The First State of the Nation Address of the New Philippine President

6th week // 080116

It’s been a month since the former Davao City mayor became the 16th President of the Philippines. The newly-elected president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, had his first State of the Nation Address or SONA last July 25, 2016 at the Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City.

We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back. Finger-pointing is not the way. That is why I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past or blaming those who are perceived to be responsible for the mess that we are in and suffering from.”

Those words were on my mind while listening to his speech. What will happen if we didn’t let the past to pull us back? Well, maybe we had a more progressive country and more progressive life. But what will happen to all those unsolved problems if we keep moving forward?

According to The Philippine Star, the speech last 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 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.

To load 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. “I expect and call on our fellow Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.”, Duterte added. NDF representatives, the political arm of the CPP, 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.

Recalling his promises during the election campaign, Duterte said his administration’s fight against crime, illegal drugs, and corruption will be relentless and sustained. “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars, or below the ground if they so wish.”, he said. He also warned police officers and government officials involved in crime. He 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.

Duterte 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.

The SONA was revised several times, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. He said that the SONA was personally written by President Duterte, who istructed members of his Cabinet to submit their inputs to the speech, including targets and deliverables for the next six years.

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