The midpoint SONA: a frank conversation on governance

By: John Carlo Tria

UNLIKE past administrations, the tenor of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) has gone beyond what a President wishes for Congress to do for his administration, or to trumpet what his administration has done.

Often as it was then, we saw presidents trying to impress congress, the gallery filled with varying interests decked out in their barongs and gowns sizing up the presidential legislative agenda. It was almost as though the president was beholden to these other elected officials, preening to please this elite crowd.

Presidents back then would not dare joke about an earthquake hitting the congress floor and engulfing everyone in it.

Thus, this year’s SONA was different.

The candid language about corruption being pervasive was a bold statement being made to all in government- including the gown and barong clad officials facing him.

Quoting him does justice:

“Corruption continues and emasculates the courage we need to sustain our moral recovery initiatives,”

“No amount of euphemism can trivialize or normalize betrayal of public trust or any other criminal offense. It is an injury laced with insult. It is both a national embarrassment and a national shame,” he added.

He makes a case in point about the PhilHealth:

“The recent uncovering of the massive fraud perpetrated against the public health insurance system proves that corruption is pervasive. Huge amounts of medical funds were released to cover padded medical claims and imaginary treatment of ghost patients. I am grossly disappointed,”

Unlike previous presidents, he no longer puts promises forward with the philosophically laced stilted language of the prepared speeches meant for the ruling classes and their elite friends.

Not merely talking about our expectations, but about getting things done, with emphasis on the “doing”, which is what the Filipinos of today expect from their government.

With long laundry lists, supporters and detractors alike now judge this president for what he has been able and been unable to accomplish. The social media-driven polity has exploded with figures and images of the accomplishments and rants.

Little wonder why in jeepneys and offices and in many public places the Duterte SONA is watched and listened to.

In the run-up to the SONA, their appetite for accomplishment has whetted their appetite for a much-awaited speech. The adlibs and digressions serve to emphasize important points that kept them glued to every word he said.

All that said, many believe that this is what the SONA ought to be: a direct, frank conversation with the nation on governance, covering both the frustrations, and admonitions he shares with many.