Duterte’s State of the Nation Address July 24, 2017 — what needs to be said

Duterte will be coming to the podium to address a joint session of Philippine Congress riding on the crest of high approval ratings after one year of service. As such, he possesses the immense political capital that is required to push through an agenda that, as has been evident, is unpopular not with the ordinary Filipino but with an entrenched cadre of oligarchs with vast vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Indeed, if one will examine a cross-section of the community of anti-Duterte activists and shills, one will find not mere pedestrian observers but personalities associated with the interests of big corporations and traditional political clans.

Big Corporate mainstream media, for one, had, since the 2016 campaign, served as a sounding board for propaganda and “journalism” biased towards the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and their interests in those elections. The biggest brand names in that industy, ABS-CBN and the Inquirer group owe that clan big time after being granted a virtual monopoly over mass communication capability and “thought leadership” across the nation at the height of Aquino-Cojuangco rule. Together with relative newcomer Rappler.com which bubbled up out of nowhere to lead the media charge in demonising the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012, the media establishment had been instrumental in the propagation of the unique brand of “victim politics” (a.k.a. “Yellowtard” discourse) of the Aquinos and Cojuangcos.

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In the entertainment industy, elder entertainers such as Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro, together with Kris “Queen of Philippine Media” Aquino, served as pillars of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III’s “showbiz government”. They used their popularity to blanket the national “debate” with meaningless appeal-to-emotion slogans to hook in the ignoramous rather than add intelligence to the discourse. The irony that continues to fly above the heads of these “influencers” and the Filipino showbiz addicts who follow them that, today, scream bloody “fake news” whenever no-substance messages cross their timelines, is that they were instrumental in propping up for three decades the far darker blanket of fake ideology that is the now-discredited “Yellow brand” worshipped by the Yellowtards.

Finally, there is the Roman Catholic Church, the self-appointed official anointer of the “victors” of the 1986 “people power revolution”. The Catholic Church won symbolic spoils in that “revolution” as evident in the big statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that tops the “EDSA Shrine” built at the intersection of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue, the epicentre of this “revolution” of yore. The presumptuousness with which the Church continues to wear that quaint revolutionary crown is still evident today. Just recently, the Catholic Church exploited its own lucrative private channel for disseminating dubious “news” — the Sunday masses where its minions read out “pastoral letters” to their gawking congregation — to issue a list of “fake news” Internet sites. This is reminiscent of the days when the Church routinely banned “heretical” reading material and launched “holy wars” to silence infidels. Thus it is not surprising that even in 21st Century Philippines, medieval thinking dominates — because one of its society’s key institutions of thought leadership remains the same medieval organisation in essence and mode of operation.

Stepping back from all this to take stock from a higher vantage point, we can see what the Duterte government is up against — a formidable tree of institutions, capital, and mindsets whose trunk is deeply-rooted in Imperial Manila and whose branches spread across the entire Philippine archipelago to blanket it under a shadow of ignorance and religious zealotry. Indeed, the fact that Duterte remains a popular leader despite being the anti-thesis of the “liberal” ideals of the Philippine oligarchy and despite a bumbling Malacanang communication team is a remarkable feat of political navigation.

The challenge then is for Duterte to sustain the momentum he had gathered up over the first 12 months of his presidency.

Duterte’s execution of his most controversial campaign promises — his War on Drugs and his wrenching change-of-course in the Philippines’ foreign policy — is in full swing. In the pipeline are his ambitious infrastructure development programmes and the mobilisation of the troops for his next battle front, his much-vaunted “war on corruption”. All of these make sense — to Filipinos who are not blinkered by Imperial Manila politics, that is. For, the fact remains, Mindanao and the southern Visayas have long been recipients of the short ends of sticks extended as token gestures by Manila’s boy’s club of traditional politicians since time immemorial. This is likely the reason why the directions Duterte’s administration had taken “baffle” traditional “thought leaders” — because they are all Imperial Manila’s children and minions.

Thus, it is important that Duterte ensure that his second SONA address the key threats to this momentum as spelt out above. So far his administration has demonstrated that it has the backing of both “co-equal” branches of government in the way the Supreme Court and Congress both collectively upheld his declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. As such, the non-controversial or even no-brainer aspects of his challenges — infrastructure, anti-drugs and crime, and anti-corruption — that require multi-partisan support show much promise for gaining traction.

However, much needs to be done to secure the still-fragile credibility of his government and win over its critics. One area that sticks out like a sore thumb and has the potential of unravelling support for his government is his predisposition to granting juicy government posts and junkets to “die hard” supporters. The recruitment of key bloggers with vast followings into Malacanang, in particular, contributes to the growing power vacuum within the small community of independent social media influencers aligned to his administration. Influencers seen to be directly under the payroll of a government or business interest begin to lose semblance of independence, much the same way as Rappler and its amazon leadership had lost profile as independent “news” sources after being seen to be in bed with various corporate interests in the past.

At the moment, much of the communication and persuasion machinery of the Duterte administration rests on the strength of its “independent” social media communities. Indeed, these “independents” remain far more credible than the actual communications arm of Malacanang itself which, under the leadership of Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, has suffered one damaging gaffe after another over the last 12 months. But with the erosion of this independent community thanks to its key members accepting lucrative government posts, the risk of the social media war being lost by Duterte is becoming more real by the day.

Another exacerbation of the increasingly disturbing degeneration to padrino politics in the Duterte government also came to light in the reinstatement of Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos along with his entire team in the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP). This despite Marcos and his team being implicated in the November 2016 killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. Although supposedly cleared of the “administrative” aspect of the case, Marcos still faces homicide charges filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

To continue to be seen to be the dark horse galloping out from the horizon to rescue Filipinos from the fatal grip of the status quo (an image which won him the 2016 elections), Duterte needs to position his administration in a way that it is seen as one bucking the all-too-familiar trend of succumbing to typical Philippine-style politics — specifically the style of Imperial Manila politics.

Duterte needs to step back and turn his government into a true meritocracy. The Executive Branch, after all, remains a highly-political outfit. As such Duterte needs to continue working at securing his so far strong mandate with a supporter base dominated by people hanging on to the promise of change, specifically the destruction of the status quo. Hopefully what he says in his second — and very crucial — SONA will reassure Filipinos that way.

15 Replies to “Duterte’s State of the Nation Address July 24, 2017 — what needs to be said”

  1. What ‘momentum’ are we talking about here? The Philippines today looks exactly the same as it does 12 months ago. There is no ‘war on corruption’. The ordinary Filipino – and by extension, the ordinary civil servant – is as corrupt as he ever was. You point out yourself that the Duterte administration is as keen on padrino politics as any other former administration. While we can all understand why this happens – the extremely low level of trust and loyalty in society at large – there’s clearly no intent to change it.

    There are some astoundingly simple things that Duterte COULD have done during the first month in office to clean up the Philippine’s rotten-to-the-core social structure.

    The first would have been to recruit a platoon of the planet’s best teachers to inculcate some less dysfunctional values into the nation’s kids – and hopefully impart some useful academic knowledge at the same time. Neither happens at the moment: generation after generation, lying and cheating and betrayal is taught to the nation’s youth as normal and acceptable, while the quality of academic thought remains pathetically third-world.

    Second would have been to drastically simplify the tax code and business legislation … and fire 90% of the State employees involved in related paper-shuffling, since they’d become surplus to requirements. This would unleash a wave of private enterprise, wipe out a lot of State corruption, and increase the tax take.

    Third would be to create a proper land-titling system. As far as I can tell, none of the country’s land is properly titled or surveyed, which means nobody can ever invest in anything unless they have an army of lawyers (or an actual army) to enforce their claim.

    Fourth (related to the above) would be to delete 90% of the State agencies without any obvious function except to interfere in people’s lives – there are any number of these, with bizarre alphabet-soup abbreviations, that do nothing except suck up tax money while pretending to push forward ‘development’.

    All of these things would be cheap – some of them would create almost instant cost savings. Since he didn’t do any of this, my assumption is that he has no intention of solving the country’s most critical problem, ie., 100 million Filipinos all standing around doing nothing, waiting for the government to wipe their bottoms for them.

    1. Marius,
      finally somebody (you) is talking sense here.

      There is a guy ‘working’ one year, and I havent seen anything come to fruition. That is also why I dont understand his ratings are so high. The blind are leading the blind.

  2. did ombudsman morales make a big mistake in filing charges against pnoy? or is it just a yellow tactics to clear pnoy? or maybe she already turncoat? well all i can say is just send him (pnoy) to mindanao to fight terrorist he created.

    1. Duterte is a SLAVE of the Oligarchs and he has hood-winked the entire country into thinking he is their ‘GUY’ when he is nothing of the sort. It only goes to show how politically stupid the vast majority of Filipoino’s really are. One year in and Duterte had done nothing but have a hand in the murders of his fellow-countrymen…and yet the people cheer the guy….it is beyond MORONIC !

  3. Lets see what shit for brains has to say…about what he has accomplished this far. Besides suggesting(some would say ordering) and getting 7,700 of his fellow-citizens murdered for crimes that were mostly probation worthy in any Western Country, what has the Man done? Well, it appears to be basically NOTHING.
    The World’s Highest Electricity rates are still stifling any chance a small business has of flourishing, the Oligarchs are still front-running the Stock-Market on a daily basis and the regional Political Dynasties are still entrenched in the ‘System’. The desperately needed Industrial capacity the country would benefit from has not even become an idea ,let alone a reality, PPPFFFF…… The Man has not done a single thing to improve the country.

    1. how could that 7,700 deaths happened when it’s not even close to 1,000 been reported in the newspapers in one year???

  4. salagintong bukid: ah, only 1000 have been reported.


    Do we really need to point out that the agency responsible for compiling murder statistics is the PNP? And the people supposedly responsible for the murders are … oh, never mind.

    Personally I’m not paying much attention to this issue. Filipinos view killing as just another form of entertainment, so whatever the number is, or whoever is doing it, it’s all just business as usual. However, it never ceases to amaze me that people like you think it’s not just usual, but completely normal and acceptable. So I can confidently predict that the Philippines will look exactly the same when Duterte leaves office – 20 years from now, perhaps – as it does today.

    Robert, Joe: I’d love to see a list of exactly what Filipinos think he’s done so far. Americans went from TALKING about putting a man on the moon to ACTUALLY putting a man on the moon in the space of 8 years, using primitive technology. Considering Duterte dismisses Americans as “stupid”, we ought to see a Filipino astronaut walking on the moon in 2021, am I right?

    1. Marius,
      no, you are not right (lol). What is far more important is winning the Ms/Mrs Pageant Universe & Earth & Galaxy. Am I right?

    2. Marius,
      okay now seriously about Duterte. I really dont know what he achieved and accomplished so far but I was not able to tick off one box yet. All I see and saw is a few dead bodies. Only a few according to Salagintong. So that is not even a blip on a radar screen (again according to Salagintong). Those few bodies is not really change. So I dont know who started mentioning the word change but probably he and I differ about the definition of that word. Alas, he has 5 more years to go and maybe he is a slow starter (a diesel, so to speak).

  5. I am not interested in listening to the SONA of Pres. Duterte. Because, my eyes are open to the wrongs in our country. My ears are open to the blogs of my fellow bloggers. My fellow OFWs are working like carabao in foreign countries, just to float the economy of the Philippines…we are subject to all kinds of abuse by our foreign employers…

    They say, that bad habits die hard…they have the capability of coming back; and entrench themselves. once more.

    It is the decision of the Filipino people, if they let themselves be tied on their noses, like carabao by vested interests; including the Roman Catholic Church…

  6. as long as the two core of terrorism the CPP and MNLF haven’t lay down their arms, Martial Law soon will be nationwide. president Duterte’s SONA is a must to listen ‘cuz this is where the Pilipinos will decide. the president already did alot. and now the three maria’s under fire, the protectors of pnoy. at least one is already in jail. two more to go.

  7. Salagagong Bullshit, you are a classic idiotertard. “did a lot” ?! Like what? You can’t even name one specific example of anything good he did!

  8. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate — these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.

    1. d_forsaken,
      “and to share their luck with others.” Why should they do that? So that the ‘unlucky’ ones can keep on doing stupid things?

  9. is the main core of the CPP already trapped in Mindanao??? this coming SONA of president Duterte is a must to hear especially for peace loving pilipinos to decide the new and old situations. if we think the president calls for support from its citizen, will the people come out? now the communist vs democracy heightens.

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