SONA 2017: Report to nation or report vs critics?
SONA 2017: Report to nation or report vs critics?
President Rodrigo Duterte's second SONA ran for about two hours – with a huge chunk of it unscripted

MANILA, Philippines – On Monday, July 24, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address. With a good chunk of it off-script, was his two-hour-long address a report to the nation, or a report against his critics?

Camille Elemia reports.

CAMILLE ELEMIA, REPORTING: It was a speech unlike any other. It was the first time a State of the Nation Address was filled with cuss words. It was the first time he directly lashed out at critics. Facing Congress filled with his allies, Duterte lambasts detained Senator Leila de Lima, his fiercest critic. 

RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: I challenge you, you want a debate in public?  Okay, we’ll have it.  I will challenge you how also you trivialize the thing by – you’re making De Lima important. You all know, you were all here. You conducted the investigation. You heard the witnesses. You saw the videos. Is she a credible woman? Can she be a moral person?

CAMILLE ELEMIA, REPORTING: Duterte also hits the United Nations, the United States, and former US president Barack Obama. All have denounced his bloody drug war. In past SONAs, presidents would exercise soft power by asking Congress for needed bills. This time, Duterte goes straight and publicly pressures the Senate to pass his version of the tax reform bill. Senate ways and means committee chair Sonny Angara is put on the spot when Duterte predicts he’ll lose his reelection if he doesn’t pass the measure.

RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: I call on the Senate to support my tax reform in full, and pass it with haste. Don’t want to clap? Even you, you’re not clapping. Angara, you don’t want to clap. Just you wait for the next elections. The passage of the tax reform law is needed to fund the proposed 2018 budget which I am submitting here and today.

CAMILLE ELEMIA, REPORTING: But what stood out the most in his speech is his outright dismissal of independent media known to be critical of his administration. It was not the first time he did this but it was the first time the message was part of an official address to Congress.

RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: You know, if you’re a newspaper you ought to be 100% Filipino. And yet when you start to pierce their identity you discover they’re fully-owned by Americans. That’s what happened. It’s just a matter of piercing the – so I don’t have much – ABS, Rappler, is that you? 

Have you tried to pierce your identity and it will lead you to America? Do you know that? And yet the Constitution requires you to be 100% – media – Filipino. Rappler, try to pierce the identity and you will end up American ownership. 

CAMILLE ELEMIA, REPORTING: Duterte’s allegations were already answered months ago when it was first pushed by trolls and Duterte defenders. Rappler maintains it is 100% owned by Filipinos.

While there are shocking surprises, there are still some things that haven’t changed. Like last year, Duterte stuck to the event’s simplicity with no fancy gowns and show of wealth. True to character, the two-hour speech was not enough for the president. He went on to a lengthy media briefing after the SONA. 

Camille Elemia, Rappler, Batasang Pambansa.  –

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