It is not surprising that no other State of the Nation Address (SONA) by a Philippine president has ever generated as much righteous scorn and well-earned drubbing from a multitude of quarters.
And rightly so, for the penultimate SONA's political theater was ever the only SONA to have dishonored the host occasion, the very spirit of a hallowed tradition, a constitutional obligation, no less! Oh, but let us never forget, no other President has likewise ever metaphored our Constitution to a toilet roll. Remember?
In the time of pandemic pain and peril, when a people’s agony could have been salved and soothed even with a wisp of empathy, a word of comfort and compassion, and yes, inspiration, what does President Rodrigo Roa Duterte do with his State of the Nation Address?
An exhibition of spite, unrelenting obsession with drugs and oligarchy, of trademarked opinionated ignorance! It could have been a moment of personal deliverance made available to him from his lofty perch of political power, yet wantonly wasted.
Consistent as I have always been, a critic of conscience, over this accidental by-plurality elected President, who in obedience to the mandate of our Constitution we must perforce suffer some more, I must confess to have still held out, hoping for an epiphany of sanity as he faced the nation in a historic moment. I sincerely wished him salvation from his self-inflicted ignominy, for the sake of the nation and our suffering countrymen, and in his words: “in a troubled time.” It was too vain to have wished for a miracle.
Duterte’s SONA was naked of the much expected roadmap towards the conquest of Covid-19!
Within a minute into his address, after announcing his unsubstantiated claim that a vaccine against the dreaded coronavirus is “around the corner” and will “sooner and not later…..be laid to rest,” he was fulminating against, singling out, opposition Senator Frank Drilon about an imagined personal affront.
“Imagined,” yes, as in wrestling with conjured shadows. As it turned out, Duterte was vituperating about a misunderstood event and about words that were never spoken. Drilon himself disavowed the content of Duterte’s imaginings. In characteristic rant, Duterte took personal annoyance at his family, specifically his daughter, being referred to as a political dynastic oligarchy. How, why and where that came to be, left Drilon in disbelief and amused puzzlement!
Duterte’s tirade, regardless of veracity, was “unpresidential,” quipped fellow Senator Dick Gordon. Sen. Kiko Pangilinan who was not present, said that he would have instantly walked out upon such presidential utterance and demeanor. Duterte had abandoned decorum and the solemnity of a tradition.
Not quite done with Drilon, just before ending his hour-and-forty- minute performance, Duterte rambled on and extemporized with ad hominems. At Drilon again, about the oligarchy during Spanish times being the same oligarchy today, about the Ayalas and its water contract, about “Insulares” who never returned to Spain. And, wow! he even threw in Friar Lands!
Duterte pointedly accused Drilon of drafting the government water distribution contract with the Ayalas because he was lawyering for ACCRA, the famed firm. Well, that contract was drafted by the government in 1997 during the Ramos administration. Frank Drilon was already a senator. Furthermore, his professional ACCRA stint ended in the 1980s!
As for the “Friar Lands,” a historic contentiously political issue, indeed! But that was well over a hundred years ago. It was settled in 1904 (Act No.1120 – “The Friar Lands Act”) after the colonial government purchased such lands from the Dominicans, Recollects and Augustinians for $7 million!
The foregoing fact-checking of Duterte’s mindless utterances are exhibits of opinionated ignorance.
Here are a few more stray notes worthy of mention:
The television coverage was monopolized and directed by Malacanang’s Radio and Television Unit (RTVM) to the purposed exclusion of non-government press and media.
The Invocation was led by an Islamic Imam, with the cameo participation of a known cult leader from Davao. The conspicuous absence of Roman Catholic representation in the event was an intentional slur, a denial of the nation’s soul, an in-your-face dirty finger aimed at the Filipino faithful.
A strange and unusual affinity for his sidekick/soulmate Senator Bong Go was also in full display, not only on video but in his speech. A pat on Bong Go’s back for having authored the nebulous “Malasakit Center” law augmented by a scripted minute of tv/video exposure. And in referencing his lengthy speech, he even adlibbed that if the congressional audience were to leave the hall in boredom, that would still be all right with just Bong Go as his one-man audience, or words of such import.
A failed attempt at buffoonery. Having difficulty reading his speech on the teleprompter, he adlibbed about suffering from bad eyesight, adding “Kung hindi ninyo ako naiintindihan….sa pag-basa ko…mas lalo ako!” (Translation: If you are unable to understand me from what I am reading, so do I!)
On the 62nd minute, Duterte reiterated his desire for Congress’ “swift passage of the death penalty by lethal injection.” He then extemporized linking the plight of OFWs to the country’s drug problem, reason for his anger (Bakit ako galit sa droga) even comparing our situation with Colombia and Mexico. What the President Duterte left unsaid, however, was the reality that his four-year war on drugs was an abject failure.
The most significant pronouncement in Duterte’s SONA was his admission, finally and unequivocally, of his refusal to pursue against China the Philippine diplomatic victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration over territorial boundaries in the West Philippine Seas. He declared “Inutil ako….!” “I am useless!"
Such display of defeatism, against the overwhelmingly expressed people’s sentiment, authenticates Duterte’s treasonous subservience and servility to China.
Was “Inutil ako” code meant for the ears of Xi Jinping? “Master, I delivered!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.