A Refresher on Duterte's State of the Nation Addresses So Far

Key points to remember from the President's past SONAs.

(SPOT.ph) It’s that time of the year again. President Rodrigo Duterte will be having his fourth State of the Nation Address today, July 23, to discuss what his administration has accomplished so far, and what the future of our nation looks like. The annual address isn’t just a free day from school or, if you're lucky, work—it’s an update on what our country’s leader is up to and where he’s bringing us next. Think of it as a graded recitation for the President, but instead of just grades on the line, it’s an entire nation. We’ve rounded up a few main issues and plans he brought up during his past three speeches, in case you needed a refresher.

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Here are some highlights from President Duterte’s previous State of the Nation Addresses (SONA):

SONA 2016

The first SONA a president gives is a taste of what’s to come under his or her administration, especially since it usually happens barely a month after their inauguration on June 30. Duterte’s first SONA was given on July 25, 2016, and unsurprisingly, the 100-minute long profanity-filled speech was quite the preview.

"During my inauguration last [June] 30, 2016, I said that the fight against criminality and illegal drugs and corruption will be relentless and sustained. I reiterate that commitment today."

Duterte’s "war on drugs" was a mark of his rule before he even stepped into the role of President of the Philippines. It was during his first SONA that he called for the creation of an "Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs" as well as the creation of rehabilitation centers in military camps. Duterte made it clear that this "war" was purely business, "Kami nagtatrabaho lang. We have a nation to guard. We have millions of people to see that they are healthy. It’s a question of drugs, it’s a question of public interest, public order," he said. He also pointed out that, "Human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country—your country and my country."

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"We will strive to have a permanent and lasting peace before my term ends. That is my goal. That is my dream."

For the first time ever, the President declared a ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army. He also called on the National Democratic Front, the insurgency’s political representatives, "to respond accordingly." The coalition of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army—more commonly known as the CPP-NPA—has been waging a rebellion for half a century now. As of 2019, no final peace deal has been signed.

"We strongly affirm and respect the outcome of the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration"

The 2016 ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal firmly decided that China’s "nine-dash line" claim on most of the West Philippine Sea is baseless. The decision of The Hague court thereby "awarded" our territory back to us. Duterte affirmed this ruling, which he called, "an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution and management of our disputes."

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It was also during the 2016 SONA that the president called for the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which he said would give people, "especially the poor," the "freedom of informed choice." He also pushed for the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women.

SONA 2017

The address in 2017 was President Duterte's longest SONA yet. His speech lasted over two hours and was themed "a comfortable life for all," covering the year’s achievements: a smoking ban in public places, the 911 and 8888 hotlines, and the test broadcast of government-owned Islamic Channel Salaam Digital TV. That address, held on July 25, 2017, followed his May 23 proclamation of Martial Law in the entire Mindanao.

"I have resolved that no matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue."

According to the President, illegal drugs are "the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering that weakens the social fabric and deters foreign investments from pouring in." In January of that year, Amnesty International had already reported "more than 7,000 drug-related killings."

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"Capital punishment is not only about deterrence. It is also about retribution. Make no mistake about that. Iba kasi ako."

Duterte also called for Congress to push forward on all pending measures that would bring back the death penalty "especially on the trafficking of illegal drugs," he said. "In the Philippines, it is really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You took a life then you must pay for life," added Duterte.

"The poor and vulnerable are at the heart of my tax reform."

He praised the House of Representatives for passing the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program—the first package was signed as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act in December 2017—and urged the Senate to do the same. Duterte also playfully called out Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee for not applauding the tax reform. "Si Angara, ayaw ding mag-clap. Bantay ka lang sa eleksyon, tingnan mo," quipped the President.

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During the 2017 SONA, Duterte also brought up mining. He warned all mining companies that he was holding them responsible for restoring the areas damaged by their activities. He also asked the U.S. to return the Balangiga bells, which were taken by American troops from eastern Samar in 1901 as spoils of war. The three historic bells were returned in December 2018.

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In a turnaround from the previous year’s SONA, Duterte criticized the left in a rant, telling Community Party of the Philippines founder Joma Sison, "Ikaw, Sison, tangMag-inom ka ng Tang 'yong orange." 

SONA 2018

The 2018 SONA on July 23 was the shortest speech by President Duterte so far, clocking in at just 48 minutes. Except, of course, the entire program was delayed by an hour thanks to a House coup that replaced Speaker and Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez with former president-turned-Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"Let me begin by putting it bluntly: The war against illegal drugs is far from over."

The "war on drugs" was once again his opening topic. The President continued, "The illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began." He reiterated that he was doing the "war on drugs" for the good of the youth, citing that "Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives."

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"Mindanao pauses at the crossroads of history. One road leads to harmony and peace; the other, to war and human suffering."

The President promised to enact the Bangsamoro Organic Law as soon as possible. Citing the recent Maute clash and the threat of ISIS, he said, "War is not an option. We have been through the catastrophe in Marawi. We have seen the horror, the devastation, and the human toll and the displacement of both Christians and Muslims alike." Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law a few days later, and announced the legality of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on July 26.

"Our improved relationship with China, however, does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interests in the West Philippine Sea."

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Once again talking about defending our territories in the West Philippine Sea, Duterte cited that the "improved relationship" with our neighbor has led "to positive developments that include renewed access of Filipino fishermen in the areas in dispute." He explained that this was "why we engage China through bilateral and multilateral platforms."

Also in this SONA, the President once again pushed for the second part of the tax reform to be passed by legislators. He also called for Congress to end contractualization. Duterte also cited the closure of Boracay Island— which began April of 2018—as a sign of neglect and called on "local government units to proactively enforce our laws and not wait for us to swoop down on your areas just to do your duty and work."

A lot has happened and changed since Duterte took his seat on June 30, 2016—whether you find it good or bad is up to you. In the meantime, we'll be on the edge of our seats waiting to see what the 2019 SONA will bring.

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