AUDIENCES of Sona 2020, delivered by President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, July 27, at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City must have sat up and listened intently to what matter most to the public the Covid-19 pandemic.
Few survived the Sona. Many switched channels or gadgets while others confessed to having dozed off. Those paying attention must have ears primarily for these:
First, more quarantines ahead. On the matter of resuming business and social life, he said it is "not an option now as gains will be wasted." His argument: the recent spike in confirmed cases after the restrictions were lifted or relaxed. There goes out the window the expectation of Cebu City shifting from the modified enhanced quarantine or MECQ starting August 1. And no face-to-face classes yet next month, maybe in January.
Second, the coming of vaccines against the coronavirus. He must have been watching the news from the US where the feel-good story was about at least three vaccines undergoing widespread trials (as of Wednesday, July 29). Duterte said, "The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner, not later, the virus that gobble up thousands of live will itself be laid to rest," he said. Dr. Tony Fauci reportedly said the vaccine could be ready in November, a revision on the infection disease expert's earlier prediction of "at yearend or early next year."
There were some items in the Sona that the public must have missed or passed up. They include the following:
 BAYANIHAN 2. The title of the first law which gave the President oodles of stand-by money for anti-Covid-19 measures is "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act."
The second Bayanihan bill President Duterte to "swiftly pass" is "Bayanihan to Recover As One Act."
Heal the wounds, then recover the old strength. That assumes the healing is done, along with the spending of the money.
 USE OF MILITARY. The President asked that the Barangay Development Plan be implemented, citing as reason for the urgency the deaths of soldiers in clashes. The program, he said will allow the Armed Forces to "play a vital role in the one-nation approach." He must mean ending the communist insurgency or seeing higher visibility of soldiers on streets and other public places.
Citing the thrice-extended martial law in Mindanao, he said the military, with the police, showed love for their country. No violations of civil liberties, he said although an NGO alleged more than 8,000 incidents.
 TEASING LEGISLATORS, PUBLIC. When Duterte noted from the applause that lawmakers seem lukewarm about returning the death penalty by lethal injection for offenders in drug crimes. "Someday," he said, "I'll tell you the story about the Philippines." Most everyone's curiosity is unavoidably aroused.
 THREAT OF VIOLENCE. He said he'd be the enemy of criminals who harm the public: "Bodies will pile up if they return to their ways."
 PEOPLE EXPLOITING THE COVID CRISIS. The President slammed Senator Franklin Drilon, along with dealers of illegal drugs, "the corrupt, the grafters and influence peddlers," as well as "profiteers, over-pricers and corrupt felons." Those people, Duterte said, exploited the "fear and confusion" caused by the pandemic.
Lumping legitimate critics with the usual villains in a disaster, plague or other crisis could be off mark. And the advantage-taking charge could be thrown at public officials as well. They could be exploiting the same "fear and confusion" to make such unpopular and ill-timed decisions as passing the Anti-Terrorism Law, shutting down a broadcast network, or pushing abolition of term limit and allowing dynasticism in the Constitution.
 IS IT THE LIGHT OR FAILING EYESIGHT? Duterte read the Moody's rating of the country as B2, instead of Baa2, blaming at first "the light I have," then his eyesight, which, he said, "is not good as new." His other jokes or attempts at it were about not understanding what he was reading and the length of the Sona, for which he blamed his writers who kept adding text but not himself who digressed from script and talked a lot more.
 LESSONS FROM CRISIS. They are to be learned from the pandemic, Duterte said. The common and obvious ones are these:
-- It is "easier to destroy than to build." (Critics like Drilon and Trillanes?)
-- Government needs support and cooperation of the people. (Along with the plea to set aside politics, that's standard pitch from leaders.)
-- Life is "fickle like the weather." (Politicians know that better than most other people.)
-- Some people "ask for compassion but show none themselves." (ABS-CBN owners and managers?)
 IT CAN'T BE SAID HE DIDN'T MENTION CHRIST OR BETHLEHEM. President Duterte did, when he talked about Smart and Globe needing to improve their services before December. "I want to call Jesus Christ to Bethlehem. Better have that line cleared." But nowhere in his speech did he invoke the help of God -- his God or the Catholics' -- in this severe crisis.