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Last year, I reviewed President Rodrigo Duterte’s first two State of the Nation Addresses as

cinematic experiences. Politics is an equal mix of substance and entertainment. In many cases,
things skew towards the latter, but that’s local politics for you.

Coupled with his 3rd SONA, those addresses formed the first trilogy in the Presidential cinematic
universe. That first trilogy already gave us a lot to chew on, but given the 6-year term of the
president, a sequel trilogy was in order.

Last Monday’s SONA was Duterte’s first in this new series. So how did it fare compared to the
previous ones?


Improved optics

Nobody really expects stunning visuals from SONAs, which are usually character- and dialogue-
driven affairs. Brilliante Mendoza tried to change that when he was tapped to direct the
president’s first two addresses. The results were memorable, but also slightly bewildering.
Mendoza’s over-reliance on worm’s-eye angles during the first installment imbued his subject
with an oppressive, authoritarian vibe, which was contrary to the everyman persona the
president had been cultivating.

Joyce Bernal came onboard to direct the 3rd SONA. Known primarily for comedic works, Bernal
brought a breath of freshness to the proceedings. Bernal was back to helm the most recent one.
This time, visual interest was created by hanging indigenous drapes, which were woven by local
craftspeople from Marawi, on the speaker’s podium.

The more things change...

While this is the start of the sequel trilogy, we still face the same problems and conflicts
introduced during the first one. The plot hasn’t really moved much since the previous seasons.

“It has been 3 years since I took my oath of office,” the president said. “And it pains me to say
that we have not learned our lesson. The illegal drug problem persists. Corruption continues and
emasculates the courage we need to sustain our moral recovery initiatives.”

As far as sequels go, the 2019 SONA was a bit of a rehash of previous ones. It’s great for
continuity, but there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment value — unless you count
presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s outfit (which seemed to be made from a
preschooler’s bag) or whatever this is supposed to be.

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The president improvised a large number of his lines, as he is wont to do. And while he peppered
his dialogue with the usual swear words and sexist jokes, there wasn’t a full-blown tirade
comparable to last year’s. The 2018 SONA was partly memorable for Duterte’s profanity-laced
rant against the United Nations. This year was a bit less aggro, although Duterte did encourage
people to slap extortionists working in the government.

One of the more surprising scenes in the 2019 SONA was when Duterte entered the more
contemplative section of his monologue. “The biggest I have met the enemy face-to-face and
sadly, the enemy is ‘us,’” he said. “We are our own tormentors — addressing the Filipino people
— we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak and
the voiceless.”


Duterte has always been a bit emo, but it was surprising to see him look inwards. Much of his
administration’s success has come by demonizing the Other.

The introspective portion was great, but it also came across as a launch pad for his acquiescence
towards China. Duterte spent a large portion of the SONA talking about his foreign policy. “On
the matter of the Philippine — West Philippine Sea,” he says.

“The avoidance of conflict — armed conflict and protection of our territorial waters and natural
resources compel us to perform a delicate balancing act. A shooting war is grief and misery
multiplier.” This portion comes across not so much as an explanation, but as a justification.

Save for a few introspective moments, the 2019 State of the Nation Address was a paint by
numbers piece that seems content to retread the conventions of previous installments. The
speech provided all the familiar elements we’ve come to expect — the profanity, the off-color
jokes, the macho posturing.

This is Duterte doubling-down on his character’s trajectory… except sometimes, we don’t even
know if he wants this job in the first place. He makes the usual allusions to wanting to leave
“I'm tired,” the weary protagonist reveals later in the speech. “Talagang gusto ko na rin mag-
resign. Sabi ko I am not happy anymore.”

Although the president has always infused his brand of machismo with melodrama, it isn’t as
compelling as the self-doubt of a Matt Murdock or a Jessica Jones.

Given the fact that we’re 3 seasons in, it would probably be unreasonable to expect radical
character development, or some M. Night Shyamalan-style plot twist. –


MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte used his 4th State of the Nation Address
(SONA) on Monday, July 22, to tell Congress what laws he wants passed and what Filipinos can
expect in the last half of his term.

It lasted an hour and 33 minutes, making it his 3rd longest SONA so far. It also contained 7
expletives, much less than his second SONA (25 expletives) but more than his first and third
SONAs which had no curse words.

Can't watch or read the entire speech? We summarize key points here:

High approval ratings - After the usual introductions of top officials, among the first things
President Duterte does is highlight his popularity, by saying only 3% of Filipinos disapprove of

Drug crackdown - The persistent problem of illegal drugs is Duterte's first topic. He claims the
2017 Marawi siege began with a government raid on shabu being kept by extremists there.

Death penalty - He asks Congress to bring back the death penalty for heinous crimes related to
drugs and plunder.
Corruption - Duterte condemns the PhilHealth ghost kidney treatment scam, commends the
National Bureau of Investigation for the arrest of high-profile criminals, and recalls how he has
fired "more than a hundred" government officials. He cites revenue collections by government
corporations as signs that anti-corruption reforms are working.

Anti-red tape - He tells the Land Transportation Office, Social Security System, Bureau of Internal
Revenue, Land Registration Authority, and Pag-IBIG to improve their services as data from the
complaint center under his office show they were the subject of many complaints. He wants
processing of permits to last only 3 days.

Rehabilitation of tourist attractions - Duterte brings up the temporary closure of Boracay and the
rehabilitation of Manila Bay. He threatens to "burn down" establishments that commit

Telecommunications - Duterte speaks about Dito Telecommunity, the newly established third
telecommunications provider in the Philippines. He challenges them to render services to as
many Filipinos as possible. He also promises no corruption was involved in Dito Telecommunity's
entry into the sector.

Bangsamoro Organic Law - The President tells the Bangsamoro government to fast-track the
development of the region and improve the quality of life of Muslims and indigenous peoples.

Ending communist violence - Duterte talks of his leadership of the National Task Force to End
Local Communist Armed Conflict and his assigning Cabinet members to various regions to
oversee efforts to end communist insurgency there.

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Education - Duterte commends Secretary Leonor Briones and the Department of Education for
having over 27 million enrolled students from kinder to senior high school. Improvements in the
national education system are also seen in the Alternative Learning System for out-of-school
youth and adult learners. He also supports the creation of a National Academy for Sports.

Bong Go - The President makes special mention of his trusted aide, neophyte senator Bong Go,
and Go's pet bills, a treatment he gives to no other lawmaker in the room.


Barangay polls - Duterte asks Congress to postpone the May 2020 barangay and Sangguniang
Kabataan elections to October 2022.

Protection of overseas Filipino workers - He signed the Bilateral Labor Agreement with Kuwait, in
an effort to protect OFWs from abusive employers. He also seeks to establish a Department of
Overseas Filipino Workers.

West Philippine Sea - Duterte repeated his claim that he can't assert Philippine rights over the
West Philippine Sea for fear of sparking a war against China. He defends his decision to let
Chinese fishermen fish in Philippine waters, saying that international sea laws allow such an
arrangement. However, such deals have to be written whereas his deal with China is only a
verbal one.

Poverty - Duterte reports a decrease in the poverty incidence rate from 27.6% during the 1st half
of 2015 to 21% in the 1st half of 2018. He also implores that citizens join him in alleviating

Tax reform - The President calls for the passage of Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform
Program, otherwise known as the Trabaho bill.

Liquor ban - Duterte says he wants a law ordering all drinking establishments to close at

Salary increase - He asks Congress to pass the Salary Standardization Law which will raise salaries
for all national government workers, including teachers and nurses.

Disaster risk reduction and management - The President pushes for the establishment of a
Department of Disaster Resilience in preparation for future natural calamities.

Fire protection - He calls on Congress to pass a law creating a Fire Protection Modernization

Water department - Due to the recent water shortage in Metro Manila and nearby provinces,
Duterte calls for the creation of a Department of Water Resources and a Water Regulatory

Land use planning - He asks Congress to pass the National Land Use Act, which will develop lands
in the countryside. This will encourage sustainable economic growth in the provinces.
Sexist remarks - In various parts of his speech, Duterte makes some sexist remarks like how
sunbathing women await foreigners in Boracay and how he has a "smelly" girlfriend because of
the Metro Manila water crisis.

Metro Manila traffic - Duterte orders the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and
Metro Manila local government officials to reclaim public roads being used for private purposes.
He orders Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to suspend mayors who don't comply.

Rice and coconut farmers - Duterte vows that his administration will implement the rice
tariffication law. He calls for the careful utilization of the coco levy fund. He also blasts the Land
Bank of the Philippines for allegedly prioritizing commercial transactions over funding of
agricultural activities.

Strengthening national security - He pushes for the passage of the National Defense Act and the
Unified Military and Uniformed Personnel Separation, Retirement, and Pension Bill. He also
wants to promote patriotism among the youth by making the Reserve Officers' Training Corps
program mandatory for senior high school students.

Tired - The President says he's tired and unhappy in office and would welcome a coup d'etat by
the military.


Period of consequences - Duterte ends his speech by saying the second half of his term is a
"period of consequences." He hopes for sustained momentum in the remaining years of his
term, which ends in 2022.


address. The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is meant to be an opportunity for the President
to inform Congress and the public about the country's problems and to announce his or her
legislative priorities.

Each president brings something unique or different to the tradition. Former President Benigno
Aquino III was the first to deliver a SONA speech entirely in Filipino.
Duterte's first SONA in 2016, directed by renowned auteur filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, went
viral because of the use of unconventional camera angles: from worm’s eye views to extreme
close-up shots.

Brillante Mendoza draws cheers, jeers in Duterte’s 2nd SONA

Brillante Mendoza draws flak, praise for Duterte's SONA

This year, the Duterte administration tapped Joyce Bernal, known for romantic comedy flicks, to
direct the SONA. Bernal earlier said that she wanted the President's 2019 address to feel hopeful
and joyful, coming from last year’s speech that was delayed over a Speakership coup.

Joyce Bernal wants 'hopeful' mood for Duterte's 4th SONA

So, what was new or unique or unusual in this year’s SONA?

Live orchestra

This year's SONA featured a live symphony orchestra. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
helped set the mood by performing folk songs, including Freddie Aguilar’s “Duterte Para sa
Tunay na Pagbabago,” which was played as the President entered the House of Representatives’
Plenary Hall.

Singing President

We’ve had Presidents sing before in events but it was the first time that Duterte sang at
Batasang Pambansa after his SONA. Of course, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra backed
him up.

Local fabric backdrop

Noticeably new at the House Session Hall was the local woven fabric draped over the rostrum
that served as Duterte’s backdrop. Bernal said they wanted to use something woven from
Mindanao or Mt. Province. Duterte is the Philippines' first president from Mindanao.

The use of Filipino woven fabrics was also seen on the red carpet, with many women politicians
incorporating it in their outfits.

No mention of federalism and mining

Since 2016, Duterte had always brought up the issues of federalism and mining in his speeches.
This year, he did not mention these issues.

First time to mention sports

For the first time, Duterte included sports in his SONA. He said he would be supporting the
measure to create a National Academy of Sports for high school students. Incidentally, the
country is hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games later this year.

Ocean theme at SONA protest

It has been a tradition for activist groups to hold a big rally during the SONA. This year, it was
their first time to set a visual theme--the West Philippine Sea, according to Renato Reyes of
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. During the SONA protest, activists brought ocean-themed art,
with a sea monster effigy of the President as the centerpiece.

SONA fashion criticisms

In recent years, the worst-dressed SONA attendees become the butt of jokes on social media.
Senator Nancy Binay had to endure becoming a meme back in 2014 because of a dress that
people thought was reminiscent of Princess Fiona in the movie Shrek.

Binay has since vindicated herself and was praised this year for her elegant Randy Ortiz gown.
Also new was Sen. Risa Hontiveros being “slut-shamed” for her short Filipiniana dress, and a
designer receiving flak for dressing a Marcos.

Designer Mak Tumang became internationally famous for designing Catriona Gray’s beautiful
gowns during the Miss Universe pageant. But netizens on Monday criticized him for designing for
Sen. Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Others, however, insisted
that Tumang's design in fact threw “shade.” Some netizens joked that the color red at the
bottom of Marcos’ gown was blood, symbolic of killings and abuses during her late father's




President Duterte says his administration is doing a “delicate balancing act” for the sake of
“avoidance of conflict” with China, which continues to have de facto control of the West
Philippine Sea and hampers Filipino’s access to its resources, especially fisheries. “China also
claims the property and is in possession [of it]. ‘Yan ang problema! (That’s the problem!)” he


As expected, the president is on 'lecture-mode' in his speech as a father to the nation.

Same with previous year, the key policies, programs and initiatives of the government were
discussed separately in the three-part pre-SONA called “Tatak ng Pagbabago 2019” held in Pasay,
Cebu, Davao this month. This is to give way for the discussion of achievements instead of
incorporating in the SONA.

SONA 2019 delivery was delayed by 1 hour as he waited for the go-signal for the chopper to
depart Malacañang due to bad weather condition. His speech started at exactly 5:15 in the
afternoon and concluded at 6:49 pm or longer in the originally declared 45-minute speech, due
to some off-the-cuff remarks of the president.

Be guided with our summary and review of President Duterte's SONA 2019. Students may use
this as reference in making a reaction paper:
Duterte started his speech by extending hand in gratitude to all who kept faith with him in most
trying times. He highlighted the result of the latest survey by Pulse Asia.

"Numbers speak a thousand words, tell a hundred tales, but the landslide victory of the
administration candidates as well as the latest survey results show that my disapproval rating is 3

Duterte emphasized that illegal drug problem persists and corruption continues but promised to
continue fighting until his term ends.

Duterte wants to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs and plunder.

The president said Bureau of Customs, though corruption-ridden, managed to collect P585
billion in 2018. "Imagine how much more could have been collected had the BOC been cleaned
and less corrupt."

Duterte also revealed the way some government officials work. "We in government talk too
much, act too little, and too slow. We are long on rhetoric but short of accomplishments."

The iron-fist leader tasked the agencies with poor services to simplify the process and improve it
electronically. "You don't have to go to the office. 'Pag hindi pa ninyo nagawa 'yan ngayon,
papatayin ko talaga kayo."

Duterte also mentioned the rehabilitation made for Boracay Island, which was now "restored
close to its original pristine state." He added that it's just the beginning. He also plans to declare
the whole of the island a land reform program and give piece by piece to the Aetas.
On Manila Bay rehabilitation, the administration will relocate informal settlers along the
waterways and shut down establishments that continue to pollute and poison the waters.

Speaking on the entry of third telecommunications company in the country, Duterte ensured
"there is no corruption at all." He challenged the player to fulfill its commitment to provide fast
and reliable telecom services to people.

Duterte hopes that the Bangsamoro transition will fast-track establishment of regional
government that will secure comfortable life for our Muslim brothers and sisters and indigenous
people in all of Bangsamoro region.

The president praised DepEd Secreatary Leonor Briones as more Filipino learners are receiving
basic education with over 27 million enrollees from kinder to senior high school. He shared
approval on the proposed measure to create the National Academy for Sports for high school

On West Philippine Sea dispute, Duterte said the avoidance of armed conflict and protection of
our territorial waters and natural resources compel us to perform a delicate balancing act.

"I am not ready or inclined the occurrence of more destruction, more widows, more orphans,
should war even on a limited scale, breaks out," Duterte emphasized.

Duterte asked Congress to pass the remaining packages of administration's tax reform program,
and excise tax.

Duterte also instructs to pass the Trabaho Bill and the Salary Standardization Law.

The president also urged Congress to hasten the creation of Department of Water Resources,
Department of Disaster Resilience and fire protection program. He even joked that an
earthquake should strike the Session Hall at that moment.
Duterte said he wants the National Land Use Act to pass this year. This is one of administration's
priority legislations to resolve land use conflicts, mandate the formulation of land use plans at
the national and local levels.

Duterte also instructed government offices that business permits should be released within
three days.

On dispersion of economic activities to Visayas and Mindanao, he said that it is not just a
campaign promise but an economic imperative.

Duterte also mentioned Land Bank should help the coconut farmers.

Duterte also urged Congress to pass the National Defense Act and revive the mandatory ROTC.

"A comfortable life for the Filipinos in the next three years... I dream the Philippines better than I
grew up with," Duterte ended his speech.

Reactions on President Duterte's 4th SONA

Thousands of anti-Duterte protesters and militant groups rallied near the Batasan asking the
government to uphold sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, better labor conditions, an end
to the bloody war on drugs and lower prices of goods.

Duterte explained his view on maritime dispute and wants no war against Chinese. "There are
guided missiles in West Philippine Sea...should we stand up and stop those who fish in our
economic zone. We will do in due time," he said.

Recently, the administration earned outrage on his claim that Manila cannot bar Beijing from the
West Philippine Sea despite winning the United Nations-backed ruling. Political analysts said the
president should have strong power like China to enforce our rights.

Analysts also said the president should "iron out" a measure that aims to lower corporate
income taxes and rationalize incentives as the market expects updates on tax reform.

Charter Change and federalism were not mentioned in SONA 2019. According to Duterte, it is
not the proper time to talk about it and these should be discussed not on the public.

On the other hand, latest Pulse Asia survey revealed that majority of Filipinos (8 out of 10)
believe the chief executive. The high trust rating according to Palace is an indication that "for
every issue that is thrown at him with such negative force...the more they say that, the more it
[rating] goes up."