By Melito Salazar Jr.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will give his version of the Philippines. We should be aware where he is coming from – he believes that the Filipino people saw all his shortcomings during the campaign and yet they voted for him so he is free to act like a mayor not a president; his network is limited to those from Davao or served in Davao, so most of his appointments are from there, regretably lacking in the world view and unable to supplement his own limitations; he loves grand gestures but sadly lacking in follow up; and he gets engrossed in the moment and goes his merry way keeping everyone wondering which way the presidential temper will go.
President Duterte will declare victory in his anti-drug campaign. Will he point to the thousands killed? Will he point to the massive rehabilitation center still unfilled? Will he give statistics that show how many drug dealers have been caught and no big dealers have been apprehended? In the end he may blame the local government officials, mayors, and barangay chairmen for any shortcomings in the anti-drug campaign.
President Duterte will declare his fight against corruption as succeeding, pointing to those he has removed from office just on the whiff of inappropriate behavior. Will he indicate how many of them have been charged and convicted and how many have been reappointed quietly to other positions? Will he proudly show how his appointments have been throughly vetted or will the truth come up that most are off-the-cuff appointments.
President Duterte will declare his independent foreign policy, weaning the country away from our traditional ally, the United States of America. But will he enumerate the many instances that he has allowed China to get the better of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea issue? Will he explain how the international community now sees the Philippines as the lapdog of China? Will he be able to list the benefits deprived from this bosom relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping?
President Duterte will showcase his “Build, Build, Build” program even if the infrastructure projects being completed are those started in the previous administration. The Duterte projects are still in the planning stages, funds have been released to departments but still unspent, stalled because of right-of-way issues and a lack of overall coordination on the Cabinet level. Will he now announce a plan of action to get those projects moving fast?
The President will then end by blaming everyone – God, the Church, the left, the terrorist, the opposition except himself. He will bring everyone to the depths of despair rather than the heights of hope. Rather than encourage, he discourages. He is not the President who inspires.
This version of the Philippines is not what many Filipinos want. In the fight against drugs, they want fewer deaths among the addicts and a community-based rehabilitation program. They want the big drug dealers to be apprehended, not the poor addicts. They want the government to assert our sovereign rights in our territories in the West Philippine Sea. They do not want to hear statements that we are unable to fight a bigger nation. Patriotism is still strong in the hearts of every Filipino. They want a government that draws the best and brightest from all regions, not just from Davao. They want all corrupt officials to be held accountable. They want to know if the Duterte administration will give a better economic and quality of life given the present challenges.
The Filipinos’ version of the Philippines is not what President Duterte will declare in his SONA. Should the Filipinos change or should President Duterte change?