Today, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (Sona) before members of the 18th Congress during the opening of its regular session. He shall have completed his six-year term in the afternoon of June 30 next year. Sona is a constitutional obligation required under Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution and a yearly tradition, wherein the chief executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government‘s agenda for the coming year and propose to Congress certain legislative measures.
Because of the pandemic, stricter measures in observance of health protocols are expected in today’s Sona. Some may attend physically at the Halls of the Batasang Pambansa where members of the House of Representatives hold their sessions, while others may opt to attend through online. Those who will physically attend will have to undergo antigen test right at the venue. There were earlier reports that Vice President Leni Robredo, a Duterte critic, was not invited to the event.
What can we expect in today’s Sona and will the public still be interested in what the chief executive has to say when we will be hearing the same promises and some of these promises remain a promise and have never been put into action? Will we be hearing the same issues, such as the war on drugs, fighting and eliminating graft and corruption and alleviating the plight of the poor? Can this administration still implement these programs with less than a year in office?
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte will discuss social programs, infrastructure projects, peace and security and foreign policy of the administration. Robredo said she “hopes that the President’s Sona will be very honest” in revealing the real state of the nation in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The President has been criticized for his Sona last year for not laying out in details his plans against the pandemic as the number of cases continued to rise. In fact, during this month last year, we were placed in a lockdown. Urban areas like the National Capital Region (NCR), including Cebu City, were placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the highest and stricter quarantine status.
Five years ago, when then Davao City mayor Duterte assumed the presidency, he made a promise that sounded too good to be true like the promise in pyramiding “double your money” scheme.
“I will not promise you heaven, but I will try to stop corruption in three to six months. I will stop corruption in government,” he said during his 2016 Sona, his first in office. The same promise on anti-drugs campaign. But what happened after his five years in office? Corruption and illegal drugs still exist and have become rampant. Now, would you still believe him? It was all wishful thinking.
Even I myself have lost interest in listening to the President’s Sona. If not because I am in media and I have an obligation to report and dissect the issues tackled by the President for my radio listeners tomorrow, I will not listen to the President’s Sona. As what I have said, we have been hearing those “plans of action” in his previous Sonas and some programs never materialized. If he fails to implement and introduce those programs for the last five years in office, what can he do with the remaining 11 months in office?
In the coming months before his term expires, Duterte will be considered a “lame duck” president. In politics, a lame duck or outgoing politician is an elected official whose successor will be elected soon. Conversely, a lame duck is free to make decisions that exercise the standard powers with little fear of consequences, such as issuing executive orders, pardons or other controversial edicts. We will just wish him the best of luck after his term.