Duterte's SONA - More Swearing than Accomplishments
WHOEVER thought of the theme for Duterte’s Sona – “A Comfortable Life for All” – must be living on Mars, if not out of their mind. How can life be comfortable for all when there is martial law in Mindanao? Can you tell that to the 260,000 refugees from Marawi still languishing in evacuation centers? The 8,000 Tokhang victims and the widows of the war on drugs in poor neighborhood? The millions of contractual workers who are denied regular work despite Duterte’s promise of dismantling labor contractualization? The landless farmers? The masses suffering from unemployment, rising prices of basic commodities, and lack of decent housing?
The comfortable life finds resonance only among the hundreds of trapos, top bureaucrats and VIP honchos who paraded inside the Batasan. For the many, especially for the tens of thousands who rallied outside, the “comfortable life” is another “comfortable lie” peddled by the Duterte administration.
Duterte’s Sona was essentially a repeat of last year’s one, but minus the expectations from many who watched last year’s event. It lacked a coherent message. It was rambling and without focus; the theme was not explicated.
At certain points, the Sona was crass entertainment. Duterte had the sense to veer away from his disgusting and disturbing rape jokes, but he managed to keep the gallery entertained with the usual boys’ talk, like how many wives each of the male government officials in the gallery is keeping. After depicting this as a natural inclination of men, he then pilloried Senator Leila de Lima for immorality, for having a driver as her a lover.
Not about accomplishments
The Sona turned out to be not about the accomplishments of Duterte’s administration, but a blistering attack against his sworn enemies. At several points, he cussed and foul-mouthed the incarcerated Senator de Lima, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon, the United Nations, the media corporations ABS-CBN and Rappler, and many others. Aside from the cussing, there were actual threats made by Duterte during the Sona itself, such as the threat to order the soldiers and the police to shoot Kadamay members if they try to take over idle government housing units again.
Duterte’s threats continued during the press conference after the Sona, where he threatened to bomb the Lumad communities, especially its schools, for coddling the New People’s Army and supposedly teaching rebellion.
There was a lot of double talk in Duterte’s Sona. He used former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’ anti-mining advocacy to threaten mining companies for degrading the environment, while everybody knew that he had allowed Congress to remove Lopez from her post and appointed a new secretary who’s now reversing her policies.
Duterte premised his talk on a desire to keep peace, and yet he has imposed martial law and disbanded the peace talks.
He cursed the CHR and the human rights defenders and yet there was not even a whimper about police atrocities on the war on drugs, including the killing committed by top police officers inside Camp Crame itself.
He called on the United States government to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines, the church bells seized by US soldiers in 1901 after a heroic resistance of Balangiga villagers and guerrillas in the fight against American colonization of the country. And yet, he has allowed China to occupy islands and bodies of water in the West Philippine Sea in return for Chinese loans for his infrastructure projects.
He boasted of an increase in assistance to our Overseas Filipino Workers from P400 million to P1 billion, and yet OFWs are starting to complain about a supposedly free OFW card which they are now paying around P501 each for. (The Department of Labor & Employment has said that they are looking into this.)
Duterte is not the sole problem
While he huffed and puffed, the entire gallery broke into cheers and incessant clapping, but no surprise here. The gallery is largely made up of representatives from Congress (the Lower House and Senate) which two days ago voted overwhelmingly to extend martial law in Mindanao.
The Lower House had achieved notoriety by passing death penalty and raising consumer taxes and VAT under the name of Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, both of which would only pillory the poor. The Senate is still to give its imprimatur, although judging by the votes on martial law extension by its joint session with the House, it has also become hopelessly beholden to Duterte.
Duterte is clearly not the sole problem. The entire bureaucracy seems to have lined up with Duterte. This government is indeed not yet a one-man dictatorship, but it is very much a dictatorship of the trapos, the warlords, and the dynasties which comprise Congress.
Issues not tackled
While a lot of cussing and ad hominem peppered Duterte’s Sona, he seemed to have a bout of amnesia on previous promises to purge labor contractualization, implement land reform, and establish full-scale industrialization. Not a word about these issues.
According to the media, he also did not talk about the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) submitted to him by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a few days before the Sona. The BBL has been overshadowed by the extension of martial law and the continuation of war in Mindanao, the main targets of which are not just the terrorists but the armed groupings (not just the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters, and other extremist groups, but also the MILF, and probably the Moro National Liberation Front).
It is possible that Duterte did not mention the new BBL in the Sona because he wanted to keep the MILF at bay while he concentrated his military operations and bombings against the New Peoples Army (NPA). Even before the Sona, Duterte had ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to hunt down the NPA after concluding the wiping-out operations against the Mautes.
Barangay elections, ChaCha and federalism
There was also no mention of charter change (Chacha) and the federalism program of Duterte’s government, but these are already in the bag. In October, Duterte is set to postpone the barangay elections and appoint his own people to the barangay councils. Before the year ends, he intends to go ahead with the ChaCha through Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly. With a servile Congress and the barangays under Duterte, federalism will soon be adopted, to perpetuate trapo, warlord and dynasty rule in every region in the country.
The ChaCha also aims to scrap all protectionist economic provisions in the Constitution, i.e., the 60-40% corporate equity provisions in favor of Filipinos, and the prohibition on foreign land ownership. With ChaCha, the limitations on martial law imposition will also be scrapped. This will give increased power and prerogatives to Duterte in extending and expanding martial law.
In his talk, Duterte said he did not intend to go beyond his term. In the scheme of things, however, after two years at least, we have to be ready for a counterfeit version of Marcosian rule, with Duterte in full control and with his lackeys and minions in the federal states. This in essence is what could be called a full-blown Dutertismo.