Looking at the SONA through its different audiences

President Duterte delivers his 2017 SONA, to the appreciation of the President of the Senate (Pimentel) and Speaker of the House (Alvarez). [Photo source: Philstar News]

By Joe America

President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) meant different things to different audiences. Let’s reflect on them. These are my guesses, and you can add your own interpretations in the discussion that follows the article.

  • The Congressional majority and even some minority members who do not want to be seen as opposed to the President: they loved it, or at least tolerated it. Not for what he said, but for their opportunity to be a willing partner in anything he might choose to say or do, fair or foul. They really didn’t care about the impact of the speech on other audiences, even investors. Or the poor.
  • The people who voted for him and others justifying a pro-Duterte stance. That’s most of the Philippines. They, too, loved it. They loved the swagger he projected, the larger-than-life persona of a political rock star, and they didn’t care much about the details of the speech or who might be affected by it. That’s for others to worry about.
  • The political opponents such as Senators Trillanes, Hontiveros, and De Lima. They hated the speech, both for the swearing and personal attacks . . . but mostly because extra judicial killings will continue. They picked up some loose rocks to throw back at the President and “his men” in the days ahead.
  • Decent people like Vice President Robredo and the educated, well-traveled advocates of democracy and human rights. They were dismayed at the continued arrogance of threat and bad language deployed by the President. They could clap earnestly about the proposed Land Use Law, mining and environmental responsibility, reproductive health law implementation, and maybe even tax reform and military spending. But the rest of the speech was incredibly discouraging, especially the personal insults and foul language levied against Senator De Lima and human rights advocates.
  • Targets of the President’s bashing: the media, especially Rappler, Westerners, especially Americans, and human rights advocates. They probably “considered the source”, a political demagogue doing what he does best, intimidating his critics. Ambassadors likely sent home memoranda saying the Philippines has “gone to the other side” opposed to democracy, freedom, and civility, and walking arm-in-arm with China. They would advise their leadership to factor that into the policy calculus.
  • The armed forces brass probably thought they were once again being manipulated, but for sure generously. The President threw them a huge bone, lavish investment in military capability, from which they could deduce “room for bonuses and promotions”. So the question is, how honor bound and Constitutionally bound are the generals? They certainly see the President as trying to win their support, for they are the last line of defense against the complete tear-down of democracy. But they also see him playing at the edge of treason by conceding the West Philippine Sea to China. The President’s expression of appreciation to China done late in the speech can not have gone down well.
  • OFWs. The President also threw overseas workers a bone, a billion peso commitment to assisting them. Does he care about them, cynics might be inclined to ask, or just their remittances to shore up an economy that is showing instability and weakness? It was an easy bone to toss for continued overseas support.
  • Investors. The speech projected chaos and instability, threat from rebels, anger against Westerners, martial law, and dictatorial policies . . . little that would say “invest here”, unless they happened to be Chinese. Then they heard “consider investing in the Philippines.”
  • China. Loved it.

There were some significant omissions from the speech.

  • Progress on the economic front: tourism, investment flight, peso weakness. He did speak to the need for finished goods manufacturing.
  • He did not explain the intelligence failing in Marawi.
  • He did not update progress on infrastructure build-out or provide details on how to solve Manila’s transportation gridlock. He mainly lectured agencies and LGUs to do a better job, effectively washing his hands of any responsibility on such matters.
  • He did not talk about the West Philippine Sea or what the loss of economic rights means in terms of future power generation and food stock.

He said the war on drugs will continue.


73 Responses to “Looking at the SONA through its different audiences”
  1. madlanglupa says:

    There is absolutely nothing he said about a solution to chronic poverty; he thinks that this so-called “era of infrastructure” will solve it with largesse from China and Russia. At the same time it just shows that he is only a paper tiger: strong in appearance, but kowtowing to a regional power envisioning to be an empire by 2049.

    • madlanglupa says:

      Of course, proudly calling himself the “bully”, he never wavers in his single-minded solution to the ills of society, and so continues the violence and intimidation.

    • madlanglupa says:

      And finally, the Tongress PDP-Laban puppies crowding around him for handshakes and selfies… I’m pretty much sure they’ll love to take full advantage of Chinese loans for supposed infrastructure if it so happens, and, we, having came from trying to pay off the multi-billion debt incurred by the Marcoses and their cronies (oh, yes, right now, they’re in a congressional hearing), and generations later may soon be paying up to sh*t creek because of the huge interest that comes with the loans.

    • I’m not sure it is kowtowing, but more the pro-active gain of untold riches for himself and his family. He does not like democracy because it has hounded him and his autocratic style (in the form of De Lima) and if his dying achievement is to tear down those hallowed democratic halls, he’ll go out with a smile.

      • madlanglupa says:

        If he wants to be wealthy, pretty sure it’s hidden away surreptitiously and that he intends to keep that facade of respectability starting with his house (lionized by his fanclub by comparing it with the mansions of his enemies). But then it’s his friends who stand to gain much more — including, yes, Marcos and Arroyo — because of his role as matchmaker and deal-maker (rings a bell just like Trump), a man in love with IOUs.

  2. I wish he is more organized and methodical like Edgar. It is not easy for me to understand his speech. I perused Rappler’s transcript to get the gist of what he was talking about.

    His speech title is suppose to be “Comfortable Life for All.” I did not hear/read about how he will go about to make that happen. I understand that the military, the police and the OFW’s will benefit from the 2018 budget but what about the rest of the population? I wished he talked more about how the budget appropriation will make life comfortable for all Filipinos.

    • madlanglupa says:

      If anything, he talking from out of his head, and I’m pretty sure he wants to please certain influential powers. It is “comfort” but only for those who follow the party line, and yes, Animal Farm tells us that some are more equal than others.

    • Yes, I normally don’t watch him, but I thought the SONA warranted an extra effort, as it is a required Constitutional speech. It was entertaining in the way that dark movies are full of grim sequences.

  3. jamesb says:

    ‘We want our bells back from US but china can have our islands’ seems to summarise the tone of the SONA.
    Along with the inevitable obsession for killing.
    An angry old man with a big inferiority complex, a paroquial outlook, and no solutions.

    As one american commentator said – ‘maybe trump will do a deal with duterte. Take back the 1 million illegal filipino criminals in the US and then we will give the bells to you’
    Otherwise, ding dong duterte, your balls are going to chime.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    All I can say is I watched it, that is all.

  5. Sup says:

    I did learn a new word from it… 🙂

    “Kasi pabalik-balik ang mga buang, akala mo mga turista. Wala namang pinag-usapan. Pagdating dito, gusto ng ganito, gusto mo. Lulo mo,” he said.

    Lulo in Bisaya means masturbation.


    • LOL! I know this word , Sup (since I guess most prostitutes there are Visayans),

      IMHO better spelled as lo’ – lo’, the apostrophes as distinct guttural stops. I remember it clearly, especially when they explained what it was, because in Arabic, the same exact word, pronounced identically means “pearl”, LOL! Sorry, that’s all I can add to this SONA blog 😦 , but I hope that helps you remember it.

  6. My hopes about this man is really, really low, so it’s pure waste of time to listen.
    The C-minus post-speech analysis rating (if you call it that) by others I already expected. Even Radio Bombo would be too high a pedestal for any of his speeches.

  7. timowp17 says:

    No statistics was even mentioned to support his ongoing agenda.

  8. NHerrera says:

    The SONA message and messenger — love it or not. If we can compress the next 10 years to a few months then we will know soon what the score is and how great it is. Perhaps some TSH contributors, more conversant with history or possessed with a magical crystal ball, may give us a glimpse or possibility. For example that Austrian stage practitioner was so good he mesmerized not only his countrymen but, I understand, some of the officials of the US and UK — countries who later defeated his onward rush to history.

    • Bill In Oz says:

      Duterte’s SONA speech was reported here in Oz by the ABC. Now that is something as his inauguration last year attracted virtually nothing.


      I notice in this ABC report that Duterte admits that there were significant intelligence failings with the IS attempt to take over Marawi. .

      • Bill In Oz says:

        A PS I read in the Enquiere that the Speaker of the House wants members to prioritise marriage ending law reform. I wonder if Duterte thinks it is important as well.

    • Edgar Lores says:

      The country is under the spell of a warlock.

      He has more than half of the country mesmerized by his brutal certainty.

      We are in the realm of magic. There are the:

      o Witches (GMA, Sandra Cam, etc.)
      o Moral dwarves (Congress, Judiciary, etc.)
      o Vampires (PNP, etc.)
      o Trolls (the lickspittle spokesmen and columnists, etc.).
      o Orcs (the unthinking followers, etc.)

      Apparently, religion alone cannot overcome the warlock and break the spell.

      Neither can innocent blood — the collateral damages of the drug war.

      We need a champion. (In the short term, JoeAm might be right about a charismatic moral leader.)

      And until and unless a champion comes along, we are in for a long fight. Things will get worse before they become better. In the meantime, things will end badly, I tell you, badly.

      There will be more deaths — that’s a certainty. There might be martyrdom — hope not. There might be war.

      • caliphman says:

        Ed, there was a time here when I played Cassandra when Duterte first appeared as a growing blip on the presidential election radar. It’s a role I do not relish but I have to echo your fears and sense of foreboding. Many decades ago, these fears were realized and I decided to vote with my feet to escape an OrwellIan tragedy. I fear for those of us here who are not observing a similary tragedy unfold i from the safety of foreign shores.

        • I wonder how long are the lines at the US and EU embassies these days? People can tear down US and EU’s reputation all day long but it does not change the fact that a lot of Filipinos wish to live in these countries if given the opportunity.

  9. popoy says:

    Sagot sa aking ka edad sa itaas.

    Pardon the temerity of me. I still see here and there, somewhere and elsewhere people still snooze in the noodle house. When he started his incumbency, words and action demonstrated “constructive collaboration with the NDF and the NPA, but then there is Marawi. May be it Is not taken up in the just happened SONA, just in the news lately, a probable tipping point from constructive collaboration into COMBATIVE COLLABORATION or what ever that means to journos and pundits. Huh? Remember what I said about the M Law being triggered by events abroad or overseas? Lots of events involving combative collaboration to blog about between now and year end will create the flux that will awaken snoozers in noodle land.

    As an OFW. I told a frat brod: “Ingat Brod baka ginagamit ka lang nila.” Sagot: Bakit Brod sino ba ang hindi nag gagamitan sa mundo?”

  10. NHerrera says:


    On the blog picture: there is hope yet. The moment Pimentel and Alvarez roll their barong sleeves, to imitate the Boss’ style, we may be in deep trouble. Pimentel and Alvarez both sport cuff links and even have their neck collars buttoned up.

  11. chemrock says:

    Thank goodness I did’nt waste 2 hours of my time. There was nothing there that we have’nt heard before. And what we really want to hear, he did’nt cover. His speeches are simply repulsive I’m given to thinking Filipinos have developed a fetish to soaking up verbal garbage when knowing what to expect, they keep coming back for more. There was no finese, no wisdom, no intellect. One FB commenter said it best likening it to a locker room talk and the bully had the floor. Just wondering what all those dignified foreigners talk amongst themselves when they adjourned to some drinking holes after the SONA.

    The president of the Senate and the President of the Congress clapping and praising the President of the Nation looks like a scene out of North Korea. State choreographed cheering.

  12. caliphman says:

    Chemmy, the worst thing about likening to a scene straight from Pyongyang is that this government was chosen freely and fairly by the people and if the surveys are to be believed would be reelected again by popular vote. Venezuela may be a banana republic reeling under a despotic and equally unfit regime but at least the masses are out in the streets vehemently protesting.

    • chemrock says:

      If the surveys can be believed, then pigs can fly.

      Manila Times owned by Pdut’s BFF Dante Ang was quick to carry the banner “Businesses give Duterte SONA high marks” and quoted several trade chambers personalities who obligingly enthused with drolling positiveness. Anyone believing in this must have the IQ of those pigs flying in the air. Businessmen commenting on a presidential speech walang economics? Which businessman today when interviewed will tell the truth of the impression of SONA2 and risk ending up like the Prietos and Bobby Ongpin with their businesses taken away?

  13. madlanglupa says:

    In other news, he effectively fired an air-to-air missile which then flew round and hit him in the tailpipe. It takes one to know another. All that sympathy gone to waste. https://twitter.com/AP/status/889923885461889027

  14. karlgarcia says:

    The environmentalists did nit believe his ” or else, I will tax you to death” (miners) tough rhetoric.

    But his tough rhetoric concerning “trivializing war on drugs through human rights” was slammed the rights groups.


  15. Bill In Oz says:

    Off topic : a follow up on ABC re Widodo’s statement on killing drug pushers.The Indonesian police chief is saying that Duterte’s shoot to kill campaign against drug pushers has lead to a drop in ‘sales staff’ and sales so the drug gangs are now targeting Indonesia instead.


    • Bill In Oz says:

      A few days ago there were some comments about Indonesians being extremely violent. Indonesia is a big place with many profoundly different cultures. Widodo is Javanese – from central Java.
      Within Javanese culture there is a strong preference for behaviour which is ‘halus’ smooth refined, courteous. And a very great reluctance for behaviour which is “kasar”, rough, uncouth, savage.

      But there is also the tradition of running “Amok” if one is insulted or ignored when one has done the best you can. In voting for Independence in 2000, the Timur L’Este people awoke this very savage aspect of Malay/Indonesian cultures. It is also present in many peoples of the Philippines. I suspect that Duterte has tapped into it with his drug war campaign.

      • Bill In Oz says:

        Also off topic. A report about Jeff Horne and life since winning against Paquiao last month.

        Just interesting..

      • “Within Javanese culture there is a strong preference for behaviour which is ‘halus’ smooth refined, courteous. “

        Sorry, I missed this distinction, Bill. I believe Java was the seat of two empires in Indonesia , and where the Dutch ruled , so there might just be something to this being more Dutch in temper idea. But whatever this veneer of civility operating among Javanese I gotta feeling its external, because from my experience that part of the world (i know people tend to focus on ME or Africa) is also really really mean.

        Look at Indonesia’s drug laws for instance.

        “Indonesia is even the biggest [drugs] market in the world, in my opinion,” Commissioner General Waseso said during an interview with the ABC.

        “The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of [Philippines] President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance.”

        For military and police, one of the ways you gauge whether or not your ops are generating results is if the problem goes to another corner of the region and/or two or more seemingly allied groups all of the sudden start fighting, it means you’re putting pressure where you need to.

        Whatever the politics is or the moral arguments, at least with that Indonesian news, the Philippines is doing something right. Though military and police successes don’t usually last or continue if other factors don’t get address soon, but the tide is being kept at bay as that news suggests. And that’s good news.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Lance Indonesia is an very very diverse place. It has a total population of over 300 million. Islam moved in to the islands centuries ago. About two thirds of Indonesians live on Java. Islam found converts in sea port towns and in north coastal Java. After that Islamic zealots attempted to conquer the non Islamic areas of inland & central Java. That campaign was largely successful with mass ‘masoking’ to Islam.( Only Bali was not conquered, which gives us an idea of what pre Islamic Java was like). But it was mostly skin deep as the old traditions were still dominant. The Dutch came later when this was almost all done.

          In recent decades politicised more extreme Islam has gained support in Indonesia even in areas which before were more traditional Javanese. And also been suppressed by government action & policies.

          As for drugs, Indonesia has the death penalty for drug smugglers. Some Australians were executed last year after years in jail for attempting major drug smuggling into Bali. They knew the laws & took the risks anyway. And died.

          But it seems that despite this drug smugglers are in the last year switching their trade to Indonesia from the Philippines because of Duterte’s campaign of killing drug gangs. And that’s interesting as it suggests the drug manufacturers are foreign to both Indonesia & the Philippines. Nobody says it in the article but I suggest Chinese drug gangs are the key to this…Seeking a profitable market for their illegal & destructive wares. The Philippines was very profitable. But now after Duterte;s drug campaign, sales maybe have dropped and there are fewer people willing to do the marketing. Hence the switch to Indonesia. And the Indonesian President’s & police head’s response as well.

          • “Nobody says it in the article but I suggest Chinese drug gangs are the key to this…” EXACTLY, Bill! the name of the game here is precursor chemicals, which I’m pretty sure the Philippines by itself is want of, hence the outside connection (China).

            We’ve had countless threads here on the Chinese connection, shabu there , and synthetics over here, though when talking about precursor chemicals, China too is giving us a run for our money re meth & heroin (cheap fentanyl). We’ve hinted in the pass that China may simply be operationalizing another Opium wars as part of its de-stabilization efforts.

            As for Indonesian civility, I get what you’re saying, Bill, but my view of these things (ie. when people say these guys are more civilized than these folks) has always been,

          • Miela says:

            I read a couple of months ago that some meth trafficked by the Mexican cartels are imported from China.

      • chemrock says:

        Bill, that difference in Javanese culture, could it be due to religious influence. There were Hindu, Buddhist and lastly Islamic influence, in that order, time-wise. The ‘halus’ types are to be found more in Bali region.

        • andrewlim8 says:


          I’d like to ask if you are doing a piece on the Metrobank fraud case?

          • chemrock says:

            Andrew — there is’nt much info to work on at the moment. I’m doing some research to see if there is an angle that I can approach the subject matter.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          Chemrock, yes that is exactly the difference. Java was very influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism as evidenced by the Borobudor Buddhist monument from the 800 AD and the Hindu inspired Pranbenan temple nearby in Central Java. Until the 17th century nearly all the kingdoms of Java were strongly Buddhist or Hindu influenced. But they were conquered by Muslim north coastal kingdoms just before the Dutch arrived at Batavia (= Jakarta ). The Dutch overlords did not care about the Muslim character of the newly ‘Islamified’ Javanese kingdoms. They were only interested in extracting money via taxes on crops. So these areas of Java remained a hybrid area with a veneer of Islam on top of older Hindu & Buddhist kingdoms

          There was an attempt by Muslims to conquer Bali but it was defeated by the Balinese. And after that the Balinese rulers chose & enforced isolation from the Muslim neighbours. That policy persisted until the Dutch invaded in 1903-7 and conquered the island.

          There are connections & similarities between Java & Balinese cultures The Halus versus Kasar is common to both as are the Gamelan orchestras & music. But in the past 30 years, Java now Islam has become more assertive & is attempting to become more dominant. This has been aided by Saudi Arabia with lots of money and clerics spreading W’ahibbist Muslim doctrines.

          Meanwhile in Bali after the 2003 terrorist bombings ( over 200 people died including 70 odd Australians ) the local Balinese turned on Muslim migrants from Java. There were lots of migrants Javanese Mulsims servicing the tourist industry. They lost their jobs. A few were killed in payback episodes. About 50,000 left Bali in the months after that attack. The Balinese attitude was that this was a way of guarranteing the safety of their tourist industry

          • “The Balinese attitude was that this was a way of guarranteing the safety of their tourist industry”

            I’m sure this is related to what I saw in Bali, Bill… that guy who got his head bashed in. But it was explained to me differently, that essentially Balinese don’t take any sort of crime too well in their island (especially by non-Balinese). Buddhism and Hinduism were one and same in Bali, I guess the Buddha is just seen as one of the gods (or manifestations of god) in Hindu. I read somewhere too that the Balinese also kicked ass during WWII and again against communists. Were the Balinese like the Gurkhas, while Javanese more like Maharajas? But I did sense that non-Balinese had deference for their Balinese hosts.

  16. jamesb says:

    When it comes to the intellectual gene pool, the duterte’s can only ever thrash around in the shallow end, buoyed up by their life-vests of vulgarity, immorality, and hypocricy.

  17. arnelsite says:

    It is a rant by a psychopath who holds tremendous powers… brace for the negative impact and continue thinking of ways to unseat him!

  18. karlgarcia says:


    Before he was just joking that missiles are pointed at us.

    Now he says he is serious.


    So we have no choice now, but to sell the Philippines to China. Grrrrr!😡😡😡😡😡😡

  19. NHerrera says:


    Here is an interesting article which says that about 5 to 10 percent of the population (an Australian based study) are psychopathic. Followers of Duterte constitute about 80 percent, so, that 80 percent of our population, if that study holds here, are the non-psychopaths. We are, hahaha. 🙂


  20. NHerrera says:

    Karl, thanks for the link on Randy David’s opinion about the Performance Survey of Duterte by Pulse Asia and SWS.

    While I agree with his opinion that the non-specificity of the questions asked regarding performance — David detailed examples of questions that could have been asked — colored the result of the surveys, the same may be said of previous surveys of previous Presidents. Crafting the specific questions to ask on every survey can be problematic; for one, on the survey companies — complaints or questions of bias by these companies, among others, may be made. Hence the simple question: do you approve or disapprove of the performance of the President, whether the President is Cory, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino or Duterte. Such simple (non-nuanced) question being asked by PA or SWS can then be compared if taken approximately the same period.

    In a poor analogy, if one is after absolute numbers one can have a lower sounding number if one talks about weights in kilograms rather than pounds. Meaning these survey numbers may be thought of as measures with numbers somewhat bloated — for all the Presidents.

    • NHerrera says:

      Oops, wrong placement of post; this should have been after

      karlgarcia says:
      July 26, 2017 at 2:31 pm.

    • karlgarcia says:

      You are correct, those questions have been asked time and again, and why would it be changed just for Duterte. But still we agree about his opinion in general.

  21. jamesb says:

    ‘A comfortable life for all’ was supposedly the SONA title/theme. All politicians that is.

    The average wealth of duterte and his cabinet members is 70 million pesos each (130 million if you include mark villar in the figures).
    Since most SALN’s are undervalued (low property valuations), or money/assets are hidden by transferring assets to wives/children then their average wealth is almost certainly much higher. ( duterte’s teenage daughter has more houses than an estate agent)

    In the senate it is even worse (2015 figures)
    The average wealth of each senator is 111 milion pesos. (271 million pesos if you include another villar, cynthia, in the figures)

    Based on SALN’s congressmen average 62 million pesos wealth each (2015), and even if you strip out the 10 richest congressmen, it still averages 32 million pesos each congressman.

    The cabinet members/senate are part of the 0.06% in The Philippines.
    (The philippines has 40,000 dollar millionaires, which is 0.06% of the adult population.
    According to BSP, 60% of filipinos have no savings.)
    So much for representation!

    Whilst becoming a dollar millionaire is not easy even in advanced economies, (7% of the adult population are millionaires in US, and 5% in UK), in a country where the average annual salary is only $5,000 politicians make it look alarmingly easy to accumulate vast wealth compared to the population at large, even after their ongoing costs of expensive schooling abroad for sons and expensive gifts for mistresses at home/2nd home.

    Corrupt politicians who get rich on the back of the poor whilst professing service to the people plumb the depths of immorality and hypocricy, and have no interest in inclusive growth but exclusive privilege and maintaining the status quo.
    A fish rots from the head.
    Sheep are led by the nose.

    “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices”
    George Orwell

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