Looking at the SONA Through Its Different Audiences

President Duterte delivers his 2017 SONA, to the appreciation of the President of the Senate (Pimentel) and Speaker of the House (Alvarez). [Photo source: Philstar News]

Posted by The Society of Honor on July 25, 2017

By Joe America

President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) meant different things to different audiences. Let’s reflect on them. These are my guesses, and you can add your own interpretations in the discussion that follows the article.

  • The Congressional majority and even some minority members who do not want to be seen as opposed to the President: they loved it, or at least tolerated it. Not for what he said, but for their opportunity to be a willing partner in anything he might choose to say or do, fair or foul. They really didn’t care about the impact of the speech on other audiences, even investors. Or the poor.
  • The people who voted for him and others justifying a pro-Duterte stance. That’s most of the Philippines. They, too, loved it. They loved the swagger he projected, the larger-than-life persona of a political rock star, and they didn’t care much about the details of the speech or who might be affected by it. That’s for others to worry about.
  • The political opponents such as Senators Trillanes, Hontiveros, and De Lima. They hated the speech, both for the swearing and personal attacks . . . but mostly because extra judicial killings will continue. They picked up some loose rocks to throw back at the President and “his men” in the days ahead.
  • Decent people like Vice President Robredo and the educated, well-traveled advocates of democracy and human rights. They were dismayed at the continued arrogance of threat and bad language deployed by the President. They could clap earnestly about the proposed Land Use Law, mining and environmental responsibility, reproductive health law implementation, and maybe even tax reform and military spending. But the rest of the speech was incredibly discouraging, especially the personal insults and foul language levied against Senator De Lima and human rights advocates.
  • Targets of the President’s bashing: the media, especially Rappler, Westerners, especially Americans, and human rights advocates. They probably “considered the source”, a political demagogue doing what he does best, intimidating his critics. Ambassadors likely sent home memoranda saying the Philippines has “gone to the other side” opposed to democracy, freedom, and civility, and walking arm-in-arm with China. They would advise their leadership to factor that into the policy calculus.
  • The armed forces brass probably thought they were once again being manipulated, but for sure generously. The President threw them a huge bone, lavish investment in military capability, from which they could deduce “room for bonuses and promotions”. So the question is, how honor bound and Constitutionally bound are the generals? They certainly see the President as trying to win their support, for they are the last line of defense against the complete tear-down of democracy. But they also see him playing at the edge of treason by conceding the West Philippine Sea to China. The President’s expression of appreciation to China done late in the speech can not have gone down well.
  • OFWs. The President also threw overseas workers a bone, a billion peso commitment to assisting them. Does he care about them, cynics might be inclined to ask, or just their remittances to shore up an economy that is showing instability and weakness? It was an easy bone to toss for continued overseas support.
  • Investors. The speech projected chaos and instability, threat from rebels, anger against Westerners, martial law, and dictatorial policies . . . little that would say “invest here”, unless they happened to be Chinese. Then they heard “consider investing in the Philippines.”
  • China. Loved it.

There were some significant omissions from the speech.

  • Progress on the economic front: tourism, investment flight, peso weakness. He did speak to the need for finished goods manufacturing.
  • He did not explain the intelligence failing in Marawi.
  • He did not update progress on infrastructure build-out or provide details on how to solve Manila’s transportation gridlock. He mainly lectured agencies and LGUs to do a better job, effectively washing his hands of any responsibility on such matters.
  • He did not talk about the West Philippine Sea or what the loss of economic rights means in terms of future power generation and food stock.

He said the war on drugs will continue.

Saints Joachim and Anne: Pope Pays Tribute to Grandparents

They Communicate the Patrimony of Humanity and of Faith

Pope At March 11, 2015 General Audience © PHOTO.VA – OSSERVATORE ROMANO


“How important grandparents are in the life of the family, to communicate the patrimony of humanity and faith essential for every society!”–  tweeted Pope Francis yesterday, Wednesday, July 26, Memoriaof Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus, on his Twitter@Pontifex_it account.

Since his election to the Petrine throne in March 2013, the Argentine-Italian Pontiff regularly calls attention to the role of grandparents in the family and in society.

“How important is encounter and dialogue between generations, especially within the family,” he said at Rio de Janeiro on Friday, July 26, 2013. “This relationship, this dialogue between the generations is a treasure to preserve and nourish!” he added, inviting the young people taking part in the Rio WYD to greet their grandparents. “They, the young people, greet their grandparents with so much affection and thank them for their witness of wisdom that they offer us continually.”

Two years later, during the Angelus on Sunday, July 26, 2015, the Holy Father thanked grandparents with these words: “I would like to greet all the grandmothers and grandfathers, thanking them for their precious presence in families and for the new generations. We greet and give a great applause for all living grandparents, but also for those who are looking at us from Heaven.”

During the General Audience of Wednesday, March 11, 2015, Jorge Bergoglio dedicated his entire catechesis on the family to grandparents. “The prayer of the elderly and of grandparents is a gift for the Church, it’s a richness!”  he said. It is also a “great injection of wisdom for the entire human society, especially for that which is too busy, too grasping, too distracted,” he added.

“How lovely is the encouragement that an old man is able to transmit to a youth in search of the meaning of faith and of life! It is truly the mission of grandparents, the vocation of the elderly. Grandparents’ words have something special for young people. And they know it,” he recalled.

Lecture Series in Political Science: Water or Gold?

July 26, 2017 (Wednesday)
Function Room, Faber Hall, Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, Quezon City

 In March 2017, after a decade of protest by community groups protecting their watersheds, EI Salvador became the first nation on earth to pass a total legislative ban on metals mining. EI Salvador also beat back a lawsuit in a World Bank tribunal by a large mining company, Oceana Gold, which also mines in the northern Philippines. Based on extensive research and policy work on this case at local, national, and global levels, Broad and Cavanagh will analyze both wins. They will explore the factors that led to this historic lawsuit and ban, what other countries are moving in this direction, and what the Philippines can learn from this experience.


John Cavanagh is the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. He will speak on other countries taking steps and implications for the Philippines.

Robin Broad is professor of international development at the American University in Washington, D.C. She is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow for 2017-2018. She will speak on Salvador becoming the first country to ban metals mining.

Both have been researching the Philippines for four decades and are co-authors of several books, including “Plundering Paradise: The Struggle for the Environment in the Philippines,” and “Development Redefined: How the Market Met its Match.” They helped facilitate the visit of Nueva Vizcaya governor, Carlos Padilla, to EI Salvador in March 2017, when that country passed its historic ban on metals mining. 

For further inquiries, you may contact the Department of Political Science at telephone no. 426-6001 local 5250.

Filipino bishop, regulator at odds with police on gambling

Authorities confiscate illegal gambling paraphernalia, bet money, a grenade, and ammunition during a raid in a gambling den in the northern Philippine province of Pangasinan in 2016. (Photo by Karl Romano)

Duterte, police accused of not acting on promise to stamp out illegal gambling

Nelson Badilla, Manila 
July 26, 2017

A Philippine agency tasked with managing the country’s gaming operations has backed a Catholic bishop’s claim that the government has not acted on a promise to end illegal gambling.

Alexander Balutan, general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, said “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game, continues to proliferate around the country.

Balutan said he was extremely disappointed with police for failing to act aggressively against jueteng and all forms of illegal numbers games.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order directing the Philippine National Police to go after gambling syndicates and unlicensed operators.

Duterte’s order was issued amid a reported US$1-million bribery scandal involving a Chinese casino tycoon and former Bureau of Immigration officials.

Duterte said the government “condemns illegal gambling activities as a widespread social menace and source of corruption.”

But Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan and a strong crusader against gambling, said the Duterte administration has not seriously carried out its campaign.

He said Filipinos are still waiting for Duterte to fulfill his promise. Archbishop Cruz said there are at least 41 other kinds of illegal gambling in the Philippines, besides jueteng.

“I hope I’m wrong but it’s impossible for illegal gambling to flourish without the knowledge of [government] officials,” he said.

For his part, Balutan said his office expects the police to “eradicate” all forms of illegal gambling so government-backed gaming operations will flourish and boost revenue for the government.

“I am disappointed and dismayed by the [police’s] performance,” said Balutan, a retired military general.

He said he has received reports that a number of police officials are receiving weekly pay-offs and bribes from gambling operators.

“What happens is only small-time operators and bet collectors are arrested, not the big fish,” said Balutan, adding that he is planning to ask the assistance of the military to act against illegal gambling.

Archbishop Crux, meanwhile, said he hopes that the government will carry out its promise to end illegal gambling.

Duterte threat to bomb tribal schools sparks uproar

Indigenous people from southern Philippines join the protest rally during the president’s scheduled state of the nation address.

Philippine rights groups voice dismay over president targeting indigenous children

Tribal people from Mindanao join protest rallies in Manila on July 24 during the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

July 26, 2017

Organizations working for children’s rights have denounced a threat by President Rodrigo Duterte to bomb tribal schools in the southern Philippines for allegedly preaching “subversive ideas.”

In a media briefing this week, the president urged tribal people to leave the schools. “I will bomb them,” said Duterte, adding that the schools are “teaching subversion [and] communism.”

“I will really bomb all of them because you’re operating illegally and you’re teaching children to rebel against the government,” the president said.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, an organization of Catholic religious missionaries that built some of the schools said the president’s statement “definitely have an implication on tribal schools.”

Aileen Villarosa, the organization’s advocacy coordinator, said their schools are already under attack “because of these accusations.”

“What aggravates the situation is [Duterte’s] statement that he takes responsibility for all the actions of state forces,” said Villarosa.

Eule Rico Bonganay, secretary-general of the children’s rights group Salinlahi, said the president’s statement poses “a serious threat to the already severe human rights conditions and attacks on schools in Mindanao.”

“What could be worse than what can be taken as an open command from the chief executive with sheer impunity on the genocide of our indigenous people?” said Bonganay.

He said Duterte’s statement “added salt to the wounds” of tribal people, especially children whose education has been disrupted by military operations in Mindanao.

Nardy Sabino, secretary-general of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, denounced the president’s statement as “reckless and irresponsible.”

Sabino said Duterte should “retract his statement.”

In 2015, three tribal leaders, including the head of a tribal school in the province of Surigao del Sur, were killed by military-backed militiamen for allegedly supporting communist insurgents.

Continue reading

Lights and Shadows: Ethical Perspectives on the Current Political Climate


JJCICSI Papers Presented at the 15th CBCP Plenary Assembly

ICSI Associate Director Dr Anna Marie A. Karaos had the privilege to speak at the 115th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on July 9, 2017 at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila. Her presentation, “Lights and Shadows: Ethical Perspectives on the Current Political Climate”, focused on the “ethical dimension of our people’s engagement in the politics of the nation, or how the ruled conduct themselves in the nation’s political life.” Using the lens of Catholic social principles, Dr Karaos reflected on current political issues such as the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs”, redistributive reforms, and peace with belligerent groups. The text of her presentation can be accessed from our website. A printable version can also be downloaded here.

A paper titled “An Agenda for the Church in the Current Political Climate,” written by Eleanor R. Dionisio, head of the Church and Society Program of ICSI, was also given to the bishops. It suggests how the Catholic Church can accompany the nation in meeting the challenges posed by the Duterte administration, and how the Church can use those challenges as opportunities for promoting Catholic social principles. Visit our website to read the full paper or download it via this link.

Jing Karaos (left) with CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Atty. Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)


Rice importation and food security

by Gemma Rita R. Marin

“While the concerned executive agencies have ironed out their issues and differences particularly on rice importation for the meantime, we count on our lawmakers to do their part in helping address food security by passing the necessary laws. Among these are the proposed national land use act and priority bills related to agrarian reform and agriculture that lawmakers promised to pass last May, such as a bill prohibiting the conversion of irrigated lands and another that seeks to provide free irrigation services.”

‘Anti-life’ pronouncements sadden Philippine church groups

Church groups stage a protest rally outside the Philippine Congress building in Manila as President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 24. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Duterte refuses to back down over re-imposing death penalty, contraception

Joe Torres, Manila

Philippines   July 25, 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements this week that he will press for the passage of laws that will revive capital punishment and implement a reproductive health policy that will allow the use of contraceptives has drawn criticism from Catholic Church leaders.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said the president’s decision to take the “path of violence” is “lamentable.”

Diamante said Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24, does not reflect the state of the nation but the state of mind of a president “who refuses to listen to the cry of the people and the collective wisdom” of the community.

In his speech, the president urged Congress to re-impose capital punishment, saying that it is time for legislators “to fulfill our mandate to protect our people.”

“For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it’s also about retribution,” said Duterte, adding that the essence of the country’s penal code is retribution.

The president said instilling fear in criminals is the only way to stop them.

“In the Philippines, it is really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You take life, you must pay it with life. You cannot place a premium on the human mind that he will go straight,” he said.

In March, the House of Representatives passed a measure that will revive capital punishment for drug-related offenses.

Catholic bishops have been vocal in their opposition to revive the death penalty.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops’ conference, earlier said that “though the crime be heinous, no person is ever beyond redemption, and we have no right ever to give up on any person.”

“When we condemn violence, we cannot ourselves be its perpetrators, and when we decry murder, we cannot ourselves participate in murder, no matter that it may be accompanied by the trappings of judicial and legal process,” he said.

Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs office of the bishops’ conference, meanwhile, said church leaders maintain that the use of contraceptives to control the population is “not needed.”

The priest maintained that there are “alternatives to spacing the number of children” and family planning “should not be viewed as a poverty measure.”

In his State of the Nation Address, Duterte said that although he is “not for abortion [and] not for birth control” he is “certainly … for giving freedom to Filipinos to decide the size of their family.”

The president said the Supreme Court should reconsider the restraining order it issued against subdermal implants that prevented the government from fully implementing the country’s Reproductive Health Law.

In August 2016, the court issued a “temporary restraining order” on contraceptive implants.

“The [temporary restraining order] has become the bane of [government] projects,” said Duterte.

Father Secillano said that while the president is free to express his wishes about the reproductive health law, the matter must be left in the hands of the court to decide about the “efficacy and soundness of the measure.”

The priest said the country’s Reproductive Health Law is the “wrong medicine for the perceived overpopulation and maternal problems.”

“It can never be a panacea to women’s health problems, over-population, and poverty,” said Father Secillano.