Velez: Things not 'right' in Duterte's Sona

THERE are things not "right" with Duterte’s first Sona.

Gone are fashion statements of fancy gowns, shoes and jewelry from legislators and their spouses. The statement should be the Sona.

Gone, also, are clashes between cops and activists. Outside Batasan Complex, it was welcoming to see PNP Chief Bato and Bayan’s Nato along with other police and rallyists side by side shaking hands and sharing thoughts while the Sona was aired on the wide screen.

And the Sona, itself, is something different, and it’s not just the way Duterte goes into adlib mode to drive deeper the point.

This Sona is not about stats and figures. Rather, it’s images of life that Duterte paints in his Sona: of widows and mothers orphaned by fallen combatants in battlefields, of middle-class people sleeping just to be first in line to apply for passports and licenses, of OFWs stranded and in need of help, of urban poor settlers threatened by demolitions, of forests and farms threatened by large-scale mines, of Lumads and Moro people wanting peace of the living and not the peace of the gun.

Sonas of the past boast the stats to show “inclusive growth”.

Duterte’s Sona presents his agenda that is more inclusive to address peoples’ woes.

His agenda includes peace talks and ceasefire with the Reds, autonomy for all Bangsamoro groups, fixing bureaucratic red-tape, decongesting traffic, conserving the environment, providing assistance for OFWs, hotline for government anomalies, assisting farmers and entrepreneurs, respecting Lumads’ ancestral land for self-determination, lowering income taxes, transparency through FOI and more.

Duterte’s speech, adlibs and images connect not just to the legislators and officials inside the Halls of Congress, but it connects more to the audience of millions of Filipinos watching him.

Here is a president that eschews the formality and pomp of the elite. Rather, here is a president that embraces the language and longings of the masses. This comes from being a mayor for many decades who has seen how the poor contend with the hardships of poverty, war and an absent government.

If his Sona is different, his post-Sona is even more surreal as he invited the activists especially the Manilakbayan leaders to a dialogue and assured them the Lumad evacuees can return to their communities.

Duterte seems to be an anti-thesis of a Sona. Here is a president who is not doing things “right” by rubbing elbows with the elite. Duterte said he is a president from the “left” and that means he embraces the longings of the poor for change.

The Left has welcome Duterte’s openness, and hopes more substantive change would come.

Duterte said in his inaugural that he wants people to have faith in the government, and in his Sona he is striving to steer that government to win the people’s faith. And that’s the one thing that he wants to do right.

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