PREVIEW: What kind of change is really coming on Duterte’s 1st SONA?

MANILA, Philippines - On Monday, July 25, 2016, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will unveil a set of promises that he aims to deliver. As early as last week, preparations inside and around the vicinity of the House of Representatives in Quezon City are being made prior to Duterte’s 1st State of the Nation Address (SONA). Looking back on the president’s first 24 days as leader of the nation, the things that the Filipinos can hear tomorrow will apparently revolve on key areas he mentioned during his inaugural speech.

When the president took the helm of governance last June 30, he emphasized three things: restoration, promotion and implementation. Now what are these?

The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives serves as the main venue of each president’s SONA. Photo credit:
First, Duterte mentioned that the erosion of faith of the Filipinos in the government emanates from the rampant corruption and red tape practices that became embedded in the system. Add to that is the complete turnaround of the justice system in which most people from the grassroots perceived it as an institution that favors only the few and the powerful. Duterte vowed that his administration shall encourage the restoration of faith in the government and he started already by calling out particularly to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other adjacent offices committed in restoring the faith of the people and in upholding their commitment that is consistent to their mandate.

Streamlining the government services is also part of this initiative and with this is the proposal of expediting the processing of papers and longer to no expiration of government-issued documents such as NBI clearances and PSA certificates. As early as today, extending the lifespan of Philippine passports from five to ten years is already being studied.

Therefore with these promises, expect an uncompromising set of policies coming to ensure that equal adherence to the law and provision of a sound social service system over the archipelago will finally become a reality.

Another pledge to the Filipinos that is expected tomorrow is the promotion of equality in the society. This could probably be one of the remarkable highlights that the Duterte administration will push for and is highly anticipated by the nation. And this can be really seen on this one.

Duterte’s first cabinet meeting at the Malacañang palace
In action. Duterte’s first cabinet meeting at the Malacañang Palace. Photo credit: Philippine Star online
For the longest time, there has been a neglect in meeting the needs of the Filipinos despite the left and right economic programs that promised to bring progressive growth but that is about to change according to the loyal allies of the president. With the rise of a Duterte who came from the most unattended region in the country (Mindanao), expect that the new head of state will be a staunch advocate of equal distribution of wealth and opportunities. That is very obvious as Duterte has been consistent with the desire of proclaiming the concept of federalism as the answer to equal growth. Through infusing more financial support and extending the capacities of the regions in crafting local policies, equal development and unprecedented amount of progress is seen to finally creep through the innermost chambers of the Philippine society.

Another aspect of this promotion doesn’t only involve the grassroots but it also covers all the social classes. By drawing inspiration from former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during his inaugural address, Duterte assured the Filipinos that his proposed economic, financial and social policies will also instigate sustained progress and wider opportunities for the middle and upper class sectors which the president sees as vital players in this collective process of traversing the road to stability and prosperity.

In the areas improving the relationship between the government and the public, promotion can also be felt and it already started. Just last night, Duterte signed the executive order implementing the freedom of information bill, a promise that was not achieved by the former administration. The passage of FOI is a clear testament in assessing how high is the level of aggressiveness and passion that the new leader has in introducing collective progress through a new breed of transparent leadership.

And finally, the Duterte administration will be incomplete without its main ingredient – the relentless fight against criminality and illegal drugs. This has been the cornerstone of Duterte’s campaign and will remain as the centerpiece of his administration. With the installation of the new PNP chief Director General Rolando dela Rosa, simultaneous raids and armed encounters with drug criminals headlined all media platforms on a daily basis and this is expected to continue as the police force continues to track down the head figures of the drug syndicates that operates in the country.

Ronaldo dela Rosa questions bigtime drug lord Herbert Colangco
PNP chief Director General Ronaldo dela Rosa questions bigtime drug lord Herbert Colangco inside the New Bilibid Prison Photo credit: Philippine Star online
With only three weeks in office, the administration’s massive campaign in combating drugs which Duterte mentioned before as the most destructive predicament that mainly caused the breakdown of the law and order in the country has took off successfully by brandishing out high numbers of drug pushers and users, either arrested, surrendered or killed. Although this has been vehemently condemned by various human rights groups, the public on the other hand has bestowed their full support on this fight against illegal drugs, considered as the X factor which is why this initiative continues to gain momentum.

Aside from illegal drugs, other pending plans in terms of ameliorating the transport situation in the country are also being planned. Ordinances that will impose strict disciplines and promote protection among the common citizens particularly to the youth are already in the works as early as now. In terms of the diplomatic and international relations, the Philippine government reassured the international community that it will be consistent in doing its obligations. Implementation of the peace talks between the government and the other side comprising of the NPA, MILF and MNLF is set to resume as well.

Although the words that were coming out from the president were promising, there seems to be some areas left untouched. For example is the continuous improvement of the educational system. How will Duterte ensure that all Filipino students will have equal and better access to quality education? How about the upgrading of the police and armed forces? What should be the next move of the government after the UN arbitral tribunal favored the Philippines against China’s claims in the South China Sea? After DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay issued soft statements which seem to contradict the voice of the public, it seems that the Philippines’ maritime sovereignty over the area is still in limbo. How about in the health sector? What is the plan of the government to guarantee that the Philippines will be able to provide a sound universal health care?

President Duterte
Just how far can Duterte go to bring realand progressive change to more than 100 million Filipinos? Photo credit: Mark Balmores/Manila Bulletin
Much has been said but there’s more to be heard of. Regardless of the promised diminished fanfare and presence of fashionable dresses that usually dominated the halls of the House of Representatives in the past, the SONA tomorrow will serve as the preview of what the next six years of the Philippines will look like and Duterte and his men must be ready to proposed effective and seamless plans to assure the public that what they promised before the election will be met. Anything that will be laid out tomorrow by the president will also gauge if he will be able to maintain the 91% amount of trust rating from the public which he mentioned before as key drivers of a successful governance.

“Dubredo” is now official.
“Dubredo” is now official. President Duterte recently asked Vice President Robredo to hold the Housing Secretary position. Photo credit: UNTV Radio online
We’ve already seen how Duterte is as a unifying leader, but he is yet to be judged as a transformational one.

--Michael Santiago, The Summit Express

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