Duterte’s last SONA: Not letting facts get in the way
MANILA, Philippines—Some four hours before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 26), his spokesperson said in an interview that his boss had rehearsed his speech at least four times.
“He rehearsed at least four times. The last time was yesterday, last night,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in an interview with CNN Philippines a few hours before Duterte delivered his last SONA.
But when Duterte started to deliver his last most important speech before the nation, it became clear that his manner of speaking was not rehearsed at all.
In the course of delivering his final SONA, Duterte took liberties with facts in some cases, accuracy in several others and painted an incomplete picture most of the time.
He tried to deliver a mix of messages in the two hours and 45 minutes it took him to finish his SONA but several mistakes or substance lack are glaring:
Duterte SONA 2021: “With the creation of the National Task Force to End [Local] Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, we have made great strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans who have been used by the communists for so many decades.”
It’s an incomplete picture. The NTF-Elcac has been linked to a series of controversies, mostly involving red-tagging, since 2020. Most recently, the agency was criticized for sharing social media posts saying that community pantries are being used for propaganda of communist groups.
A few months ago, some senators called to defund the task force and instead reallocate its current P19-billion budget for assistance to people affected by the pandemic.
Duterte SONA 2021: “Alam mo, mag-istorya muna tayo sa taxation. I’d like to be frank with you. Everybody, as everybody in this country, are paying taxes to the communists. The communist party earns billions but pass on a little to their fighting men who die for an ideology that is so rotten and corrupt.”
“They themselves are pocketing the money and their children are studying in Europe and in other places, which I think none of you here can finance such journey. Iyan ang masakit dito. They collect taxes, support Sison in Netherlands, and they do nothing but bad-mouth government and mouth the war dogmas and everything.”
It’s inaccurate and incomplete.
It is statistically improbable for everyone, as in everyone, to pay so-called revolutionary taxes to communist rebels.
Some of the country’s lawmakers had children who were able to study overseas.
Duterte SONA 2021: “My orders to you, if you see them [communist rebels] walking around, kindly shoot them dead, I would be happy.”
“Anyway, you are already charged in the ICC together with me. So what is the problem of adding another one? Another idiot Filipino who has caused great damage to our country.”
It’s another display of inconsistency on the President’s part. Duterte’s statement was the opposite of what he promised in his first SONA, where he declared a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels.
“I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA effective immediately,” he said in 2016.
Duterte SONA 2021: “When I first said I will fight drugs in six months, I thought it was like in Davao. You can either coerce, intimidate or bribe them, or give them money.”
It lacks in substance. Duterte’s promise to end the drug menace in the country within three to six months has helped him gain more supporters and votes during the 2016 elections.
The administration’s campaign against drugs has been a consistent topic in Duterte’s SONAs.
Based on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) report, as of July 8 over 200,000 anti-illegal drug operations have already been conducted.
At least 293,841 individuals were arrested while a total of 6,147 persons were killed during the said operations.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Third World Studies Center found that at least two people were killed each day this year as a result of the bloody war against illegal drugs.
Duterte did not mention the thousands killed in the anti-drug campaign which his critics said were lives wasted as the drug menace hasn’t subsided.
Duterte SONA 2021: “Our unyielding campaign led to the surrender of millions of drug dependents; and neutralization, capture and prosecution of thousands of drug personalities; the dismantling of illegal drugs and syndicates and the drug laboratories; the extensive drug-[clearing] of communities down to the barangay-level, and the cutting of narco politics.”
It lacks independent confirmation. PDEA’s #RealNumbersPH Year 5 report detailed that a total of 807 dens and clandestine laboratories were dismantled under Duterte’s drug war.
Of the total 42,045 barangays, around 22,093 of 52.55 percent have already been declared drug-free.
The report likewise noted that 12,356 high value targets have already been arrested. These included foreign nationals, elected officials, uniformed personnel, government employees, and drug group leaders or members.
ON MRT 3:
Duterte SONA 2021: “Now, MRT-3 no longer unloads passengers but to their destinations. The waiting time between trains has been significantly reduced. [From] 10 trains running at only 30 kilometers per hour before, now [MRT-3] runs 23 trains at 60 kilometers per hour.”
It matches reality. Last December, the MRT-3 management announced the improvement of train speed following the rail replacement works that were finished in September.
With this development, the average waiting time for passengers is now 3.5 to 4 minutes from the previous 8 to 9.5 minutes.
As of July 25, the MRT-3 management reported that it has deployed an average of 18 trains at peak hours and has served 74,440 passengers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte SONA 2021: “We have taken away the misery of public commuting.”
It lacks context and portrayed an incomplete picture. Despite improvements in the transportation sector, the commuting public still found it an ordeal to get from one place to another. This had been heightened by the pandemic and movement restrictions, including a ban on public transport.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey result released last May showed that 42 percent of Filipinos, who are required to be physically present at work, found commuting to be tougher these days than before.
The SWS survey result said at least 44 percent of workers walk to their job sites or offices.
Traffic Index of Netherlands-based technology specialist TomTom said motorists and commuters in Metro Manila have lost an average of 188 hours to rush hour traffic in 2020 despite the pandemic.
Duterte SONA 2021: “Sorsogon… that’s the territory of our Vice President Leni Robredo. Are you here, Ma’am? Ah, Zoom.”
Clearly wrong. Robredo is from Camarines Sur, not Sorsogon province.
Duterte SONA 2021: “To further promote transparency and accountability in government, we also issued the order on Freedom of Information [that] opens up the records, transactions, decisions and issuances of all government agencies.”
It’s an incomplete and inaccurate statement. In July 2016, Duterte signed an executive order (EO) implementing freedom of information (FOI) in the executive branch.
However, under the draft FOI manual, the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of government officials may not be released unless several conditions were met by those requesting for the records.
Duterte’s wealth from 2018 to 2020 remains unknown as the Office of the Ombudsman and Office of the President have yet to release his SALN.
In 2020, Duterte declared that he was not hiding any wealth from the public despite the non-release of his SALN.
The Office of the Ombudsman has also issued new guidelines on who can obtain copies of government officials’ SALNS, limiting this to the official himself and officers conducting investigations.
According to Memo Circular No. 1 issued by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, an appointee of Duterte, SALNs would be released only when:
- The official requested it
- Ordered by a court
- Allowed by the Ombudsman for a fact-finding investigation
ON CHINA’S TERRITORIAL GRAB:
Duterte SONA 2021: “What will I do with a document that is not binding to China because they were never a part of that arbitration? There was really no arbitration at all because it was only the Philippine side was heard. Well and good.”
It’s consistent but incomplete. Last May, Duterte downplayed the victory of the Philippines over China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague back in 2016 and called it a “piece of paper” that he will “throw that away in the wastebasket.”
ON RECEIVING GIFTS:
Duterte SONA 2021: “[S]a Davao noong mayor ako, ni minsan hindi ako tumatanggap maski Christmas gift.”
(When I was a mayor in Davao, I never received presents, even a Christmas gift.)
It’s an incomplete declaration. In May 2016, Duterte, who was then Davao City mayor and presidential candidate, admitted that he has received gifts from his friend Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
According to Duterte, Quiboloy would give him presents like real estate properties and cars.
“Every time Pastor buys something, he always gets two. One is mine, for sure,” Duterte said. “He doesn’t have other friends. I mean, a friend he can really trust.”
However, Duterte clarified that he returned a Ford Expedition that Quiboloy once gave him.
During the same year, former Senator Antonio Trillanes said Duterte had at least P227 million—which he did not declare in his latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth—in an account at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch on Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City
ABS-CBN, PET PEEVE:
Duterte SONA 2021: “They are cheating government by the billions in taxes. And they still want that frequency because ‘yan ang pinapag-awayan.”
It’s an error-filled statement. During this year’s SONA, Duterte insisted that there is nothing personal in his anger toward ABS-CBN and the House of Representative’s denial of the network’s bid for a new franchise.
The media giant, which has been off the air since May 2020, has unpaid taxes according to Duterte.
However, in July 2020, an official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) testified at the House of Representatives saying ABS-CBN has been “regularly” paying taxes for the past years.
Duterte’s sentiments were a bit different than his statement during his 2020 SONA when he claimed he was a “casualty” of the network.
While there were glaring errors and inaccuracies in his last SONA, Duterte said the measure of a good speech to the nation was that it comes from the heart.
“That is how SONA should be—say everything you need to say—not really your qualms, but your misgivings somewhere there,” Duterte said, pointing to his chest.
In that case, facts and accuracy are getting in the way.
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