HOURS before President Rodrigo Duterte was to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona), it was learned that one of the officials "invited" to the Sona in the Batasang Pambansa tested positive for coronavirus. The President's aide Senator Bong Go announced they might find another venue for the Sona.
Some wisecrack on Facebook suggested the President should rather go to Rizal Memorial Stadium instead, where thousands of "locally-stranded individuals" or LSIs were crammed together waiting for their ride to send them back to provinces. Imagine the President going there, lashing out on officials for leaving Filipinos in such a poor state making them vulnerable to contract the virus. It could have been the moment that the President could connect physically with the people after months of lockdown.
But that did not happen. The Sona still pushed through in Batasan. In front of 50 or so selected people, loyal Congress representatives who voted to pass his urgent Anti-Terror Act, and the non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.
That Duterte spoke to an enclosed space with a limited audience was the true state of the nation, says Kaloy Zarate, Bayan Muna Representative, a long-time Davao human rights lawyer, and voice of the minority opposition, in a post-mortem zoom conference hosted by Altermidya with other government critics, journalists and think-tanks.
It was a fitting image of irony, Kaloy said, a few select congressmen hearing a Sona, while thousands are left in Rizal Stadium exposed to the elements and the virus. Millions are also left uncertain over our crumbling economy, as those critics in the conference point out, and thousands of frontliners too who are overworked and unprotected.
The Sona saw Duterte in default mode, rambling about "enemies" like Drilon, telcos and drug lords, that is disconnect to the threat that is the virus. Instead, we hear more rambling about a vaccine just around the corner, and that he asked Chinese buddy Xi Jinping if the Philippines can get the vaccine first.
Sr. Mary John pointed out disconnect of Duterte's story of a father working abroad while his child got buried in drugs. While in reality families are struggling as a father losing his job due to the lockdown, a lola ailing that cannot be admitted to overcrowded hospitals, or a child that could not catch up with online schooling.
He rambled that no abuses during Martial Law in Mindanao, making Zarate react that as a Mindanawon, he couldn't accept this, as Maranaos are forever angry that their city of Marawi was destroyed and Lumad evacuees are still in Haran.
The weird thing are the things not said on the Sona, the Anti-Terror Act, the charter change that Congress is planning. There is no sense of urgency or plan of recovery as Sr. Mananzan pointed out. The virus seem to paralyze this government's plans. Or as the President said before the Sona, "naging inutil ako." And that's the real state.