What you need to know about what Duterte said in 2018 SONA

Rappler Research Team

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What you need to know about what Duterte said in 2018 SONA
Here's context and a fact-check on President Duterte's orders, accomplishments, and attacks on critics during his 3rd State of the Nation Address

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his shortest State of the Nation Address (SONA) yet on Monday, July 23. 

His 3rd SONA only lasted barely 50 minutes – 13 minutes beyond the promised 35. (READ: Duterte delivers his shortest SONA)

Compared to his previous SONA where he went off-script with a long-winded tirade against critics in a speech that lasted two hours, Duterte in 2018 stuck mostly to his prepared speech without the usual expletives. 

He instead focused on several issues, including the drug war, corruption, and federalism, among others. (READ: Quick point-by-point summary of Duterte’s SONA 2018)

Below are key statements and pronoucements by the President on different topics during his 3rd SONA. Rappler fact-checked and evaluated these for accuracy and context.

Click a topic below to see its content.



On the unrelenting drug war

The war against illegal drugs is far from over… This is why 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.”

Duterte rails against illegal drugs and how it destroys lives but does not cite specific numbers on how his administration’s anti-drug war addressed this problem. He had promised to end this problem within 6 months.

The President has resources in his hands as in 2017, intelligence and confidential funds under the OP alone were 5 times bigger than the combined funds the office received (a total of P500 million) in 2016, under the last budget enacted during the Aquino administration. And the justification cited for this huge jump in spending is the drug war.  

On human rights organizations’ concerns

Sadly, I have yet to hear really howls of protest from the human rights advocates and church leaders against drug-lordism, drug dealing and drug pushing as forceful and vociferous as the ones directed against the alleged errant [law] enforcers in the fight against this social scourge… Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis, and heroine.

Various rights groups, including the Commission on Human Rights, aren’t dismissing the problem of illegal drugs in the Philippines. What they outright condemn is the bloody drug war which has led to the death of at least 4,540 drug suspects in anti-drug operations.

CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said: “These calls and other public protestations are not meant to stop government from doing its job to serve and protect the people but rather are appeals for our public authorities to always adhere to law and the highest standards of professionals.”

Caloocan Bishop Virgilio Pablo David, meanwhile, said Duterte’s statement “implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives! Is not the right to life the most basic human right?”


On justice vs corrupt officials

Time and again, I have stressed that corruption must stop. Corruption is like a leech that it bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects. It saps the morale or the morale of dedicated and honest government workers. Corruption destroys those who succumb to its temptation and eventually it is the innocent who will suffer and bear its horrible consequences. The love of money is corrosive. And sadly, the desire to make the easy kind by being imaginative and manipulative, corrupts absolutely. Stolen wealth does not make the thief respectable. Neither will the trappings of wealth mask [nor] cap the stink that thievery exudes. One day, justice will catch up with those who steal government funds. And when that day comes, it will be the public who will have its retribution.

Duterte’s tough stance on corruption has cost many government officials their jobs but at least 16 officials who have been accused of corruption or abuse of public funds were reappointed, retained in another capacity, or promoted within the government. (READ: ‘A whiff of corruption, you’re out:’ Notable Duterte admin exits and reappointments)


On the Bangsamoro  Law

Despite all that has been said [for] or against the Bangsamoro Organic Law by all sectoral groups, I make this solemn commitment that this administration will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the Constitutional framework of our country. When the approved version is transmitted and received by my office…The law has been passed actually and I intend to…Give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify the law. Babasahin ko pa bago ko pipirmahan. Baka may isiningit kayo diyan na hindi maganda para sa – para sa ibang tao.

The proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law was set to be ratified on Monday, July 23. But while the Senate was able to ratify the measure during the morning session, it was sidelined in the House of Representatives as legislators scrambled to oust House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in favor of former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said: “The BOL suffered this temporary setback, as a ‘collateral damage’ to an internal leadership issue in the House but I trust and expect that in due time, the ratification which it deserves, will take place as a matter of course.”

As of Wednesday morning, July 25, both houses had ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law. It awaits signature by the President.


On “improved” ties with China

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. [applause] This is why we engage China through bilateral and multilateral platforms such as the ASEAN-China and the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism.

The relationship between the Philippines and China under the Duterte administration contrasts with the tense bilateral ties during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III. This was mainly due to the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea. 

In 2016, the Philippines claimed an overwhelming victory with the Hague ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claim over the South China Sea. Two years later, in 2018, the present administration continues to refuse to enforce the historic ruling in exchange for economic benefits. 

On Filipino fishermen

Opening lines of communication and amicably managing differences have led to positive developments that include renewed access of Filipino fishermen in the areas in dispute in the Philippines – West Philippine Sea.

These so-called “positive developments” exist amid the negative effects on Filipino fisherfolk and marine biodiversity. The Chinese continue to take the catch of Filipino fishermen, destroy corals and giant clams, and claim to allow Filipinos to fish “out of goodwill”.

Basta hinahalungkat nila, sir, kunin nila ang gusto nila. Ilagay nila sa plastic. ‘Yung magaganda pa ang kunin nila (They just dig through our catch and get what they want. They put it in plastic. They really choose the best ones),” said a fisherman interviewed for a GMA News report. (READ: Video captures China Coast Guard taking PH fishermen’s catch)

On cooperating with China vs illegal drugs

Our re-energized relations with China has also led to an unprecedented level of cooperation between our nations on the war against transnational crimes. Our shared intelligence led to the discovery and dismantling of the clandestine shabu laboratories and the arrest of Chinese chemists [connected] with the Dragon organization called Wu Syndicate.

During his state visit to Beijing last October 2016, President Duterte signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the cooperation between the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of the Narcotics Control of the Ministry of Public Security of China.

The MOU states that both parties “agree to enhance exchange of intelligence, know-how and technology-sharing on fighting against drug crimes, preventive education and rehabilitation facilities.”

In April, joint elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) nabbed members of the notorious Dragon Wu International Drug syndicates in Malabon, Marikina, and Batangas.

The syndicate had set up shabu laboratories in these areas, equipped with various laboratory equipment and manned by chemists. According to PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, the raids marked the first time in Philippine history “that a clandestine ecstasy laboratory was closed down.” 


On regularization and contractualization 

Our campaign against Endo has resulted in the regularization of more than 300,000 workers as of early this month. On May 1 of this year, I signed Executive Order 51, which sought to protect the workers right to security of tenure. Read my lips, I understand that this does not satisfy all sectors. I share their sentiment; I truly do. Much as I would like to do the impossible, that power is not vested upon me by the Constitution. And neither will I make both ends meet even if I violate the laws to achieve that purpose. Simply, it is not part of my territory.

Duterte said he signed an Executive Order “ending contractualization once and for all” but EO 51 only bans forms of labor-only contracting practices. It took out a key provision in the labor-drafted EO – which he did not sign – that makes “direct hiring a general norm in employment.

Workers’ groups, on the other hand, called this move a “face-saving measure.” (READ: TIMELINE: Duterte’s promise to abolish endo)


On Boracay

Boracay Island, widely regarded as one of our country’s treasures and admired worldwide for its natural beauty, has sadly become the representation of the government’s negligence, including mine. I could not allow this decay to continue; decisive action has long been overdue. Recognizing that we are mere stewards of our natural resources, and I said enough is enough. We intend to restore its environmental integrity, alongside measures to alleviate those whose livelihood were momentarily affected. Environmental protection and ensuring the health of our people cannot be overemphasized; thus, our actions in Boracay mark the beginning of a new national effort.

Boracay has been closed off to tourists for almost 3 months already after Duterte ordered it shut down, claiming the world-renowed spot has become a “cesspool”. (READ: INSIDE STORY: How Duterte decided on Boracay closure)

The shut down has affected not just owners of commercial establishments but also residents. Aside from their livelihood, the problem of displacement loom over their heads in the absence of a relocation plan. (READ: Boracay: From pristine land to fragile paradise)

On restoring other tourist sites

This is just [the beginning]. For the other tourist destinations needing urgent rehabilitation and enforcement of environmental and other laws, [they] shall soon follow. I urge our 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. Some other time I would have to discuss sa local government units.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has amped up its efforts to preserve or rehabilitate tourist spots in the aftermath of the Boracay closure.

In less than 3 months, nearly 900 businesses and households in 5 tourist destinations were issued violation and eviction notices for various reasons – including encroaching on easement zones and lack of sewerage treatment facilities, among others. (READ: Which tourist spots will be rehabilitated after Boracay)

On land use 

In a holistic and sustainable manner, the utilization, management, and development of our lands. I therefore urge the Senate to urgently pass the National Land Use Act to put in place a national land use policy that will address our competing land requirements for food, housing, businesses, and environmental conservation. We need to do this now.

The call for the passage of the National Land Use Act is long overdue. On May 2, 2017, the House approved on third reading House Bill 5240, or “An Act Instituting a National Land Use and Management Policy, Providing the Implementing Mechanisms Therefore, and for Other Purposes.”


On the TRAIN law 

I applaud Congress for the timely passage of the TRAIN law. You have made funds available to build better roads and bridges, and improve health and education, and strengthen our safety and security. Some have incorrectly blamed our efforts toward a fairer tax system for all the price increases in the past months, and some irresponsibly suggesting to stop TRAIN’s implementation. We cannot and should not. We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino behind.

Beyond the economic jargon and explanations lies one indisputable reality: the average Filipino may be spending more on basic commodities and other necessary expenses than what he or she earns monthly. (CHECK: #AngMahalNa, Rappler’s tracker of latest increases or additional charges and fees that affect Filipinos)

On the rice problem

To help stabilize rice prices, we also need to address the issue of artificial rice shortage. I now ask all the rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors, you know that I know who you are: stop messing with the people. I hate to…Power sometimes is not a good thing. But I hope I will not have to use it against you. Consider yourselves warned; mend your ways now or the full force of the State shall be brought to bear upon you. I am directing all intelligence agencies to unmask the perpetrators of this economic sabotage and our law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice.

The price surge of rice was caused by the depleted supply of the National Food Authority. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, however, partly blamed the incompetence of NFA officials. But the agency said that affordable rice has started to trickle down to local markets in June 2018 after some 250,000 metric tons of imported rice arrived. (READ: Rice prices soar as Duterte marks 2nd year in office)


 On the draft constitution by the Consultative Committee

I am confident that the Filipino people will stand behind us as we introduce this new fundamental law that will not only strengthen our democratic institutions, but will also create an environment where every Filipino – regardless of social status, religion, or ideology – will have an equal opportunity to grow and create a future that he or she can proudly bequeath to the succeeding generations.

The Consultative Committee on July 17 released the final version of its draft constitution which already incorporated the changes President Rodrigo Duterte asked for during their meeting.

The current attempt at charter change seeks to revise the entire 1987 Constitution to make way for federalism. Before Duterte, previous presidents had already attempted to change the constitution but failed for various reasons. (LOOK BACK: Past Charter Change attempts and why they failed)

There are still many groups and individuals doubting the moves for change. Retired Supreme Court (SC) justice Vicente Mendoza explained that while the Constitution may have its flaws, now is not the time to change it as partisanship runs thick. (READ: Is there a need to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution?)

On going beyond his term

I have no illusions of occupying this office one day longer than what the Constitution under which I was elected permits; or under whatever Constitution there might be.

The modified transitory provisions in the final draft of Con-Com’s federal constitution explicitly state that the “incumbent President is prohibited from running as President in the 2022 elections under the Constitution.” 

According to reports, Duterte sought the modification after media-released copies of the draft showed it does not bar him from seeking the presidency again under a new constitution – a bid to end suspicions that he was using charter change to extend his rule.


On ASEAN’s anti-terrorism efforts

Our stronger bonds with our ASEAN friends have made possible our trilateral border patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia, which has since then put out of business sea pirates, piracy and other terrorists who used to infest our shared seas. This is a testament to the readiness of our country and our good neighbors to make regional peace and security our shared responsibility.

During the ASEAN Summit in November 2017, the bloc placed more emphasis in countering terrorism in the region. One example is Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines coming together to patrol maritime borders.

Zachary Abuza, a leading scholar on terrorism in Southeast Asia, told Rappler in a May 2018 interview that this trilateral agreement has been successful. “The maritime shipjackings, kidnappings have really declined precipitously. Raids into Sabah have dropped off. So this is really a success story. [This] doesn’t mean it can’t be improved…But we have a very good start to build on.”

– with reports from Aika Rey, Alex Evangelista, Michael Bueza, Miriam Grace Go, Jodesz Gavilan, Vernise Tantuco, Pia Ranada, Gemma Mendoza, and Miguel Imperial/Rappler.com 

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