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What Experts Are Saying About Duterte's SONA

They range from compliments to gentle reminders to take caution about the things he says
by F. Valencia | Jul 26, 2016
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President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) covered several issues and got generally good reviews. We compiled the responses of five groups to his SONA. They range from compliments to gentle reminders to take caution. After all, anything that Duterte has said may affect the entire country.

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In his guest appearance on ANC's Market Edge, Matthew Sutherland, head of product management for Asia at Fidelity International, said Duterte's "affirmation of his action-oriented leadership style" in his SONA will "likely boost investor confidence in the Philippines."

Sutherland explained: "He wants to get things done. He's action-oriented and the market likes that kind of thinking."

Sutherland also cited Duterte's pledge "to drive economic growth higher, lower personal and corporate income tax rates, and relax bank secrecy rules." Moreover, he highlighted Duterte's desire to come up with a solution to Metro Manila traffic woes, which result in daily losses of P2.4 billion to the economy.


In his SONA, Duterte cited "environmental preservation" as one of his administration's main concerns. He also stated, "Addressing global warming shall also be our top priority, but upon a fair and acceptable equation. It must not stifle our industrialization."

The President's pronouncements earned him points with environmental groups such as The Climate Reality Project. In a Philippine Daily Inquirer feature, the non-government organization's country manager, Rodne Galicha, said, "We are glad that the President considers the issue of global warming as top priority. The climate crisis has left a lesson of a seemingly right path to industrialization through the use of fossil fuels and over-extraction—a lesson of loss of livelihood and thousands of lives."


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It's no secret that President Duterte has a tense relationship with the human rights sector. So, it's rather surprising that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has taken an optimistic view of Duterte's SONA.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report observed that CHR chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon chose "to focus on points for agreement."

Gascon had this to say about Duterte's SONA: "At the first instance, I welcome the clear references to the importance and centrality to human rights, due process, and rule of law that President Duterte mentioned in first his SONA, as well as his reference to not tolerating any abuse of authority from erring law enforcement."

He added, "We have unanimity that rights are about affirming dignity. I assure the government that complying with human rights obligations are about uplifting all humanity and preventing abuses by holding perpetrators to account, and I am encouraged by the commitment expressed by the President that human rights would be upheld and fulfilled."

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The New York-based Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, didn't quite applaud Duterte's spiel on human rights. Phelim Kine, the group’s Asia deputy director, said, "President Duterte’s unwillingness to use his State of the Nation Address to demand a thorough investigation into the alarming surge in police killings of suspected drug dealers and users in recent weeks symbolizes a critical failure in his obligation to defend rule of law and to protect the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos."

Kine further stated in another Inquirer story, "President Duterte must publicly recognize that respect for rule of law and fulfilling the human rights of Filipinos extends to all Filipinos, including criminal suspects and those implicated in the drug trade."


Kerlan Fanagel, chairperson of Pasaka-Southern Mindanao Region—a confederation of Lumad organizations—expressed his confidence that "a Mindanaoan president would prioritize and address the issues hounding the region."

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Duterte said in his SONA: "We will vigorously address the grievances that have been time and again expressed not only by the Bangsamoro, indigenous peoples and other groups for security, development, fair access to decision-making, and acceptance of identities."

Fanagel told, "Alam namin na consistent siya, na naninindigan din siya at sumuporta sa mga pakikibaka at laban naming mga katutubo sa Mindanao (We know that he is consistent in supporting the indigenous people of Mindanao)."

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ANC's The World Tonight asked political analysts Dr. Jean Franco and Dr. Julio Teehankee to weigh in on Duterte's SONA.

"First time tayong nakarining ng SONA na informal. Parang town hall meeting s'ya. True to form si President Duterte. Ito yung nagustuhan sa kanya ng tao (It's the first time that we heard an informal SONA. It was like a town hall meeting. President Duterte was true to form. That's what people like about him)," said Franco.

Teehankee added that Duterte's "off-script" statements are risky because his musings become the basis for policies that affect the entire country. "Kailangan pang disiplinahin ni Pangulong Duterte ang sarili n'ya lalung-lalo na sa pakikipagtalumpati sa taong bayan (President Duterte must exercise more discipline on himself when he is speaking to the people)."

In another interview with ABS-CBN News, political analyst Ramon Casiple said he appreciated the fact that Duterte ditched motherhood statements and the usual rhetoric. "He avoided all of these, and sabi ko nga (as I said), he spoke from the heart," Casiple said.

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