Filipinos share #StoryOfTheNation ahead of SONA 2019
MANILA, Philippines – What is the #StoryOfTheNation?
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22. (READ: Throwback: What Duterte’s last 3 SONAs tell us)
This year's SONA does not only mark the halfway point in Duterte's presidential term but it also comes in the aftermath of recent controversies such as the close ties between the Philippines and China, and United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) adoption of the Iceland-proposed resolution to probe drug killings in the Philippines.
It also comes in the heels of the sinking of a boat with 22 fishermen onboard by a Chinese vessel, which the administration downplayed as a mere "maritime incident."
With these and many other pressing issues the country continues to face, Filipinos are expecting the President to forthrightly address the controversies at hand in his annual address.
In the days leading up to the SONA 2019, Rappler went around various cities and provinces and asked Filipinos what they would like to hear from President Duterte, in hopes that he will speak of the #StoryOfTheNation – the true state of the nation. (READ: Filipinos' top SONA 2019 issues: Pay hike, lower prices, Philippine sovereignty)
The worsening struggle of the Filipino poor
Filipinos continue to feel the brunt of inflation, especially street vendors like Forpunito Borre who have to cope with high market prices with their unstable and small income. (READ: IN CHARTS: Inflation crisis not yet over for poorest Filipinos)
Borre shared how he hopes Duterte will tackle the challenges of Filipinos, and help provide livelihood opportunities to ease the burden on their finances.
"Pagusapan po sana ‘yung tungkol sa buhay ng Pilipino...Mahirap po ang hanapbuhay. Tulungan po sana kami (Hopefully, he talks about the lives of the Filipino...It's hard to get stable income. I hope he helps us)," he said.
Borre’s story echoes those not only of street vendors, but of the many Filipinos who struggle to make ends meet with their small income.
On the other hand, Gailo Bukalon, a security guard in his thirties, wished Duterte would tackle yet another pressing issue among the working class – the “endo” or end-of-contract scheme.
Labor groups said the measure fails to address key issues such as the end-of-contract or endo scheme, and is "not worthy of support."
Meanwhile, the country's biggest business organizations think the bill is redundant and could have a negative impact on the Philippine economy and even on workers themselves.
Apart from the call against abusive forms of contractualization, workers like Ryan Balad also appealed to the President for an increase in wage to keep up with the soaring prices of commodities. (READ: EXPLAINER: How inflation affects you)
Claim what’s rightfully ours
After the Recto Bank incident, Filipinos were indignant and pushed for the Philippines to assert its fairly won sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea.
The President, however, is doing the exact opposite of its legal victory over the South China Sea, with the Hague victory remaining shelved three years after in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing. (READ: Philippines loses to China 3 years after Hague ruling)
Duterte even said he is planning to use his upcoming State of the Nation Address to defend China's right to fish in exclusive Philippine waters.
Despite this, youth activist Amber Quiban hopes that people will still make the effort to educate themselves on the matter, and know there are options to protect the sovereign rights of the Philippines without going to war with China. (READ: Talk to China or go to war? 'False option,' Carpio says)
Taking off from Duterte's claim, Quiban said some Filipinos also tend to see China as a country they'd rather not mess with, overlooking Philippines' legal victory over the West Philippine Sea.
Quiban added that this kind of thinking is also a reflection of the educational system in the Philippines.
Student JLo Sacote echoed the sentiment, explaining that people need to have better access to education so they can be discerning and critical, especially when it comes to matters of the nation.
"People think na lahat ng sinasabi ni Duterte ay tama kaagad, so siyempre kapag sinabi ni Duterte na we can’t go to war. Hindi naman kasi tayo humihingi ng war; what we’re asking is accountability. I think what’s alarming for me is that it shows that this admin has prevented access for people para sa tamang educational resources," he said.
(People think everything Duterte says is right, just like when he said we can't go to war. But we're not asking for war; we're asking for accountability. I think what's alarming for me is that it shows that this admin has prevented access for people to the right educational resources.)
Indigenous ≠ invisible
Indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to government harassment in the country, especially as their ancestral lands face threats of being taken away for profit. (READ: CHR: Ancestral lands of indigenous peoples 'sacred' and protected by law)
Rogelio Villarama, leader of the Dumagat tribe elders in Sierra Madre, said his community has hardly been a priority in government programs.
Despite that, all that Villarama asked from the head of state is for the government to respect their ownership of and their rights to their own ancestral lands.
“Kung mamarapatin po ng kanyang pamamahala bilang siya ay pangulo ng ating bansa, ay ‘yung mga katutubo gaya sa amin ay maigalang naman doon sa kanya-kanyang mga nabibilang na lupain,” Villarama said.
(We ask with due respect that we, the natives, be treated with respect in our own land.)
Peace not war
Like the indigenous peoples (IPs), farmers are no stranger to rampant militarization in rural areas, making them just as vulnerable to military violence. (READ: Massacres, incidents of violence against farmers)
Emilio Cruz, a farmer, wishes to hear about peace from Duterte’s SONA, as his folks now live in fear of military presence in their locality.
“Kung mayroong pumunta sa amin, kami ay ‘wag takutin, makisama [sana] sa amin at kami ay mga takot na (If the military are to come to our community, do not intimidate us, treat us fairly because we’re already scared),” Cruz said.
In what seemed to be an irony for many, President Duterte signed the Safe Spaces Act or the Bawal Bastos law, which penalizes misogynistic and homophobic slurs, unwanted sexual advances, and other forms of sexual harassment in public and online spaces. (READ: New law punishes wolf whistling, catcalling, online sexual harassment)
Duterte himself has been well-documented saying sexist slurs and rape jokes. (READ: EXPLAINER: Never bastos? Duterte's top sexist moments)
For student Yanna Sunga, Duterte should address the issue of rape remarks and unabashed display of sexism especially now that he’s signed the Bawal Bastos law. (READ: Not just a joke: The social cost of Duterte's rape remarks)
“I want him to explain why he considers himself to be pro-women despite saying all those discriminatory remarks,” Sunga said.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Lee Duque said she would welcome an “authentic” apology from Duterte to women for his misogynist remarks, to the victims of EJKs and their families for the injustice and ruthlessness, and to all others who suffered from his administration.
While deemed ideal, Duque said it would be unlikely that Duterte will hold himself accountable, much less “genuinely” apologize.
Here are what others had to say regarding what they want Duterte to address in his 4th SONA.
As President Duterte takes the spotlight once again and delivers his annual address on Monday, July 22, Filipinos can only hope that their President may hear his countrymen and their stories, include the marginalized in the picture, and speak of the true state of the nation. – Rappler.com
For highlights of President Duterte’s 4th SONA, check out our live blog.
For related stories, visit Rappler’s 2019 State of the Nation Address page.
Rappler takes a deeper look at the first half of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency – its highs and lows, its achievements and shortcomings:
Duterte Year 3: The Halfway Mark