Rodrigo Duterte delivered his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa Complex, Quezon City in the afternoon of July 26. Lasting around three hours, his speech predictably focused on his agenda for the military and counterinsurgency, as well as his bogus war against drugs, terrorism and corruption. He also laid out 12 priority bills, two of which have previously hurdled committee level at the Lower House, while six have counterpart bills pending before the Senate.
Prioritizing the military and police
Despite the raging pandemic, Duterte refused to prioritize public health and the welfare of health workers. Instead, his top agenda was to ensure legislations for the pension Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, as well as free legal assistance for uniformed personnel implicated in crimes and anomalies. These bills aim to secure the loyalty of his soldiers and police to his tyrannical reign.
Duterte also lauded his criminal war on drugs despite widespread condemnation. People have long known how his campaign aims only to establish himself as the drug overlord in the country.
The Communist Party of the Philippines belied Duterte’s claim that his counterinsurgency campaign is succeeding in “resolving” the root cause of the armed conflict. It dismissed Duterte’s claim of 17,000 “surrendered” fighters of the New People’s Army as “a big fat lie” pointing out that those are actually civilians. It also said Duterte’s claim that 15 guerrilla fronts have been dismantled in the past five years is unfounded.
Bogus anti-corruption campaign
Duterte’s claims regarding his bogus anti-corruption campaign are plain hogwash. This includes claims of “firing” 43 Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers involved in the “pastillas scheme” in 2020, and 200 other employees involved in corruption.
Contrary to his claim, the BI officers were only suspended and not sacked, and are already back at the agency without being held accountable. There are also no reports to prove his claim of sacking 200 other employees.
In 2020, he also ordered to restrict public access to public officials’ statements of assets, liabilities and net worth which are usually scrutinized to probe whether an official is involved in corruption.
No plans for the pandemic
In his SONA, Duterte failed to lay out concrete plans to face the Covid-19 pandemic amid increasing threat of the Delta variant spreading across the country.
In his speech, he only ordered the National Employment Recovery Strategy Task Force to spearhead his so-called Reform, Rebound and Recover Program which purportedly aims to vaccinate qualified workers to fill in more than one million jobs. However, vaccine supplies remain inadequate as the regime continues to rely on paltry donations from other countries.
Duterte’s order to establish the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines is sanctimonious in the face of his regime’s scarce public health funding.
As expected, Duterte ordered Congress to railroad the Foreign Investments Act, Public Service Act, and Retail Trade Liberalization Act to fully liberalize the economy under the pretext of stimulating economic activity. These bills have already hurdled the committee level of the Lower House and already have equivalent bills pending before the Senate.
Duterte bragged that the Philippines was “one of the fastest growing economies in Asia before the pandemic scourge.” In reality, the gross domestic product growth of the country had dropped from 7.1% in 2016 to 6.1% in 2019.
People were also outraged by Duterte’s false boast that he “took away the misery of commuting” with the help of his grandiose road and skyway projects. This is far from reality as commuters daily suffer from the lack of public transportation due to restrictions imposed on jeepney operations.
He also lied when he claimed that he is “pursuing” an independent foreign policy when people are well aware of his puppetry to China and the US. He did not discuss his treasonous policy of selling out the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea to China in exchange for support for his regime, and his policy of using the Visiting Forces Agreement to obtain bigger military aid from the US.