Weekly Journal #6: President Duterte’s 1st SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has spent only a month as president, delivered his first State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on Monday, 25th of July, 2016.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, 25th of July, 2016, echoed his election campaign promises and his inaugural address — law and order, economic development, and improved government service.

The speech lasted for about an hour and a half as Duterte went off script several times to tell anecdotes, crack some jokes, comment on the contents of the speech and pause as the crowd applauded.

At the outset, Duterte pointed out that all three leaders facing Congress and the nation — Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the President himself — are all from Mindanao. That is a sign of fresh efforts to address the decades-long neglect of the southern Philippine region while it tries to deal with festering armed conflicts and underdevelopment.

Unilateral ceasefire with Reds

To loud applause, the President declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a 47-year-old insurgency.

The NDF, the political arm of the CPP, represents the rebels in peace negotiations to end Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

NDF representatives have indicated they were open to a ceasefire while holding negotiations with the Duterte government, a departure from their previous firm stand of not agreeing to a truce until a final peace deal has been signed.

‘Relentless’ fight vs. corruption, crime

Recalling his promises during the election campaign, President Duterte said his administration’s fight against crime, illegal drugs, and corruption “will be relentless and sustained.”

He also warned police officers and government officials involved in crime. “Abuse your authority, and there will be hell to pay — for you would have become worse than criminality itself,” he said.

The President ordered the National Police Commission to speed up the investigation of cases of officers linked to crime. He also directed the Napolcom to suggest policies for making lifestyle checks on the police.

Inter-agency fight vs. drugs

He said his administration will create an inter-agency committee to deal with illegal drugs and integrate efforts and strengthen partnerships of all “stakeholders.” He said the armed forces will prepare military camps to be used for drug rehabilitation.

Military reservists will be mobilized for an information campaign against drug use, and dissemination of information regarding the drug rehabilitation program.

President Duterte said the government will prioritize the rehabilitation of drug users as residential treatment and rehabilitation facilities are established all over the country.

‘Full force’ vs. Abu Sayyaf

The President said the “full force” of the AFP will be applied “to crush” the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, whom he described as “criminals who operate under the guise of religious fervor.”

Among other things, he plans to increase coordination with Malaysia and Indonesia and strengthen the government’s counter-terrorism program by amending various laws on terrorism, terrorism financing and cyber crime. He did not specify the amendments.

Maritime row with China

President also stood by the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision that favored the Philippines in its arbitration against China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The five-member Arbitral Tribunal upheld the Manila’s position that China’s “nine-dash line” maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

He has appointed former President Fidel V. Ramos to stand as the country’s special envoy to China in talks over the maritime dispute.

‘Social justice will be pursued’

President said his administration will pursue a “human” approach for development with improvements in health, social welfare, education, food and housing.

He has appointed former President Fidel V. Ramos to stand as the country’s special envoy to China in talks over the maritime dispute.

He said addressing global warming will be a “top priority.”

“But upon a fair and equitable equation. It must not stymie our industrialization,” he added.

He also promised to reform the tax system and continue sound economic policies.

“We will lower personal and corporate income tax, and relax the bank secrecy law,” he said to the cheers of the people that packed the House of Representatives session hall and gallery.

The president also vowed protection for women’s rights, calling abuses against women “unacceptable.”

Reduced bureaucracy

The President called for streamlined processes and better government services.

He promised to increase train speed and the number of trains in Metro Manila as well as extended operating hours.

The validity of a driver’s licenses will be extended from three to five years, while passport will be made valid for 10 years from the current five.

He said the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology will formulate a plan o accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables to improve internet speed. He also said there will be free WiFi in selected public places.

Different SONA

The SONA was revised several times, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

He said the SONA was personally written by President Duterte, who instructed members of his Cabinet to submit their inputs to the speech, including targets and deliverables for the next six years.

This year’s SONA was a change from those of President Duterte’s predecessors. Among the most visible changes was the prescribed business dress code to do away with opulent attire.

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I’m sorry if I just copy-and-pasted this (and edited some…), I didn’t watch….(CNN Ph[most], Wikipedia, and Philstar,)[I just searched that picture in Google, it belongs to their respective owner]

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