SoNA buildup


Labeled as the Academy Awards of Philippine politics, Monday’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA) is promising to be nothing short of spectacular considering that the line between what is politics and showbiz has been thinning throughout the years. With all the political intrigue surrounding the 4th SoNA of President Rodrigo Duterte, the people can honestly say that anything can happen on Monday depending on the mood of the President when he wakes up on that day.

Despite all the fanfare and political intrigue building up for the big day, we should emphasize the importance of the SoNA and its significance in governance and policy-making. It is the President’s accomplishment report, not just in the year that passed, but on all the administration has done since 2016, otherwise known as the first half of President Duterte’s term. The speech also serves as an open declaration on how this administration reached record-breaking approval and trust ratings that other world leaders can only salivate about.

Obviously, the President has been testing the public with comments that some people find racy and offensive, but the fact of the matter is that he remains well-loved by the people. We may expect some these on Monday depending again on his mood that day.

It is also perhaps the most significant policy-laying speech where the President reveals his priorities both in the second and final half of his term, and, in the short-run, what he wishes to achieve until before his next SoNA next year. We shall see which national issues are of concern to him, and his words will have ramifications on local businesses, industries and international businessmen.

Some questions that we seek answers for: Is Federalism, one of the campaign promises that propelled him to the Presidency, still a key priority? Is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao on its way to living up its promise to deliver peace and prosperity in Mindanao? What about the tax reform packages? Will there be a tax package passed every year until 2022? Will the Philippines maintain its stance in geopolitics, particular on the issue of the West Philippine Sea? And will the war against drugs continue in spite of all the reported deaths, including the innocent lives lost?

We may learn the answers on Monday as the lawyers from Malacañang work over the weekend to finish his speech.

On the part of the House of Representatives, Acting Secretary General Dante Roberto Maling and the rest of the House Secretariat will likewise be busy this weekend to finalize preparations for the SoNA. Director Joyce Bernal is also working on the scenes and Radio TV Malacañang is expected to install additional cameras to improve the visuals in what the Bernal hopes to be a joyful SoNA, as compared to last year.

It is therefore a pity that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte will be missing the SoNA. The void she will be leaving is significant, given her extensive influence in Philippine politics today. Her absence may be given meaning by commentators, perhaps distaste in who is expected to be Speaker, but all that remains hearsay for the time being. With the work put in by the putative and presumptive Speaker Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, in past weeks since the presidential endorsement, his election is written in the stars.

Latest news on the SoNA is that signing of a number of bills into law just this week, including the “Bawal Bastos” law. Senator Risa Hontiveros dared President Duterte to follow the law.

We should anticipate an interesting handshake between the two on Monday, similar to the encounter of President Duterte and Senator Leila de Lima back in 2016 — we all know where Senator de Lima ended up after that.

Speaking of the Senate, it is also a question whether Senator Manny Pacquiao will make it on Monday. It was said that Senator Pacquiao will have a private jet ready so that he can leave after his fight against Keith Thurman in Las Vegas this Sunday (Manila time). Depending again on the fight turnout, Senator Pacquiao may end up as the biggest star this SoNA.

There is a ton of possibilities this Monday, some of which I’d rather not write in this column.

But one thing’s for sure, we are mandated by the Constitution to hold the SoNA on Monday, and with all the request for invitations, the Batasan complex will be filled to the brim. Notably, we are not constitutionally mandated to hold the SoNA in Batasan, which can only occupy around 1,500 people. Perhaps, the President, with all his popularity, can hold the next SoNA in a bigger venue next year. Say, SM Mall of Asia Arena or Philippine Arena in Bulacan. Not a bad idea, eh?

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