SONA 2016 shows Duterte as 'serious' leader – Cabinet

MANILA, Philippines – His Cabinet has nothing but good words and support for President Rodrigo Duterte, as he delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.

For most of Duterte's men and women, his SONA is a sure sign that the President is "serious" in leading the nation.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr said the President’s speech showed his unconditional "commitment" to serve Filipinos. If he would rate his friend-turned-boss, Evasco said he would give Duterte a score of "9 to 10" out of 10.

"The best content there is the commitment to really serve the people of the Philippines, no if's or but's," Evasco told Rappler in an interview after the speech.

For Evasco, the Duterte administration is off to a good start, with the public seeing how intent the government is in achieving its goals. "I think we're in a good start. People are starting to realize that this government means business."

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Duterte has shown he would not be hindered by rules and traditions.

"Well, it says that the government will go beyond, will not hesitate to go past, the scriptures of rules and regulations which he already showed himself. It shows that the government is not afraid of reactions from external, from own community, if it believes it is doing what is right," Briones told Rappler.

With all the informalities, Briones said she was "satisfied" with the President's speech.

"It was expected to be unexpected. The public was geared to expect portions which should not be in the formal speech," Briones told Rappler.

'Clear message'

Solicitor General Jose Calida said Duterte clearly sent his message to the public, especially to the Lumad and the rebel groups, who were specially mentioned in his SONA.

"Very authentic, and he sent his message clearly to those listening, especially the Lumad, the NPA (New People's Army), the NDF (National Democratic Front), the Moro brothers, etc.... Very clear," Calida said.

"You can see from his demeanor when he talks about drug problem, criminality, he's very very serious. You can see in his body language," he added.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III called Duterte's speech "excellent," as it was able to set the agenda of his Cabinet.

"He set the parameters of his government, he set the goals, and his marching orders are very clear," Dominguez said.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre agreed, saying Duterte has laid out his plans, citing reducing income taxes and the peace process. "Very good, very clear words. He said what his plans for the Philippines in the next 6 years."

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade was highly contented with what he heard from the President, saying the speech was "complete" with its promise of infrastructure projects that are corruption-free.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Duterte's speech revealed how "pure" his heart is: "It's the same thing in his inauguration – love of country, taking care of people, the welfare of the people..."

Lopez, who was the center of Duterte's joke during his speech, thought the President "was funny."

"I thought his heart came up. He's really funny. I find him funny. His heart is really pure. I like him as a person," Lopez said. "He came through well. That's the most important thing." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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