MORE SWEARING THAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS
WHOEVER thought of the theme of Duterte’s Sona – “A Comfortable Life for All” – must be living in Mars, if not out of his mind. How can life be comfortable for all when there is martial law in Mindanao. Can you tell that to the 260,000 refugees from Marawi still languishing in evacuation centers? The 8,000 Tokhang victims and the widows of the war on drugs in poor neighborhood? The millions of contractual workers who are denied regular work despite Duterte’s promise of dismantling labor contractualization? The landless farmers? The masses suffering from unemployment, rising prices of basic commodities, and lack of decent housing?
The comfortable life finds resonance only among the hundreds of trapos, top bureaucrats and VIP honchos who paraded inside the Batasan. For the many, especially for the tens of thousands who rallied outside, the “comfortable life” is another comfortable lie peddled by the Duterte administration.
Duterte’s Sona is almost a repeat of last year’s, but minus the expectations from many who watched last year’s event. It lacks a coherent message. It was rambling and without focus; the theme itself was not explicated.
At certain points, the Sona is crass entertainment. Duterte had the sense to veer away from his disgusting and disturbing rape jokes, but he managed to keep the gallery entertained with the usual boys’ talk, like how many wives each of the male government officials in the gallery is keeping. After depicting this as a natural inclination of men, he then pilloried Senator Leila de Lima for immorality, for having a driver lover.
Not about accomplishments
The Sona turned out to be not about the accomplishments of Duterte’s administration. It was a blistering attack against his sworn enemies. At several points, he cussed and foul-mouthed the incarcerated Senator de Lima, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon, the United Nations, the media corporations ABS-CBN and Rappler, and many others. Aside from the cussing, there were actual threats made by Duterte in the Sona, like the threat to order the soldiers and the police to shoot Kadamay members if they try again to take over idle government housing units.
[Duterte’s threats continued during the press conference after the Sona where he threatened to bomb the Lumad communities, especially its schools, for coddling the New People’s Army and teaching rebellion.]
There’s a lot of double talk in Duterte’s Sona. Here are some of them:
He used former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’ anti-mining advocacy to threaten mining companies for degrading the environment. While everybody knew he had allowed Congress to remove Lopez from her post and appointed a new secretary who’s now reversing her policies.
He premised his talk of a desire to keep peace, and yet he imposed martial law and disbanded the peace talks.
He cursed the CHR and the human rights defenders and yet not a whimper about police atrocities on the war on drugs, including the killing committed by top police officers inside Camp Crame itself.
He asked the United States government to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines, the church bells seized by US soldiers in 1901 after a heroic resistance of Balangiga villagers and guerrillas in the fight against American colonization of the country. And yet, he allowed China to occupy islands and bodies of water in the West Philippine Sea in return for Chinese loans to his infrastructure projects.
He boasted of increase in assistance to our Overseas Filipino Workers from P400 million to P1 billion, and yet there is already grumblings by OFWs on a supposedly free OFW card which they are paying right now by around P501 each. (The Department of Labor & Employment said they are looking into this.)
Duterte is not the sole problem
While he huffed and puffed, the entire gallery broke into cheers and incessant clapping. But no surprise here. The gallery is largely made up of representatives from Congress (the Lower House and Senate) which two days ago voted overwhelmingly to extend martial law in Mindanao.
The Lower House specifically had accomplished notoriety by passing death penalty and raising consumer taxes and VAT under the name of Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, both of which would only pillory the poor. The Senate is still to give its imprimatur, although judging by the votes on martial law extension by its joint session with the House, it has also become hopelessly beholden to Duterte.
Duterte is clearly not the sole problem. The entire bureaucracy seems to have lined up with Duterte. This government is indeed not yet a one-man dictatorship, but it is very much a dictatorship of the trapos, the warlord, and the dynasties which comprise Congress.
Issues not tackled
While a lot of cussing and ad hominem peppered Duterte’s Sona, he seemed to have acquired amnesia on previous promises to purge labor contractualization, implement land reform, and establish full-scale industrialization. Not a word about them.
The media said he also did not talk about the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) submitted to him by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a few days before the Sona. The BBL has been overshadowed by the extension of martial law and the continuation of war in Mindanao, the main targets of which are not just the terrorists but the armed groupings (not just the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf, the BFF, and other extremist groups, but also the MILF, and probably the MNLF).
It is probable that Duterte did not mention the new BBL in the Sona because he wanted to keep the MILF at bay while he concentrated his military operations and bombings against the NPAs. Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines, even before the Sona, to hunt down the NPAs after concluding its wiping-out operations against the Mautes.
Barangay elections, ChaCha and federalism
There was also no mention of charter change (Chacha) and the federalism thrust of Duterte’s government. But these are already in the bag. In October, Duterte is set to postpone the barangay elections and appoint his own people to the barangay councils. Before the year ends, he intends to go ahead with the ChaCha through Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass). With a servile Congress and the barangays under Duterte, federalism will soon be adopted, one that will perpetuate trapo, warlord and dynasty rule in every region in the country.
The ChaCha also aims to scrap all protectionist economic provisions in the Constitution, i.e., the 60-40% corporate equity provisions in favor of Filipinos, and the prohibition on foreign land ownership. With ChaCha, the limitations on martial law imposition will be scrapped too. This will give much power and prerogatives to Duterte in extending and expanding martial law.
Somewhere in his talk, Duterte said he did not intend to go beyond his term. But in the plan of things, after two years at least, we have to be ready for a counterfeit version of Marcosian rule, with Duterte in full control. And with his lackeys and minions in the federal states. This is the essence of what could be called a full-blown Dutertismo.
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)