(Second of two parts)

During President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22 he asked: “So where are we (the Philippines) really now today?”

I will now quote parts of the President’s speech and give my own (right or wrong) unsolicited insights.

1. “Wala akong kaibigang mayaman. Ayaw kong kaibigan ng mayaman because pagka mayaman ka, tatabi ka lang sa akin, pati ako napahiran na ng kung ano-anong hingiin mo sa gobyerno.” (I have no rich friends. I do not like rich friends because if you are rich, you will just stay beside me and even I will be overwhelmend by whatever you ask of the government.)

If the Marcoses, the Villars, the (Bong) Gos, the Revillas, the Estradas, the Macapagal-Arroyos, the (Dennis) Uys, the Quiboloys, and others as among the President’s closest friends are not rich (millionaires and billionaires), then how will he categorize the rest of the Filipinos?

2. “On Jan. 27, 2019, we officially started the Manila Bay rehabilitation. Though we have a long way to go, we are encouraged by the test results of the waters near Padre Faura. We will relocate informal settlers — I hope it can happen during my time — along the waterways and shut down establishments that continue to pollute and poison our waters.”

Highly commendable as well, just like the Boracay clean-up. However, rumors of impending new reclamation areas in Manila Bay (like the influx of Chinese establishments in Boracay, the flattening of the mountain and the flood) if true, will negate such a clean-up. And then there is this University of the Philippines study in 2017 aptly titled “Manila: A Capital is Sinking” and whose starting message goes:

“In the last 50 years the sea level has increased more than 80 centimeters, according to our map. In 10 or 20 years, coastal areas around the city, home to millions of people, will be permanently underwater, according to research by the University of the Philippines.”

3. “We also paved the way for the entry of third telecommunications provider… I challenge this new player to fulfill its commitment to provide fast and reliable telecommunication services to our people, especially in the underserved areas. DICT Secretary Honasan will be the lead man in this endeavor. “

With the Philippines ranked first in world social media use for the 4th consecutive year, and Filipino users increasing from 67 million to 76 million this year (2019), all I can say is “Everybody’s waiting!”

4. “After almost two decades of peace negotiation, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was finally passed and ratified.”

Another highly commendable achievement of the Duterte Administration, with many hoping (and praying), including me, that it will succeed this time around.

5. “Poverty incidence fell from 27.6% in the first half of 2015 to 21% in the first half of 2018. The most important number, though, is the six million Filipinos we need to pull out from poverty. Kindly help me on this.” [Applause]

The figures compare the first semester of 2015 to the first semester of 2018, but not annual figures. Researching for annual figures, I found the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded poverty incidence in 2015 at 21.6% from 25.2% in 2012 (during the Benigno Aquino, Jr. Administration.) I was trying to get the 2017 annual poverty incidence figures to compare “apples with apples” but the PSA does not seem to have such statistics.

6. “On the matter of the Philippine — West Philippine Sea. The avoidance of conflict — armed conflict and protection of our territorial waters and natural resources, compel us to perform a delicate balancing act. A shooting war is grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake.

“Our ownership of the Philippine West Philippine Sea is internationally recognized. However, both the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Arbitral Award in the case of People — “Republic of the Philippines vs. People’s Republic of China” — recognize instances where another state may utilize the resources found within the coastal state’s Exclusive Economic Zone.”

As stated earlier, no applause nor laughter. One or two curses. And no matter what the President says, what this government’s rhetorical statements on “rumors of wars” and so on are, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea, and even far away Argentina have defended their territorial waters. China has yet to go to war with or drop its nuclear bomb on any of these brave countries defending their sovereignty.

The fact remains (and you can check our Philippine Constitution), culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, and betrayal of public trust are all grounds for impeachment.

7. “And you know, as I said, corruption is everywhere. You are free to investigate. I don’t take offense. If there is anything wrong in my department, the Executive, you are free to open the investigation anytime.”

The question in people’s mind is why not arrest Imelda Marcos who was convicted by the court? Why release those who have been accused in the pork barrel scam?

“I don’t take offense,” he said. “But I will make sure to find a way to arrest you like Leila De Lima” seems to be the message from the government. By the way, the president also said: “You file an impeachment (which is a Constitutional right) against me, I will arrest you.”

8. “I have prohibited it in Davao. And at 12 (midnight), as you see, Davao is quiet because everybody is resting already. Be it in the memorial parks, cemetery, or in the comfort of their homes.”

Nothing short of or simply a case of “curfew in disguise” — shades of Marcos’ Martial Law.

9. “I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a more responsive version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund to ensure the accelerated utilization of coco levy funds for the well-being and empowerment of the coconut farmers.”

Tell this to the Marines — este, the coconut farmers. A “Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund” is simply the “Coco Levy Fund” from the Martial Law era. During the campaign for president, Mr. Duterte promised the farmers he would give them back their hard-earned coconut levy money worth P100 million — and they voted for him.

10. “Our goal for the next three years is clear: a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos… I dream of glowing days ahead for every Filipino. I dream of a Philippines better than the one I grew up with.”

This one I am 100% sure of — a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos. No matter how much money (Bribes?) this government gives to those who have lost children and innocent loved ones during tokhang or the 26 fisherfolk whose Philippine boat was rammed by a Chinese ship; or worse threaten them to keep quiet or retract their protests — they and the estimated 356,000 probationary workers in the county, they are Filipinos and will certainly not have a comfortable life under this Administration.

11. “SONAsaan na ba talaga tayo ngayon? At hindi SONAsaan na tayo?” (“So where are we really now? And not ‘where are we?’ Riffing off the acronym SONA.)

So where are we (the Philippines) really now? Honestly, I do not wish to answer because I really don’t know where we are at the moment (or maybe I just do not wish to share my thoughts on that). It really depends on which political side one is.

12. “God Bless the Filipino. God Bless the Philippines. Thank you very much!” [Applause]

Let me end this article with this last note as President Duterte has mentioned God time and time again. This one I am sure of. Quite a number of people, if not many in the Opposition have been asking this question, “SONAsaan na talaga ang Diyos Ngayon?” (Where is God really now?)

Peace to everyone! And as the President ended his SONA, God bless the Filipino. God bless the Philippines.


Benjamin Roberto Gomez Barretto is currently a part time professor with the Political Science Department of Ateneo de Manila University. He is also Vice-President for Planning and Community Services of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina as well as its Dean for the College of Management and Technology. He was the former Executive Director of the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines Foundation Inc. and was a former Administrator of the Ateneo School of Government.