Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, 2016 to open the 16th Philippine Congress at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City. He spoke before legislators of Senate and Lower House, members of the Philippine judiciary and executive branches of government as he is – rogue, direct, and hilarious.
His track record as Mayor of Davao City in Mindanao sums up his credibility as a no-nonsense local executive. How he expands this record to cover all of the country is the greatest challenge as a public official.
During his SONA, Pres. Duterte rolled the sleeves of his Barong Tagalog, which was absolutely so him, absolutely unconventional. Literally and figuratively, however, that should be taken that he means business in curbing corruption and drug menace, instituting efficiency in public service, and promoting economic development at the village level.
Here’s what our New York-based OSM! writers think of the SONA:
Ms. Vanette Colmenares
“The President sounded sincere in his SONA. But whatever he said will be tested in the future. He may have his hands full on the promises he made during elections, especially on the drug and corruption issues. The challenge is on its implementation.
And it’s really not just about him, but also those below him. Your company is as good as the people you employ. This is what we should look into.
Moreover, I just wish that in his next SONA, he will speak in his own dialect so he can be more passionate and direct. After all, he is Visayan. Just like the UN in New York headquarters, global leaders speak passionately about their country in their own language. We can have headsets for interpreters. After all, two-thirds in Congress are Visayan speakers and only one third are non-Visayan. Now that’s a change!”
Ms. Mona Lunot Kuker
“Pres. Duterte delivered his vibrant first SONA. But for me, his credibility was tarnished with the presence of the three big time criminals as his special guests of honor whom he first introduced in his welcoming statement. Obviously the country is not free from oligarchy and nepotism while small time criminals have spilt their blood on the streets.”
Elisse Nicole Catalan, M.D.
“I laughed, I cried, but mostly smiled.
At 3:30 AM New York time, my mother called and tried to wake me up to watch the SONA. I went as far as getting online and accessing the live stream but ended up going back to sleep. It took a full workday for me to watch the whole SONA in parts.
Interestingly, it was not aimed for the ears of the equity rich Filipinos. It was for the marginalized Filipinos. It was not laden with talk about the GDP, it was for the Lumad, for those sleeping on the sidewalk waiting for the passport office to open, those people needing public documents that get jerked around from one government office to another. For whom his SONA was, made all the difference.
To the elite, Duterte’s speech was lackluster. Maybe to them his delivery and lack of formality was shameful. But to me, I saw a true Filipino leader/advocate aware and sympathetic of the real plight of his people.
I saw the leader who disguised himself as a taxi driver to learn more about his city, the leader who has invited in the protesters to Malacanang, shared his food and listened. His SONA was not as eloquent as Ivanka’s speech in the RNC but damn Duterte speech showed heart and lots of it. By far the most socially cognizant speech than all ex-presidents combined.
To those against him because of the ongoing extrajudicial killings, seemingly his words did not ease your worries. I understand this fully. Unknown to many, I lost my beloved grandfather because of unnatural causes. I have lived through the fear and pain of losing someone too early and through an inhumane way.
But at the same time, my experience in the Emergency Room as a medical intern has exposed me to enough stab wounds and rape victims for me to have a good depth of understanding about the perils of illegal drugs. Each human life is sacred but in the fight against narco-politics and anarchy, bloodshed is inexorable.
Extrajudicial killings can be conveniently amplified by those in the drug trade to instill mistrust in the administration. Moreover, some have projected that Duterte’s war on drugs will suffer the same fate as Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra’s. I believe otherwise. Thailand as a precedent example is a great learning tool. Duterte and his people should not be underestimated. For everyone’s sake, I hope this war on drugs succeeds.
Personally, there were two things I wished: 1- To hear more about policies for education, public health and economics. But I understand that it is necessary to first “clean house” in order to move forward more efficiently. 2- How I wish everyone understood his Visayan ‘hirits’ in his adlib because they were hilarious and clever.
Lastly, I’m fully aware that Duterte is no Messiah, neither is he the panacea to all our societal problems. He is flawed, he will err but at least to me he is the giant step forward towards a country wherein no Filipino is left behind.
I am voicing my thoughts as a disillusioned Filipino millennial who now sees a glimmer of hope for the nation.”