An emotional moment for Filipinos

The final State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, July 26, 2021, would rank as the most watched and applauded event in his five-year reign. Despite the usual detours from his prepared speech, and the laborious length of about two hours and 40 minutes, Duterte’s SONA accomplished what every speech should: PENETRATE THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE AUDIENCE.

Millions of Filipinos became teary-eyed as President Duterte confessed the job was harder than he had expected, aggravated by Covid 19 and a string of natural calamities. One could easily see the frustration and lament — and he did use the word “lamentation” — in the man who risked everything to bring about the radical changes needed to set the nation on a straight course toward a prosperous nation.

It didn’t fit the standards by which politicians and journalists and academics would want to see in a SONA. But that is immaterial. President Duterte drew praises ordinary Filipinos here and abroad. Throughout the last five years, President Duterte defied conventions. He flirted with the law, pushed it hard to the limits, each time triggering angry shouts of protests from opposition politicians and human rights groups.

The President put things in right perspective when he said: “They clamor for the protection of human rights. I want to protect human lives.” Indeed, the tragedy that have befallen on the victims of drug-induced rapes and murders are never articulated in the protestations of these hypocrites. Neither have they presented ideas on how to curb the illegal drugs problem.

When he promised to stop illegal drugs, President Duterte thought he could put the Davao model into action for the entire Philippines. It is no secret that in Davao City, involvement in illegal drugs was a magnet to police operations that often had violent endings. He had miscalculated the problem.

The illegal drugs trade enjoyed protection at the highest levels of government. He discovered that nine police generals were behind the extensive protection racket with tentacles in the Bureau of Customs. Had he dug deeper, he would be shocked to know that a senator was a giant wall upon which drug lords had depended on protection.

President Duterte has one more year in office, and with this outpouring of support during his last SONA, I hope to see him take firmer action against illegal drugs and corruption. Both are closely intertwined. It would be good to see cases filed against the real criminals in society — the architects of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Digong gets a medical check-up before his 3rd SONA

Less than 24 hours before he was to deliver his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress this afternoon, July 23, President Rodrigo R. Duterte underwent a one-and-a-half hour medical check-up at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City.

But Spokesman Harry Roque said there was nothing to worry about, and that President Duterte went back to Malacanang after the check up to continue rehearsing his SONA. It was a routine check-up, Roque said.

Special Assistant Christopher Go said the prepared speech for the SONA consists of 16 pages.

The speech would not exceed 35 minutes for the President to deliver, according to Atty. Roque.PRRD_PUBHEALTH4-768x512

Language as tool for development?

This is a comment I posted in reaction to the column of Randy David, “Inclusiveness begins with language” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

“Napakababaw lang siguro ang pagkaintindi ko sa mga nangyayari sa ating bansa. Ilonggo ako, at Hiligaynon ang pang araw araw ko na salita. Pero nakaka intindi rin ako ng Pilipino at maka salita rin sa “national language”. Subalit hindi ko ma intindihan kung paano mag uumpisa ang isang pambansang salita sa pag palaganap ng kaunlaran. Kung sa palagay ni Mr. David ay nakakatulong ang pananalita ng Pangulong PNoy ng Pilipino, mas walang dahilan na gamitin niya ito para mapa siguro na ang benepisyo sa “economic growth” sa mas maging malapad at makarating sa lahat ng Filipino. If language is such an effective tool, why hasn’t the President used it to everybody’s advantage? Now I can understand better why the President does as he does. He uses language to lull the people into a false sense of well-being, so that the problems confronting our nation are kept to the background.”

The President lied about the rice situation

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has learned the subtle art of lying, and he had ample opportunities to demonstrate this last Monday when he delivered his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa.

Obviously, the President felt he needed to cite impressive statistics to bolster his image after seeing his approval ratings slide. And we saw that the President isn’t above telling lies to arrest that slide and give the nation a false sense of security about the rice situation.

In trying to paint a picture of stability in the supply of rice, the President recited the following: in 2010, the country’s total rice imports stood at 2 million metric tons; this fell to 855,000 metric tons in 2011, 500,000 metric tons in 2012 and this year total imports have been pegged at 350,000 metric tons.

But the President made no mention of production figures. Had he done that, he could have detected that he was holding inaccurate, or distorted, information.

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that total production of palay in 2011 was 16.68 million metric tons. In 2012, this rose to 18.03 million metric tons. The total production for 2010 was a low 15.77 million metric tons. With that data, it would seem production is indeed going up.

However, data from previous years show that palay production has moved up and down depending on climatic conditions. When there is a drought, production will fall. With enough rains, production will increase. For 2008, total production was 16.82 million metric tons. In 2009, output was recorded at 16.27 million metric tons.

In other words, palay production never really increased dramatically to conclude that we have achieved sufficiency in rice and require a much lower level of imports. We have to keep in mind that along with production and imports, we have to look at the growing population of the country. Each year, several million Filipinos join the growing population of rice eaters. It’s easy to see that production levels for the past  five years would be inadequate to keep pace with demand.

So where are we getting the rice to fill the gap? If we are importing less and producing just about the same to feed a fast-growing population, how are we able to cope? Are Filipinos eating less rice?

Of course, the only logical answer is that there’s more rice smuggling. It’s a simple equation that doesn’t need a statistician to supply answers. We are not producing enough of the staple crop, and we are depending on Thailand and Vietnam — smuggling — to survive.

The President deceived us. In trying to present a performance-filled governance, he lied to us.