Monday, August 1, 2016

Duterte's ASAP: As SONA as possible

I missed the mass action on Commonwealth Avenue during the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rody Duterte on 25 July 2016. I saw him speaking though on the large TV screen at the airport boarding gate for the Emirates flight to Boston MA via Dubai, but the audio was drowned out by the hustle and bustle of passengers waiting to board.

The view of the demonstration moving to the Batasan from the pedestrian overpass on Commonwealth.

I replayed the YouTube video of the SONA as soon as I have rested from the almost 24-hour transcontinental travel. The demonstration of the Left sector on Commonwealth Avenue did not have an effigy burned similar to the various giant paper mache caricatures of PNoy Aquino in all his six years of governance. The unorthodox Duterte had his barong tagalog sleeves rolled up with both hands in his trouser's pockets when he entered the Batasan session hall.

Lumads in the Manilakbayan rom Mindanao.

The almost two-hour long address--scripted and adlib-ed--was interrupted with plenty of loud applause and appreciative laughs from the joint Congress and the gallery audience,

"We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back," Duterte said. "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."

May be it's a good thing that former president Benigno Cojuanco Aquino III did not attend the SONA event. It could have been very awkward to see him seated with the other living ex-presidents including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, recently acquitted by the Supreme Court on plunder charges against her. Duterte's lines resonate with what we will mostly remember of PNoy's governance: vindictiveness, putting the blame on GMA in almost every major speech he made in local and international fora.

Instead of an effigy to burn, giant artistic murals of the aspirations of the Filipino masses.

"... During my inauguration last 30 [June] 2016, I said that the fight against criminality and 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. ..."

The droga war started before his inauguration. The media, church and civil rights groups have since been keeping account of the victims (alleged users/ pushers) of drug-related killings by the police and vigilante groups. None of the 'big fishes' yet have been caught; they're out of country, said Duterte, remotely directing operations via digital signals.

He emphasized later in his speech that"[h]uman rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country --- your country and my country."

"To our police officers and other officials, do your job and you will have the unwavering support of the Office of the President. I will be with you all the way. Abuse your authority, and there will be a hell to pay, for you will have become worse than criminality itself."

The nation awaits the outcome of the investigation of the National Police Commission on the five police generals he alleged to be connected to illegal drugs.

On achieving peace in the country:

"... To our Muslim brothers, the Moro country, and the members of the CPP/NPA/NDF, let me say this: All of us want peace, not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living. 

"That is why, I reach out to you, to all of you today. To our Muslim brothers, let us end the centuries of mistrust and warfare. To the CPP/NPA/NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day.

"To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks, I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately.And call on our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly."

Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire following the reported ambush in Davao del Norte by the NPA, which resulted in the death of one AFP volunteer and wounding of four others. He imposed deadlines for the CPP-NPA leaders to meet. The Left offered their own version of the story: it was the AFP that violated the ceasefire. Jose Maria Sison from his exile labeled his former teacher Duterte, in a heated commentary, a 'butangero.' Of late though, Sison said that they will declare a ceasefire on 20 August, when the peace talks are scheduled to start.
A 'ceasefire' on Commonwealth Avenue during the SONA event.

In his ad libs, Duterte rumbled on many  items in every Fiipino's wish list, which includes traffic, MRT, processing of documents in government agencies, among others.  He offered solutions that hopefully implementing agencies will implement. He spelled out his own dicta on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, on the lumads, and his favorite agendum: federalism.

Hot lines have already been activated:  the 24-hour 911 emergency response hotline was launched nationwide as part of President Duterte's measure to combat crime and corruption, and the 8888 calls are reserved for citizen complaints.

This is not the ending paragraph of his SONA. It was one of his ad libs: "May I address again to the Filipino: Ako po’y nagdo-doble ang pagod para sa inyo, para sa kapakanan ng bayan. Seryoso po ako. Kaya yung mga ganun, ticket-ticket at magkaroon ng gulo, huwag ho ninyong gawain yan. Ito na yung warning ko, yon na ang last, wala nang iba, hindi ko na gagawin: Huwag ninyong sirain yung mga bagay-bagay na ginagawa namin para sa kapakanan ng tao. Mabuti ang magka-intindihan tayo."

He's down to earth. 

Photo credits:  Mon Ramirez

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