Among the topics President Rodrigo Duterte touched on his final State of the Nation Address delivered yesterday, it was his claims about transportation, the communist insurgency and his shoot-to-kill order that Filipinos on social media took notice of.
The chief executive started his speech at the Batasang Pambansa Complex on schedule at 4 p.m. Going off-script and interacting with a clapping audience a few times, Duterte finally stepped back from the microphone at 7 p.m., making it his longest address in decades.
Praise for the red-tagging agency
Duterte gave a shout out to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the group known for associating activists, critics, journalists and even some celebrities to the communist rebellion without proof.
“We have made great strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans who have been used by the communists for so many decades,” he said.
“In our continuing effort to build safe and conflict-resilient barangays, we have worked towards the sustainable rehabilitation and development of communities where the communists used to operate,” he added.
Duterte also thanked the police and the military for dismantling alleged communist fronts, citing at least 15 of them.
“Kunwari lang pero ang totoo there’s a lot of fighting going on in the countryside. But I’d like to credit the police and the military for destroying so many communist fronts. [applause] I think they have destroyed more than 15 apparatus of the fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said.
The NTF-ELCAC is known for red-tagging celebrities, private personalities, political critics and others with left-leaning convictions. Having different views, as long as violence is not involved, is not criminal but the worst risk of red-tagging is death, according to some social media users.
“NTF-ELCAC who red-tagged community pantries, various universities and other organizations without evidence,” one user said.
Rampant transport woes
Duterte lauded the achievements and progress his administration made in transportation and the larger infrastucture sector.
He cited improvements in MRT-3 trains, the completion of the LRT-2 east extension and Skyway Stage 3 projects.
“We have taken away the misery of public commuting,” he said.
“We have inaugurated new highways, roads and skyways. We have bought new trains. These are all testament that we have greatly eased the grueling experience of traveling and commuting,” Duterte further said in the same speech.
The claims, however, were countered by commuters themselves. They aired online their prevailing transportation woes, mostly citing lack of public transport vehicles.
Some of them even shared photos of long queues of people, which had circulated in the past, in bus terminals and train stations.
“We have taken away the misery of public commuting” pic.twitter.com/spU1GEL0Fe
— Carl Del Rosario (@baCARLdi) July 26, 2021
Others pointed out the plight of public transport drivers who lost their jobs amid the pandemic.
A Social Weather Station Survey last November showed that 87% of Filipinos prefer to have better public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians to be prioritized than private vehicles.
Drug war victims
Duterte did not spare his last SONA to discuss at length his drug war campaign.
He claimed there were nine Philippine National Police generals, whom he did not name, allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.
“Kaya ‘yan ang masakit sa loob ko. I did not know that I was fighting my own government,” he said.
Duterte then taunted the International Criminal Court over its call to probe his bloody drug war.
“Pero ‘yan magprangka ako uli, I would never deny and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. Talagang yayariin kita because I love my country,” he said.
Most of the victims in the drug war, however, are men in low-income communities. Women and children were similarly victims, too.
Duterte has not been perceived to have succeeded in eradicating the illegal drug trade as he promised back then.
“You were simply focusing on eradicating the ones who were simply involved in the business. You never made efforts to actually root out the ones leading the business themselves,” the user wrote.
Activists have recorded at least 27,000 people killed in his anti-narcotics campaign wherein most victims were from the urban poor.
Delayed pandemic talk
Duterte only started to discuss the national government’s response to the still-raging pandemic after two hours.
Even then, he did not provide enough details on the government’s strategy to suppress the rising threat of the Delta variant, which the World Health Organization had described as the “fastest and fittest” of the COVID-19 variants so far.
Social media users immediately reacted to this, saying that the misplaced priorities of Duterte despite the pandemic’s glaring consequences to the economy and the lives of Filipinos.