The SONA and the fury

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives Complex in Quezon City on July 27, 2020.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the National Capital Region and outlying provinces under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) supposedly in response to the plea of health care workers to do just that. But that was only part of their suggestion that the government reassess its anti-pandemic strategy. Such a reassessment was glaringly absent in Mr. Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27, despite the surge in the number of Filipinos afflicted with the disease.

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Battle of the SONAs

President Noynoy Aquino

Some Filipinos complain that the State of the Nation Address or SONA has become too politicized, but not just in one, but in two senses has it always been political.

Delivering the SONA is a duty required of the President by the Constitution, and it’s been a yearly ritual since 1935 with but a few exceptions because of war and political upheavals. What it’s basically and obviously all about is a report on how political power has been used in the years immediately preceding until the present, and that hopefully it was used for the country’s benefit. It also includes the Chief Executive’s legislative proposals for the succeeding year, which he wants Congress—the Senate and the House—to implement through the passage of appropriate Acts—thus the interest, over the last five years, in whether Aquino III would make certain bills such as that on freedom of Information, a priority.

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What Aquino didn’t say said it all

Among the supposed accomplishments he crowed about were the decline in the crime rate and the improved peace and order situation—claims that are at least as outlandish as the allegation that economic growth and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) have benefitted the poor.

On the very same day that Benigno Aquino III was delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), 23 men and women were killed in Sulu in an ambush by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen, while up and down the archipelago, murders hold-ups and rapes were going on unabated, no thanks to his favored and favorite creatures in this earthly paradise, the Philippine National Police and the military.

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The leaves for the forest

“CHANGE” has been the mantra of all administrations since at least the Marcos period (1965-1986).

Ferdinand Marcos vowed to “make this nation great again” when he was elected in 1965, and to “reform society and save the Republic” when he placed the entire country under martial law in 1972. Both proclaimed intentions supposedly looked to the future, but the first was a hearkening to a past–the 1896 Revolution–in which greatness was defined in terms of both resistance to tyranny and commitment to social justice.

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NOTHING is impossible, said President Benigno Aquino III last Monday during his third State of the Nation Address, while demonstrating in the same speech that certain things are just not possible in an Aquino SONA.

Apparently it’s not possible for Mr. Aquino to mention “Human Rights violations,” “extrajudicial killings,” “Freedom of Information,” “Ampatuan Massacre,” “the killing of journalists” or even “Reproductive Health” in his address. And it’s probably not because of the limitations of his vocabulary.

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