By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Despite the unexpected challenge that he faced as he stepped into the Batasang Pambansa Monday, President Duterte was able to stick to the prepared speech and deliver a curse-less State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte, who arrived at the venue in Quezon City on time, was greeted by an unprecedented issue when the House Speaker, Pantaleon Alvarez, was ousted by his fellow lawmakers and was replaced by former president and now Pampanga second district representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The standoff in the leadership in the House of Representatives delayed the start of the SONA for an hour and six minutes. It was supposed to start at 4 p.m.
Despite this, Duterte stuck to the script which had last minute changes, and managed to deliver without spewing any expletive remark or insults against other personalities like he does in his other speeches.
In his speech, which lasted for about 50 minutes, Duterte, quoting former United States President Abraham Lincoln, vowed to do his best for the country until the end despite the many criticisms.
“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop, the presidency, might as well be closed for any other business,” Duterte quoted Lincoln.
“I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end,” he added.
“If the end brings me out all right, what is — what has been said against me won’t amount to anything. But if the end brings me out wrong, ten angels of God swearing that I was right would make no difference,” he continued, finishing the famous quote.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he believes that a good leader should have political will in order to do what needs to be done for the betterment of his country.
“I have always believed that no matter how well-intentioned a leader is, no matter how well-conceived may be his mission, if he lacks the political will to do what needs to be done, then he can only end up a failure and a hopeless dreamer,” he said.
“As a worker of government, I promised to do whatever it would take to give all Filipinos a comfortable life, fighting powerful interests and making sacrifices. My obligation is to promote and uphold the greatest good, for the greatest number,” he added.
Duterte assured that despite the challenges, his resolve to do good for the country remains has gone stronger.
“About two years ago, I solemnly took my oath as a worker of the national government. I was as inspired to institute real changes for the greater good of the Filipino people, as I was greatly overwhelmed then by the daunting challenges that lay ahead,” he said.
“Two years later, my solid commitment to directly and decisively address our nation’s collective challenges remains. It has not wavered. In truth, it has even gotten stronger through adversity and the desire to give the people the most we can, within my term in this government,” he added.
He, however, reiterated that he does not intend to stay in power beyond the prescribed six-year term in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“I have no illusions of occupying this office one day longer than what the Constitution under which I was elected permits; or under whatever Constitution there might be,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Duterte also commended his trusted men for making his job as president somewhat easier.
First, Duterte commended Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for the leading the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) National Organizing Council for the successful hosting of the 50th anniversary of the regional bloc in the country last year.
Duterte also commended his long-time aide, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go and his team for helping in establishing the Malasakit Centers in Cebu, Tacloban, and Iloilo. These centers aim to help the needy and poor Filipinos pay for their medical treatment and medicines.
The President also lauded Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque for authoring the Universal Health Care Bill when the latter was still a member of the House of Representatives. Duterte certified as urgent the passage of the bill early this month.
“Strong political determination, not political ambition, is the guiding light,” Duterte said.
Not counting the one when he was introduced, Duterte’s third SONA received 34 rounds of applause, based on the official transcript from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Presidential News Desk.
Duterte’s first seven rounds of applause were heard when the President reiterated his resolve in fulfilling his campaign promises–ending the illegal drug trade, criminality, and corruption in government.
The President enjoyed another round of applause when he assured that he will sign the Bangsamoro Organic Law within 48 hours. He was supposed to sign the bill during the SONA but was not able to due to its non-ratification in the House of Representatives.
Four more rounds of applause were heard in the session hall when he praised Medialdea, when he assured that the country will assert its rights in the West Philippine Sea, when he vowed to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, and when he vowed to uphold the greatest good, for the greatest number.
Duterte was also applauded when he urged the Congress to pass a legislation which would end contractualization, to pass a bill which establishes the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund, and to pass the bill which creates the Department of Disaster management.
Applause were also heard when he praised Go, and another when Duterte made mention of his signing into law the Free Tertiary Education Act and the increase in the salary of uniformed men.
Two more rounds of applause were heard when Duterte mentioned the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Boracay.
Duterte received five more rounds of applause when he talked about protecting the environment and when he warned the mining industry to not destroy the environment.
The President was also applauded when he mentioned the passage of the second package of his tax reform law. He received another round when he said that the government is now institutionalizing the unified implementation of the “No Balance Billing Policy.”
Two more rounds of applause were heard when Duterte praised Roque, three when he talked about charter change, and another one when he mentioned the satellite facilities set up by the PCOO in far-flung barangays so people can watch his SONA.
The final round of applause was heard when Duterte quoted Lincoln and ended his speech.