A week before President Rodrigo Duterte makes his second State of the Nation Address, opposition lawmakers and their supporters gave their own assessment of his first year in office.
“SO ano NA,” held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Sunday, was a national, multi-sectoral forum meant to serve as an alternative to Duterte’s speech.
Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros, together with Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano and Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. served as speakers for the event.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV was also there to deliver detained Senator Leila De Lima’s speech on her behalf.
In his speech, Baguilat highlighted the need to address the issues of the farmers, urban poor, laborers and indigenous peoples (IPs).
He urged the government to resolve the moratorium on land conversion, the distribution of lands, the lack of sufficient housing for the urban poor, the protection of IPs’ rights to ancestral lands, the contractualization of laborers, and extrajudicial killings.
Alejano, meanwhile, gave an assessment of Duterte’s foreign policy and issues of national security.
He argued, for one, that there is a lack of equipment and funds for the military, particularly intelligence funds.
“Bottom line, isa pa ring malaking dagok sa Duterte administration ang Marawi siege na hanggang ngayon ay patuloy na nagaganap,” he said.
“Bakit hindi napigilan ito? [Dahil] naging abala si Duterte sa kanyang war on drugs na halos dito lang umiikot ang kanyang mundo at napabayaan na ang ibang isyu,” he added.
Alejano likewise argued that the Duterte administration “has no sense of organization and direction,” while the President himself “has been divisive and his actions have not been unifying.”
“His allies have been demonizing institutions and personalities and discredit those who are critical of the current administration,” he said.
“Ang mga kritisismo ay hindi destabilisasyon. In fact, si Duterte ang nagde-destabilize ng kanyang gobyerno,” he added.
De Lima, on the other hand, focused her speech on human rights and extra-judicial killings, especially those brought about by the administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
“It does bother me that the President, despite everything he has said and done, continues to enjoy a high satisfaction rating from our people—at least according to some sources,” her speech, read by Trillanes, said.
“More precisely, it bothers me that there does not seem to be enough clamor against the killings that have been committed thus far—both from ordinary Filipinos, and also from key institutions,” it added.
De Lima urged the public to relate to the negative impact of human rights violations to themselves.
“We must pull back the mask of anonymity that comes with being one of a faceless mass, and let the nation see the humanity that lies beneath,” she said.
“Let them hear the faces and hear the voices of the very few victims who survived, and the families left behind,” she added.
Aquino, meanwhile, talked about the current situation of the country’s economy.
“Our economy is holding up and in fact is doing okay,” the senator said, adding that the current unemployment rate and GDP growth is “still within acceptable range.”
He, however, encouraged the public to more involved, saying that economic issues is connected to each and every issue of the society.
“We need to be able to get more people to think, to question, and to understand,” Aquino said.
Hontiveros, for her part, urged to attendees to oppose what she called the rising authoritarianism of Duterte.
“We cannot allow this new form of authoritarianism to rise unchallenged. All progressive, reform-oriented and democratic forces must close ranks to build a viable and sustainable political and democratic opposition to President Duterte’s undemocratic rule,” she said.
She argued that in order to effectively achieve such, there should be a struggle for “a new and better democracy.”
“Truth is, the rise of undemocratic rule is the result of the failure of elite democracy and reforms constrained by the limits of what has remained to be a largely traditional political system,” she said.
“If we want an effective defense of democracy, we must offer a better form of democracy. Let us remember, the people’s embrace of authoritarian shortcuts is a sharp critique of the kind of democracy we now have,” she added.
Duterte is set to deliver his second SONA on July 24, with members of the Senate and the House of Representatives converging at the Batasan Pambansa complex to hear his speech.