There is so much President Duterte wants and needs to say when he delivers his second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) today before a joint session of the Congress of the Philippines.
The President will be delivering it before the assembled senators and congressmen at the Batasan complex in Quezon City, but it is really a report to the people of the country who will be listening to him via television and radio in their homes in all corners of our country.
The most significant development in the country in recent days was the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao last May 23, following an attack on Marawi City by Maute rebels, supported by Islamic State militants from other countries. It has put the Philippines at the center of the Southeast Asian expansion of the jihadist-terrorist Islamic State, in the wake of its reverses in the Middle East.
President Duterte is expected to devote a big part of his SONA today on what he plans and projects for the nation in the face of this major threat to national security, which is entwined with the threat posed by the New People’s Army and other rebel groups in the country.
Today’s SONA will also include a progress report on the President’s anti-drugs campaign, which dominated the beginning months of his administration. This campaign continues to his day as the pre-election estimate of a three-month campaign has turned out to be woefully inadequate in the face of such a massive problem. For today’s SONA, we hope to get a brief summary report, including statistics on the death toll, those detained, and those under rehabilitation.
The Philippines’ relations with other nations have undergone major changes in this first year of the administration, with new and closer ties with China and Russia, even as we maintain our alliance with the United States. Today’s SONA will also touch on our relations with the rest of the world, especially in view of the Marawi City attack involving international terrorist elements seeking to establish a foothold in our country.
The year just past has seen important developments in so many other areas of the national life – in mining and other aspects of natural resources; in education, especially the new policy of free college tuition; in efforts to reform the nation’s tax system; in a massive infrastructure program which has already listed projects to be undertaken throughout the country in the next five years at a cost of over P3 trillion.
In last year’s SONA, the President touched on many small items of concern to various groups of people, among them flooding, garbage, and traffic in Metro Manila, decongestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the fishpens of Laguna de Bay, bottlenecks in business registration and processing, and transparency and freedom of information on government operations.
There are so many things that President Duterte may take up in today’s SONA. But he should make a special effort to report on how the government will be improving the lives of ordinary people in the coming months and years. The massive infrastructure program will help, as will increased agricultural and industrial production.
Peace and order, foreign relations, tax reform, business progress, greater farm production, clean government, clean air, faster traffic – all these are important. But ultimately, the people will want to hear that their lives will be getting better. That would be the best and most welcome report the President could make to the nation today.