A critique of the critiques of the SONA
I have this personal quirk. When there is a major speech on television, I watch the speech and as soon as it is over, I turn off the TV. I don’t want the pundits cluttering my take-away. What I do instead is think about what was said, how it was said, and what it means.
That’s also what I did with President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), and I trust you have had ample time to digest the speech and take in such outside observations as you find helpful.
My main concern here is the reaction to the speech, which I would put into three big, wide buckets, with some sloshing around between them.
They loved it. This was their man. Action oriented, bigger than life, bold, charismatic, a wicked sense of humor. They high-fived . . . or rather plunged their fist into the air . . . with each declarative statement, from trebling the anti-drug effort to passport extensions. They nodded vigorously when he spoke of the druggies being a huge problem and human rights being mis-applied to destroy the nation. This was a home run speech. Well, it rambled some, but that is his humanity that makes the Big Boss so adorable.
Haters Critics (see discussion re. change; ed.)
The speech was a major turn-off.
These are the people the Duterte trolls call the “yellows”, as if anyone with a complaint must obviously have a political goal that prevents them from speaking honestly and reasonably. The trolls put me in that group, wrongly, I think. But let them dwell in their misshapen reality. It is an ideological or principled bucket, with a goodly number of former Roxas supporters as members, along with some Poe and Santiago supporters, and maybe even a Binay backer or two. It can’t be a political advocacy, can it? The election is done, the candidates lost and have moved on.
The trolls have not.
By my definition, the “yellows” form a group that finds comfort in convention. In order. In conservative values. In reason over emotion. They are of a well-traveled or international point of view as to the standards a modern nation ought to set for itself. Rampant killings upset them. Throwing human rights under the bus upsets them. Not praising the nation’s hard-won arbitration finding bugs them. Thuggish, dictatorial ways, like Executive taking command of the legislature, bother them.
They liked very little in the speech. The speech confirmed that this guy is a lunatic, rambling, blustering, crude, law-breaking. A dictator in every way except he has not yet ordered the army to take control of the courts. Yeah, the passport thing is nice, but if society is going to hell, what does it matter?
Those who listened first and judged later
Well, some of the reaction of people in the “listening” group for sure depends on where they started. If they leaned toward Duterte, their take-away would be different than if they leaned yellow (toward conventional values; not the political definition). But generally they heard:
- A strong anti-drug campaign that accepts human rights as important, but, hey, put them in perspective as to the urgency of the need for a fix. More drug rehabilitation centers. Teaching about the dangers of drugs in schools.
- A quiet voice on China, merely acknowledging the arbitration finding as an important contribution.
- A strong outreach for peace with CPP/NPA and Muslim Mindanao; declaration of an immediate ceasefire.
- A whole lot of good ideas about making the country work better:
- Agencies need to use computers to stop hassling people; get people out of lines.
- Agencies better clean up their act; if government people abuse their authority there will be hell to pay.
- Passport extensions; drivers license extensions; other ideas to move processing along.
- More and faster trains to up the carry load; need for special powers to reconfigure stations and traffic.
- Push RH so families have choices; this can improve their ability to get jobs.
- Focus on health, education, food, housing and preservation.
- Will crush Abu Sayyaf and external terrorism, working with Malaysia, Indonesia and others.
- Taxation reform; simple, fair.
- Improve investment climate; end red tape and restrictions.
- Invest in roads, irrigation, harvest support, national soil analysis/rehab, fishing laws.
- Improve infrastructure: roads, inter-island transport and rails; relief for NAIA via Clark or Cavite.
- Preference for a federalized government with a president.
- 888 anti-corruption, anti-drug line.
- OFW one-stop shop.
- Full support for Secretary Lopez to caretake mining and logging resources.
- People’s broadcasting network, patterned after the BBC.
- Task force on media killings; more public attorneys; strengthen witness protection program.
- Strong effort to stop human trafficking.
- Climate considerations must be balanced with the nation’s great need for power.
- Dealing with squatters fairly and firmly.
- Reduce peoples’ vulnerabilities: self-reliant, education and dangers of drugs, universal health insurance, protect women’s rights, indigenous people’s rights.
Some of these ideas key off of initiatives already underway (more train cars), but some are unique (shifting private air out of NAIA). If we focus on whether or not they are good for the country, we can avoid the political brickbats and claim staking. There are a lot of good things on this list, and it is very upbeat for the nation, Philippines.
If we set personality aside . . . every individual is entitled to one, and it is good that there are so many different characters for entertainment value . . . then we can better look at the issues.
For me, with a pro-human rights bias, and anti-China bias, I sort the entire speech into five issues for further consideration and debate:
- Human rights and the anti-drug initiative: I am extremely troubled by the extra-judicial killings and what it means if it becomes the mode of operation of government, permanently.
- China: sovereignty versus islands versus the need for oil and investment in railways: I don’t think China is a good investment partner.
- Federalism or the form of government adopted by the nation’s people. Certainly, the joke called a House of Representatives – where the majority also leads the minority through a hijacked procedure – stands as a good reason to tear up what now exists.
- Transparency and government control over the information flows we receive: I am wary about trolls, propaganda, and manipulation of the truth. Transparency can be a smokescreen initiative. If no data are recorded about police killings, there is nothing to report.
- Pragmatic acts to upgrade the way the nation works: wonderful plans and programs. (Is this Lieutenant Go’s work? If so, kudos to him. Or to whomever summarized the action steps mentioned in the SONA.) I wish major success to the National Government in the implementation of these ideas.
The agencies are now in the spotlight.
Results, Mr. or Ms. Secretary. Results!