Many of our countrymen, including allies of the administration, have spoken: No, the bully cannot take the West Philippine Sea from us… It is ours, and no statement even from the highest official of the land can say otherwise… Our claim is just and not inutile… And as some, including former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, had said, we do not have to wage a war to push our claim. Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia did assert sovereignty over their territories but they did not go to war. Our weakness was that we did not play our cards right. From the beginning, we had shown our subservience to this impudent trespasser who continues to defy the arbitral ruling on our sovereign right to the West Philippine Sea.
No, to the death penalty law, even if he did explain that it would only be applied to dangerous drug lords.
Yes, to right to life, as many studies have shown that death penalty has not been a deterrent to crime. If there are more offenders now, it is because we have not been able to find solutions to the rising criminality and endemic poverty as well.
And No, to weak governance that had deterred social and economic progress. The people voted for a leader who promised real change but over the past four years, we have been short-changed. Only cosmetic changes, but authentic change that would promote the essentials of nation-building had been amiss – building trust, unity, hope, that would then lead to productivity, cooperation, peace, and social justice, the preconditions for sustainable development.
Our people looked forward to what was promised as the “penultimate SONA, an address full of optimism and hope,” focusing on a credible roadmap by government in its response to COVID-19, but what did we get? A rambling speech, focusing on his conflict with critics in their response to oligarchies and political dynasties. As Senate Minority leader Frank Drilon quipped, this was his first experience with a SONA where he was part of the opening and the closing. In fact, some had noted that the President spent more time with conflict narratives – traditional oligarchies, the two telcos Globe and Smart, and threatening both to shape up or be shuttered like ABS-CBN perhaps; the oligarchs’ hold on the basic utilities, water and power; than he did with the pandemic, the most critical problem of the country. And the SONA could have been the perfect moment for a president to demonstrate political acumen and trustworthy leadership. US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt rose to the Moment during the worst years of the Depression. In his famous Fireside radio chats he talked to the people and provided them hope and certitude in the midst of fear. And the people rallied. President Duterte could have used his political capital (for until a few days ago, he still had some left). But it was wasted on a narrative of petty squabbles.
The SONA could have been that timely event, where he could have pulled a fearful people and country together.
Come to think of it. He did mention some positives on behalf of distance education, OFWs, use of coconut farmers’ levy, upgrading of agriculture, medium and small-scale industries, and online businesses, Pantawid and social amelioration, environment.
All these could have been organized and presented within a coherent, engaging, and humane Anti-Pademic Strategy.
In other words, except for the tirades against the “oligarchy,” it was a neutral address. But the country expected much more than neutrality. At this time in our history, such a stance would be expectedly wanting. For during these times, our people demand that their leader stand tall, defiant, but assured, confident, and unwavering, as he speaks in the defense of their rights and that of the country
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