SONA 2018: Duterte cleans up but House spoils it

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address without going off-script, without cuss words, but definitely with drama, courtesy of his allies in the House of Representatives

Rappler.com

6:45:2am July 24, 2018

7:23:7am July 24, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – With no cuss words and no shock value, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his 3rd State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 23 in just about 45 minutes.

It may be uncharacteristic of the typical Duterte speech, but events in the periphery were anything but drama-free.

Camille Elemia reports.

It was short, sweet, and a little out of the ordinary – at least by President Rodrigo Duterte’s standards.

Duterte delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address in less than an hour, without going off-script, without cuss words, but definitely with drama, courtesy of his allies in the House of Representatives

Joseph Estrada, Manila Mayor: It's a good speech. He has prepared a speech, that's good. He was able to define all his projects. It's different that it's written.

Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Former Senate President: Today, he stuck to the major points and then, he asked the people to understand why he's doing these things. This one is much better because more informative, more direct to the point, and we did not waste time talking about other things which may not be totally relevant.

Duterte’s SONA is delayed for over an hour. The House votes to install former president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Arroyo as the new Speaker – a move backed by Duterte's daughter, Davao City mayor Sara Duterte.

Foreign dignitaries and cabinet members saw a turf war Philippine style unfold before their eyes: without a valid session, a working microphone, and the House’s mace or symbol.

It was a scene straight out of a series: Arroyo up the rostrum while Pantaleon Alvarez welcoming Duterte as Speaker. Duterte then meets with the two separately, leaving people wondering who the real Speaker is. During the SONA, Alvarez takes the Speaker’s seat.

There was one casualty: Duterte’s signing of the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law, which was supposedly the highlight of his speech.

For his second SONA, Duterte does a throwback in his opening salvo. He vows to make his bloody drug war as relentless as when it started. He then slams human rights groups for criticizing his bloody campaign – an old refrain these past 2 years.

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine President: Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos, today, they run [into] billions in peso value. I can only shudder at the harm that those drugs could have caused had they reached the streets of every province, city, municipality, barangay and community throughout the country.

If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong.

Amid rising prices, Duterte stands by his economic managers and the Tax Reform or TRAIN law. He urges Congress to pass the 2nd package of the TRAIN law, cutting corporate income and incentives, by year end.

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine President: Some have incorrectly blamed our efforts toward a fairer tax system for all the price increases in the past months, and some irresponsibly suggesting to stop TRAIN’s implementation. We cannot and should not. We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino left behind.

But lawmakers are not satisfied. Duterte fails to detail his plans against rising inflation.]

Edcel Lagman, Albay Representative: We have not heard about [poverty]. As a matter of fact, he said that he’s going for the full implementation of the TRAIN law, which has, to a great extent, resulted to the inflation rate of 6.1% on prices of basic goods and alcoholic beverages.

Duterte also calls on the House and the Senate to pass measures – the coconut levy trust fund, universal health care, and national land use law,.

He pitches Cha-Cha and federalism to a Congress divided on how to go about it. He remains silent on the controversial issue of constituent assembly.

As for foreign policy, he vows to fight for the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea but says he will maintain open communication lines with China– a move welcomed by China’s envoy.

Zhao Jianhua, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines: First and foremost, objective. Secondly, friendly and future-oriented. And China and the Philippines will work together to ensure the bilateral relationship will continue to move towards betterment. In the meantime, it is the determination of the Chinese side to bring more tangible benefits to the Filipino people.

Ironic as it may seem, the President, who has slammed the US, quotes its former president Abraham Lincoln to end his speech.

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine President: In ending, may I quote --- I have always quoted but --- in my previous talks. One American that I salute, the great Abraham Lincoln. And I came across this statement which has been with me since I was a fiscal in the 70s. And he said: If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop, the presidency, might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is --- what has been said against me won’t amount to anything. But if the end brings me out wrong, ten angels of God swearing that I was right would make no difference.

In his 3rd SONA, Duterte changes his style, his demeanor, and treatment of issues – but the same issues take the prime spot in his speech – illegal drugs, corruption and charter change.

The speech may be a welcome surprise to some but to critics, it isn’t enough. With lack of data and details, the opposition sees it as nothing but an admission of non-achievement. Empty. Hollow. Same-same. 

Camille Elemia, Rappler, Batasan. – Rappler.com