Too many big words in the last SONA

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

President Rodrigo Duterte, at age 76, showed stamina, endurance, and indefatigability, in standing up from 4:14 p.m. to 6:59 p.m. or for a continuous duration of a punishing two hours and 45 minutes last Monday, when he delivered the longest SONA in Philippine history, longer than the longest SONA of President Ferdinand Marcos consisting of 23,335 words, and also longer than president PNoy's one hour and 35 minutes. But length does not matter. What matters most is depth and speed.

The draft was only good for an hour and a half but the ad libs and big words took more than two hours more. That was his last hurrah, his swan song if you will, or valedictory address. He called Honeylet not just a presidential partner but a wife. He also honored Bong Go for his initiatives in legislating the Malasakit Center Law, and put to task Bato de la Rosa to find the general who smuggled AK-47 rifles for the rebels and insurgents. He mentioned Art Tugade but not Mark Villar relative to the flagship infrastructure projects. He also called Senate President Tito Sotto a good man and mentioned Tito Sen's decision to run for president. In fairness, the president greeted Vice President Leni Robredo who opted to not even smile. He kept mum on the issue of contractualization.

Davao was mentioned ten times, Leyte and Sorsogon two times, La Union, Palawan, Iloilo, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Negros as well as Poro Point once, but he never mentioned Cebu, the land of his father's birth. He also said that he loves Bicol and the Bicolanos. Big words were spoken with great bravado; correcting historical injustice against the Moro people, standing up to the rich and powerful oligarchs, dismantling the water and electricity cartels, victory in Marawi and rebuilding that city, eradicating narco-politics, dismantling the insurgency apparatus, employment recovery, retooling the workers for better jobs and livelihoods, quality and accessible education, restoring Manila Bay to its historic glory. Sounds like the platforms of Inday Sara.

The president claims credit for some landmark reforms and innovations; free tertiary or college education in state colleges and university, the Universal Healthcare Law, the Malasakit Center Law, the Free irrigation Act, the passage of the Bangsa Moro Organic Legal framework, extending the passport's validity to 10 years, and the drivers' license too to five, soon also to be extended to 10 years, the unified ID system, and the salary increases for the armed forces and the police. He also claims credit for the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 COVID response initiatives. He prides in having denied the ABS-CBN franchise and charged the owners of tax liabilities and other violations. He compelled the two giant water concessionaires to abrogate the highly-disadvantageous franchises and concessions which he refused to honor in defense of the rights of the consuming public.

The president also took pride in never visiting the US during his entire term, and for his success in having the Balangiga bells returned to our country after almost 80 years. He repeated his bloody war against drugs and his order to kill those who seek to destroy the youth and families. But kept silent on the talks that most of the drugs comes from China, which he praised for helping us with vaccines. He also kept on repeating his abomination against crimes and corruption and bewailed the smuggling of drugs by Customs people, and the notorious “pastillas” schemes among Immigration personnel. He also proudly pointed out that he returned the billions of coco levy fund to the farmers. He asked Congress to pass the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos, and the Department of Disaster Resilience, and to pass other legislation on the environment and taxation.

He ended with a call: Together, let us rise as a united people. Well, these are big words. But most of them are easier said in SONA than being actually done. The fact is, his time is fast slipping away and many of his supporters have jumped away from his coalition, and the PDP-Laban is wracked in intense internal conflict. I hope he can fulfill the rest of his dreams.

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