#SONA2016 – Highlights of Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address

rodrigo duterte 2016 state of the nation address
President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his first SONA this afternoon (Credits: Philippine Information Agency Facebook page)

President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, July 25. As of posting time, the Presidential Communications Office is yet to release the official transcript of his 90-minute address. The advanced copy of the speech that was given to members of the media was almost rendered useless because the President significantly deviated from his prepared remarks through ad libs.

Here’s a run down of what went on during Duterte’s first SONA as chronicled in The Filipino Scribe‘s Twitter feed:

BEFORE THE SPEECH:

The 17th Congress, which will run from 2016 to 2019, officially began earlier in the day. As expected, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives while Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III was elected Senate President.

Several days ago, it was reported that the Duterte administration invited all living former presidents to attend the SONA. Three of the four attended, with Benigno Aquino III opting to decline due to unspecified reasons.

For her part, today marked the first time that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was able to attend a SONA since 2009. She memorably skipped Aquino’s first two SONAs while she was already under detention during the remainder of her successor’s presidency.

duterte 2016 state of the nation address
President Rodrigo Duterte gave his first State of the Nation Address today

HUMOR TIME!

SONA HIGHLIGHTS

1) In an apparent swipe against Aquino, Duterte began his SONA by declaring that “vindictiveness in not (his) system.” He added: “We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back.”

2) As expected, Duterte quickly pivoted to his crusade against criminals and crooks in the government.  “I am determined and better positioned now, to wage war against those who make a mockery of our laws,” he said. The President also left this warning to law enforcers: “Abuse your authority, and there will be hell to pay.”

3) “Human rights should not be used as an excuse to destroy the country!” – President Duterte said to critics of his war on drugs. “We have a nation to guard. It’s a question of drugs, it’s the question of public order,” he declared.

4) “Addressing global warming will be our top priority but it must not stifle our industrialization,” the President said in discussing the climate change accord finalized in Paris last December.

5) In one of the most applauded part of his speech, the President also extended the olive branch to the Communist rebels. “I am announcing a unilateral ceasefire against CPP-NPA effective immediately,” he said.

6) Duterte likewise reiterated his commitment to lowering income taxes for working Filipinos: “My administration will pursue tax reforms towards a simpler, more equitable, and more efficient tax system.”

rodrigo duterte 2016 state of the nation address
President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his first SONA this afternoon
(Credits: Philippine Information Agency Facebook page)

7) Turning to the problem of congestion in urban areas particularly in Metro Manila, Duterte announced that he wants to develop railway systems nationwide. “Removing of colorum vehicles will be intensified, and my god, it will be done!” he added. And showing once again his lighter side, he mentioned that train tickets should be available in malls. “It will be easier to riding public if tickets are in malls. Huwag lang sa Recto, pekehin nila yon,” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

8) “The implementation of must be put to full force and effect so poor will have freedom of informed choice to family spacing,” the President said, referring to the controversial measure passed in 2012 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2014.

9) Once more, the President expressed his desire to make it easier for the public to deal with the government. “Processing time to issue permits and licenses shall be reduced to the barest minimum: three days,” he said.

10) Also in his speech, Duterte took the time to defend the appointment of former ABS-CBN Foundation managing director and anti-mining advocate Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary. “We both share the same goal. She is just doing her job. She is a crusader,” he said.

“The military is directed to intensify its role against anti-illegal logging and anti-illegal mining,” he declared.

11) Towards the end of the speech, Duterte announced plans to upgrade the facilities of government-run PTV4 to make it at par with other local media giants. He added that the network should have more informative programs and a higher level of editorial independence.

12) “This government does not condone violence and repression against the media. They are our partner for change,” the President said, apparently aiming to soothe his administration’s sometimes testy relationship with the press.

13) Duterte also announced plans to develop a national broadband network in place so that Filipinos can have WiFi access in public places. He likewise directed the newly-created Department of Information and Communication Technology to monitor Internet service providers. Without a doubt, this part of his speech resonated with the public.

14) The President once more reiterated his advocacy for a shift to a federal form of government, with the French model of having a ceremonial president and a powerful prime minister as a guide. “If you hurry up shift to a federal system of government and call for new election, I will go. Sibat na ako,” he said in jest. He also emphasized that federalism is necessary to achieving peace in Mindanao.

15) Duterte then assured poor Filipinos that his government will take steps to achieve universal health care and to prevent illegal settlers from losing their homes. “As long as I am President, there will be no demolitions without relocation,” he promised.

16) Duterte closed his speech by appealing to Filipinos’ sense of optimism despite the monumental challenges ahead. “We shouldn’t despair. We are imbued with a resiliency that has been tested and proven,” he said. “I assure you, this will be a clean government,” he vowed.

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

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