The final State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, July 26, 2021, would rank as the most watched and applauded event in his five-year reign. Despite the usual detours from his prepared speech, and the laborious length of about two hours and 40 minutes, Duterte’s SONA accomplished what every speech should: PENETRATE THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE AUDIENCE.
Millions of Filipinos became teary-eyed as President Duterte confessed the job was harder than he had expected, aggravated by Covid 19 and a string of natural calamities. One could easily see the frustration and lament — and he did use the word “lamentation” — in the man who risked everything to bring about the radical changes needed to set the nation on a straight course toward a prosperous nation.
It didn’t fit the standards by which politicians and journalists and academics would want to see in a SONA. But that is immaterial. President Duterte drew praises ordinary Filipinos here and abroad. Throughout the last five years, President Duterte defied conventions. He flirted with the law, pushed it hard to the limits, each time triggering angry shouts of protests from opposition politicians and human rights groups.
The President put things in right perspective when he said: “They clamor for the protection of human rights. I want to protect human lives.” Indeed, the tragedy that have befallen on the victims of drug-induced rapes and murders are never articulated in the protestations of these hypocrites. Neither have they presented ideas on how to curb the illegal drugs problem.
When he promised to stop illegal drugs, President Duterte thought he could put the Davao model into action for the entire Philippines. It is no secret that in Davao City, involvement in illegal drugs was a magnet to police operations that often had violent endings. He had miscalculated the problem.
The illegal drugs trade enjoyed protection at the highest levels of government. He discovered that nine police generals were behind the extensive protection racket with tentacles in the Bureau of Customs. Had he dug deeper, he would be shocked to know that a senator was a giant wall upon which drug lords had depended on protection.
President Duterte has one more year in office, and with this outpouring of support during his last SONA, I hope to see him take firmer action against illegal drugs and corruption. Both are closely intertwined. It would be good to see cases filed against the real criminals in society — the architects of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).