"Truly a lucky day for the Philippines,” a meme spread fast Monday, July 26: “First gold, last SONA.”
Hidilyn Diaz’s copping the Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold medal united Filipinos in rejoicing. The playing of Lupang Hinirang as the female weightlifter saluted the flag was a proud, tearful moment. It must have been personal vindication too for the struggling athlete. Two summers ago the presidential spokesman unfoundedly, maliciously red-tagged her as conspirator in smearing Rody Duterte.
Another viral meme deflated Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address, or SONA, that day. The acronym was cartooned to mean Speech Only, No Accomplishment.
Duterte expectedly enumerated “successes” to deflect international and domestic criticism of his bloody war on drugs. Streets supposedly are safer due to his 6,000 kill record. Exposure of nine police generals in narco-trade allegedly dented the syndicates. But on record he named only five generals in 2016, with no details or indictments for due process.
Figures from his own National Police appointees showed failure. Three million junkies snort three million grams – three tons – of shabu (meth) per week, they said in November 2019. Yet in the 156 weeks from July 2016 to June 2019, they interdicted only 4.4 tons of shabu – a mere one-and-a-half weeks’ consumption. Addiction persists because not medically addressed. International Criminal Court prosecutors decry the real kill record of 24,000 suspects as a crime against humanity. The P25-billion-a-week narco-trade thrives.
Duterte admitted as a flop his anti-corruption drive. He had exaggerated during the 2016 presidential campaign to wipe it out in three months. Three years later in his 2019 SONA he admitted it was impossible. But of course. Corruption can only be minimized by relentless prosecuting, empowering victims and moral regeneration. Besides, except perhaps for short-lived Ramon Magsaysay, all presidents had cronies and kin dipping sticky fingers in public coffers. Duterte has yet to disclose his latest Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, reminded Magdalo Rep. Manuel Cabochan after the SONA.
Duterte advised the next president to impose martial law and replace all public employees with youthful innocents. Ferdinand Marcos had tried that in 1972: padlocking Congress, emasculating the Judiciary and upturning the bureaucracy. By 1986 he and cronies had plundered $30 billion.
The seas are no safer than the streets. Tens of thousands of Luzon fishermen no longer venture to the West Philippine Sea due to harassment by Chinese coast guards and maritime militia. With wooden outriggers limited close to shore, their catch and income have dwindled.
Consumers suffer too, former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio lamented recently. Hundreds of Chinese steel trawlers, each longer than two basketball courts, poach millions of tons of fish in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines is forced to import galunggong (round scad) from China. The poor man’s fish that retailed at P117 a kilo in 2013 now costs P240, more expensive than chicken.
Duterte glossed over that Monday. He repeated his line at the UN General Assembly in September 2020. That is, the Philippine sea arbitral victory against China cannot be “diluted, diminished or abandoned.” Yet last May he called that triumph “a piece of trash paper,” which Beijing echoed on the ruling’s fifth anniversary on July 12. Duterte has ignored Carpio’s plea to rescind his 2017 verbal deal with China President and Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping for Chinese to fish in Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure project worked only in the WPS, yet another meme poked. There China continually concreted seven stolen Philippine reefs into island fortresses.
Duterte trumpeted a bigger spending program than the past four administrations. It has hardly been felt. Unemployment was 8.7 percent, or 4.14 million workers, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported in April. Underemployment has worsened beyond 50 percent.
Government borrowings have more than doubled from P5.2 trillion in May 2016 to P11 trillion by April 2021. Each of 110 million Filipinos is in hock for P100,000, Senator Panfilo Lacson noted. Economists JC Punongbayan and Sonny Africa asked where the money went. Half of Filipino families, 49 percent, said they were worse off than last year, according to a recent Social Weather Station survey. Half also rated themselves poor; and one in six, 16.8 percent, suffered hunger in the past month.
Where did the bulk of the P6-trillion new borrowings go? The Finance department recorded P660 billion for emergency cash aid. The Health department spent $1 billion, or P50 billion, for 89 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Those are but a fraction – no more details in the three-hour SONA.
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