From going over his accomplishments to joking about his own mortality, President Duterte’s candidness took over his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Here are nine takeaways from the President’s speech.
1. Dreams and achievements
President Duterte looked at what his administration has achieved in his speech. He went over his dreams and vision of a better life for all Filipinos, the reforms and radical changes that needed to be made, and how he tangled with men of wealth and influence.
He stressed the importance of good governance, his push for free education and universal healthcare, giving adequate food and housing, and campaigning for environmental preservation and respect for culture.
The President also went over a passionate subject– peace and security. He recalled increasing the salary of uniformed personnel and enhancing their capability and his campaign against insurgency and extremism, including the country’s victory against pro-ISIS terrorists in Marawi City in 2017.
His favorite topics, the campaign against corruption and illegal drugs, were not forgotten. The President went as far as advising his successor to “declare martial law” if he wanted to get rid of corruption in government. Meanwhile, he said his drug war has come a long way but still has a long way to go.
Duterte enumerated some key projects in his Build, Build, Build infrastructure program including coastal roads and improvements in the country’s train lines and skyways.
He mentioned that under his administration, the government managed to increase the validity of passport and driver’s license, promote ease of doing business, launch a national ID system, increase the salary of government workers, champion freedom of information, and rehabilitate famous sites like Boracay and Manila Bay.
The President likewise expressed his gratitude to health and frontline workers and his appreciation to the private sector, local chief executives, and international partners, especially in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
2. Foreign policy and economics
Aside from his dreams and achievements, the President discussed his foreign policy. He, in particular, reiterated his stand that the Arbitral Ruling recognizing the Philippines’ claim on the West Philippine Sea was already part of international law. He, however, insisted that he will not go to war against China.
Despite his closeness to China, he reiterated that he did not get help from Beijing to win the 2016 polls.
Duterte also went over legislation and other government programs that helped the economy like coco levy; rice tariffication; revised water concession agreement; and empowering micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
3. Priority measures
In his SONA, the President asked Congress to swiftly pass the bills creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in line with the COVID-19 pandemic.
He pushed for the passage of the bill creating two new departments: the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos that would address the needs and taking care of the welfare of Filipinos abroad, and the Department of Disaster Resilience.
He wanted a bill that would institutionalize e-governance in the country.
Also included in Duterte’s priority list were amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Foreign Investments Act, Public Service Act. He also proposed a unified system for separation, retirement, and pension of military and uniformed personnel; as well as free legal assistance to military and police personnel.
He also wanted a law implementing the Fire Protection Modernization Program to bolster the readiness of firefighters and ensure their ability to respond to fires and disasters.
He also suggested the mandatory establishment of evacuation centers in every city, province, and municipality across the country.
One of the highlights of Duterte’s SONA was the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his speech, the President cautioned about the adverse impact of lockdowns, saying that sustained pandemic response and accelerated vaccination were the keys to solving the biggest public health problem of this century.
He, however, left the rest to God, as there was no way of telling when the virus would disappear.
5. Looking forward
President Duterte expressed confidence that a peaceful and prosperous nation was no longer a distant dream especially with the help of Filipinos who would be willing to seize the opportunity to work together.
He said his administration has laid down the groundwork and is continuing to push for landmark reforms and key accomplish to the last day of his term.
The President’s SONA lasted for at least two hours and 45 minutes, one of the longest SONAs during his term, longer than the 59 minutes it took him to read his speech in one of his rehearsals.
He likewise asked his critics if they were not happy now that the Philippines has fewer criminals. He urged them to also consider the victims of the supposed criminals.
Despite this, the President was able to hold himself back from cursing during his speech.
7. The jokes
It will not be a Duterte speech without the usual jokes. The President poked fun at his own health, saying his stuttering might be a COVID-19 symptom. He even asked if there was an ambulance on standby.
He likewise admitted that he made a long pause in his speech to catch his breath because his heart was beating fast. He jested that this may cause his death while leading the country.
Duterte made his audience laugh when he said he was hurrying up because his bladder was already full. He said his guests were probably suffering the same ordeal but were only shy to stand up and go to the restroom.
The President also scolded those present at Batasang Pambansa numerous times for clapping even if there was no reason to clap yet. He joked that he will just give them a signal if the time for them to clap came.
Meanwhile, Duterte also poked fun at the operator of his teleprompter. According to him, he was unsure if he was just too fast or the operator was slow as he had to make long noticeable pauses while waiting for the prompter to catch up.
8. The usual
The President’s SONA came with his usual remarks, especially on illegal drugs. He stressed anew how a family can become dysfunctional if a member goes abroad for work, leaving the other members vulnerable.
Among other issues Duterte reiterated was government processes should be quick and he again urged Filipinos to assert their rights in case they encounter government employees asking them for money when processing their papers.
He also repeated this earlier pronouncement that he will never visit the United States of America while he is President.
9. The venue
Despite the pandemic, President Duterte delivered his final SONA at Batasang Pambansa. Like the previous year, he had limited guests in the venue. All of them wore QR-coded face shields.
Despite the strict implementation of COVID-19 protocols, lawmakers flocked to the President to take a picture of him after he delivered his speech, effectively violating physical distancing rules. All guests at the Batasan Hall were required to be fully vaccinated and were tested before they were allowed to go to the venue.
Many officials and former officials attended SONA virtually, including Vice President Leni Robredo, former President Joseph Estrada and former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Some Cabinet members who had to watch the SONA from Malacañang, while celebrities Philip Salvador and Robin Padilla, both known to be supporters of the President, were invited to be physically present. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque earlier explained that it was the House of Representatives that decided who to invite.
Duterte’s favorite songs rendered by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra were played during the event.
Meanwhile, singer Morissette Amon was tapped by the House of Representatives to sing the National Anthem.