Velez: No surprises on SONA 2018


WHILE I was trying to write this column, I came to this article from an Irish journalist Jonathan Miller on his view on President Duterte: “nothing (he) says or does can actually surprise anyone any more.”

Perhaps this is ironic. Having watched and listened to Duterte over the years as mayor of our city, he is an articulate leader who is able to connect with his audience by pointing out poor governance, corruption and social issues, with a touch of Bisaya humor. But Duterte the mayor is different from Duterte the President, the one we see now filling speeches with ramblings, curses and off-hand topics that may run for an hour.

Another article I came to from Rappler revealed how a Duterte follower named Joseph “fell out of love” with the president because of those long rambling curse-filled speeches. He said he could not stand to listen to them for just for one minute.

Joseph said Duterte gives mere “blurts and not real commitments to pursue planned courses of action” and noted his promises have not been fulfilled.

Joseph has this thought which we should think about: “Actions are louder than words but I think words still matter. Words reveal his thoughts, his intentions.”

Duterte’s words for the past 12 months have targeted the poor he once promised to champion. He blasted jeepney drivers who oppose the planned phaseout: “Magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom”. He warned Lumad students: “Leave. I will bomb your schools.” He blamed Meranaws for “allowing” the Maute to thrive in Lanao. He attacked the ousted Chief Justice, he cursed international diplomats, he ranted against an Australian nun, he accused two slain priests for having girlfriends, and he cursed God. Joseph may be right, those words shape the mind, the discourse and the state of our nation.

Coming into his third SONA, Duterte has found a dip in his satisfactions ratings. The Social Weather Station says this is significant, as the president remains popular, his policies and his words are pulling him down.

Those policies have affected the poor and the people in Mindanao. Martial Law continues to aggravate human rights conditions, with Lumads suffering from evacuations, farmers and agri-workers being harassed. The TRAIN Law has also aggravated the poor and middle class. Duterte also failed to deliver on his promise to end labor-contractualization.

So what does he bring to his third SONA? His first one was short (for his standard), straightforward and clear. The second one was a “bully pulpit” with ad-libs blasting his critics and the Left that left little space to define his economic programs. Would he offer federalism and cha-cha, amidst a myriad of economic woes and bloodied country?

Let’s take note on what Miller and Jonathan said, let’s not be surprised, and let’s try to look on substance over sass. (tyvelez@gmail.com)


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