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President Duterte’s first SONA today

President Duterte delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, the 25th day of his administration, before a joint session of Congress at the Batasan. Like his Inaugural Address in Malacañang last June 30, the SONA will be simple, direct, and forceful, like the man himself.

It will not be a long one, partly because he is just beginning and he still does not have much to report. But it should be loaded with the new President’s plans for the nation in the next six months before this year ends – and then in the next six years before he steps down from office.

These first three weeks of the Duterte administration have been dominated by his war on drugs – the center of his campaign which revolved around the basic idea of change. The Philippine National Police last Friday reported that as of 6 a.m. of July 22, 240 people were dead, 3,228 had been arrested, and 120,200 had surrendered in 63,973 raids and other police operations. The figures do not include those who may have been executed by vigilante groups.

The anti-drug campaign has had the biggest impact so far among all the many changes now taking place in the country. We had all been complacent about the state of our nation, not knowing that in communities all over the country, the lives of thousands of people were being destroyed by drugs. There are charges that abuses may have been committed in the anti-drugs campaign. These should be acted upon, but on the whole the nation has welcomed the campaign which stands out as the first big change being carried out by the new administration.

The President’s SONA is expected to outline what changes are coming next. Some Cabinet members have already given us an inkling of what we may expect in the coming months, such as in the workings of government and of the justice system, in an infrastructure program to massively step up national economic development, in solving traffic and other transportation problems that are holding back progress, in a major push for increased agricultural production, in expanding employment opportunities as the core of a total effort to solve the problem of mass poverty among our people. These and other plans and programs will be the core of today’s SONA.

We also expect changes in the way the members of Congress and their guests gather to hear the President and how the SONA will be received by the people. The President has asked that the affair at the Batasan be kept short and simple, without the red-carpet displays of women’s fashion that marked previous SONAs. We also do not expect protest demonstrations as in the past when the President’s effigy was burned by angry and disgruntled elements.

But the nation’s attention – and that of the world – will focus on the address itself. In the coming months and years, we will be referring to today’ address with all its plans and its promises. And the President will be judged by how well he has achieved the goals he is setting forth in this, his first State of the Nation Address.