In his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte echoed the promises he made in the last election.
Broadly, these cover law and order, economic development, and improved government service, which are themes that struck at the heart of voters when the former Davao City mayor ran for president.
Duterte’s message to improve the lives of Filipinos has resonated among members of the Filipino Canadian community.
The Filipino Patriots Society of Canada (FPSC) cited in a statement that Duterte’s “sincerity and simplicity to talk about those issues with wit and sheer honesty has caught the imagination of Filipinos who have longed to trust and to love their own government, country and people”.
In the statement, FPSC chairperson Rene Bahena also pointed to Duterte’s call to stop hate “if peace is not at all immediately possible”.
“That is after all the most compelling reason why Duterte must succeed for and on behalf of all the Filipino people,” Bahena said.
In the statement prepared by Bob Ocio, a key FPSC member and a former Cagayan de Oro city councillor, the group cited Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels as a sign of “good faith on the part of the government to make peace”.
The Filipino Patriots also hailed Duterte’s announcement that the government will wage a relentless campaign against crimes, particularly drug pushing.
“Criminals may invoke their rights but abusing those rights to shield their illegal activities cannot be tolerated,” the FPSC said.
The group also praised Duterte’s commitment to accelerate the construction of railways specially the Manila to Clark route to address the crisis of traffic and congestion.
It also cited the government’s promise to clean up corruption: “All government transactions are top priority not to be tainted with corruption in the guise of addressing any of our problems. He has zero tolerance for corruption in his administration.”
A separate statement for the FPSC prepared by member Giovanni Mata noted that President Duterte “hit the nail right on its head when he said that we cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back”.
“This is a clear message that we need to face and address the issues right before us head on. The SONA was straightforward, comprehensive, exuding with sincerity and was spoken from the heart. The President’s message conveyed four attributes, namely: empowerment, accountability, courage and humility,” the statement prepared by Mata noted.
According to the statement, Duterte “empowered and encouraged all government officials and his cabinet members to come up with brilliant ideas to solve the current problems”.
“He displayed humility by admitting his limitations and sought the contributions and participations from the public to solve our problems. He wants us to have courage by fighting for what we believe in undeterred by fear of failing or losing.
“Lastly, he emphasized accountability by ensuring that those erring government officials and individuals will not go unpunished and will have their day in court. This is in line with his commitment that he will have a clean government.
“In totality, his speech covered what he has promised during his campaign. Remember that this is his first SONA and we are looking forward for his next address to see how far we have gone,” the statement said.
In his SONA, Duterte said that the government will not stop until the last drug lord, pusher and financier has been neutralized.
He also warned police officers and government officials involved in crime. “Abuse your authority, and there will be hell to pay — for you would have become worse than criminality itself,” he said.
Duterte ordered the National Police Commission to speed up the investigation of cases of officers linked to crime. He also directed the Napolcom to suggest policies for making lifestyle checks on the police.
Duterte said the “full force” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be applied “to crush” the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group.
Duterte also stood by the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision that favoured the Philippines in its arbitration against China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.
“We strongly affirm and respect the outcome of the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution and management of our disputes,” Duterte said.
The five-member Arbitral Tribunal upheld the Manila’s position that China’s “nine-dash line” maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Duterte said his administration will pursue a “human” approach for development with improvements in health, social welfare, education, food and housing.
He said addressing global warming will be a top priority. “But upon a fair and equitable equation. It must not stymie our industrialization,” he added.
Duterte also promised to reform the tax system and continue sound economic policies.
“We will lower personal and corporate income tax, and relax the bank secrecy law,” he said in his speech at the House of Representatives.
The president also vowed protection for women’s rights, calling abuses against women “unacceptable.”
The President called for streamlined processes and better government services. The validity of a driver’s licenses will be extended from three to five years, while passport will be made valid for 10 years from the current five.
Duterte said the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology will formulate a plan o accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables to improve internet speed. He also said there will be free WiFi in selected public places.