The last State of the Nation Address of a most unorthodox president: Mr. Duterte, take a bow!

The President will deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26. Various news outlets have began taking the public sentiment on what they want to hear from Rodrigo Duterte when he delivers his valedictory address before Congress. Duterte would’ve “graduated” with honors if not for the pandemic rudely interrupting his term. Pandemic response gets a passing grade because of how relatively bumbling the IATF-EID has performed. Still no unified contact-tracing system and adherence to the 3Ts – test, trace and treat. With the confirmed community transmission of the Delta variant, we again face economic uncertainty because most of the Asia-Pacific region is suffering from a Delta-induced surge.

It remains to be seen how we will weather this latest outbreak. The Delta Variant is more contagious than the original virus and affects both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. With our vaccination rate still low and slow, a surge would appear inevitable. But who knows? Maybe the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) can pull off a hat trick. The economic recovery is high on the list on the President’s speech. Several reform bills are still pending in Congress. The budget season begins in August. It will be an election budget for sure. The Department of Finance is pushing for the passage of the last tranche of the tax reform program. This is one of the biggest achievements of the administration if and when completed. As we have a consumption-driven economy, the recession was felt the most last year but it has picked up this year.

Digitization should be another government priority. The President has mentioned this in his past SONAs. Now it’s imperative that the bureaucracy moves in this direction. Part of the resistance stems from the minimization of corruption that digitization brings. The President should put his foot down on this issue. Next up is connectivity. Digitization needs connectivity to work efficiently. There are new employment opportunities but this requires both reskilling and upskilling. Hitting two birds with one stone can be achieved if only the underlings would put their heads into it. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is lagging in the digital landscape under Secretary Isidro Lapeña. That’s to be expected because Lapeña is not tech-literate and TESDA’s courses need either updating or upgrading.

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It wouldn’t be asking too much for Congress to pass easy amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution by way of the Public Service Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization bill. There is also that key insertion, “unless otherwise provided for,” which is essential to getting the minor roadblocks for foreign direct investment to be removed. Duterte has been known to meander from the drafted speech and it’s hard to second-guess what he will say in addition but given the pattern he has established, he will definitely have words for the Opposition. He appealed to the Opposition for unity in his first SONA but this didn’t happen. It’s almost a certainty he will take a dig at them for one last time. He may also put an end to speculation on whether or not he is running for the Vice-Presidency. There is no Constitutional prohibition contrary to what the opposition says. He can even ascend to the Presidency because the act would be succession not reelection in the event the new President is “incapacitated” for whatever reason.

Overall, the bad boy hillbilly from Leyte, Cebu and Davao did good. His father could never have imagined Rodrigo becoming President one day. Probably his mother as well. The most unorthodox President the Philippines has ever had bows out from office on June 30, 2022. Duterte not only outdid himself but also his predecessors. The promdi challenged the establishment and came out victorious. The six years went by fast. There was no agony of waiting for the term to end unlike the Aquino administration when the public couldn’t wait for the election to be over. A job well-done under the circumstances Mr. President. Daghan salamat Manong Digong.

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