ANSWER: Mining, tax, and peace were the top three keywords uttered by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 120-minute State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered on July 24, 2017.
A word count by ABS-CBN’s Investigative and Research Group shows these words were spoken at least fifteen times or more.
In Duterte’s 2016 SONA, the top three keywords were “drugs”, “environment”, and “train”, each uttered thirteen times or more.
Some frequently mentioned words in 2016 such as “train”, “rail”, and “aviation” were not mentioned at all in 2017.
But political analyst Ronald Holmes cautioned against drawing conclusions from the word count alone. “The frequent mention of certain words in 2017 may not really be reflective of the policy thrust of the administration on its second year,” he said.
Political analyst Ranjit Rye agreed. “You cannot just count beans, or in this case count words. You have to add context,” he said.
ABS-CBN clustered related words and narrowed down the speech to a few key issues: environmental protection, peace with Muslim and communist rebels, crime and security, and tax reform.
To Rye, these, too, reflect the issues the President wished to emphasize in the 2017 SONA.
Frequent use of the words “mining”, “environment”, and “taxes” captured the importance of environmental protection to the President.
“It’s a call to the industry to shape up or shut down,” Rye said. “The environment is a non-negotiable to the President. Gina Lopez may not have been confirmed, but her agenda, her policy legacy remains, and if nobody is going to champion it, the President will.”
Environmental activist Gina Lopez was appointed by Duterte as Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary in 2016 but her appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments in May this year.
Peace with rebels
Peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as the CPP-NPA-NDF, was another key issue as reflected in the frequent use of keywords such as “kill”, “peace” , “Davao”, “police”, and “Mindanao”.
“Ending war is his primary objective and you can see that in the discourse,” Rye said. “The biggest disappointment to the President was the CPP-NPA because he called them his friends. It’s not only the word count but also in the way he spent time talking about it, and the quality of the discourse. It was clear he was so frustrated.”
Crime and Security
In spite of criticism from human rights groups and expressions of concern from foreign governments over the war on drugs, the President also emphasized that his administration would remain unrelenting. This was reflected in the frequent use of the words “crime”, “drugs”, “kill”, “America”, “police” ,“Mindanao”, and “Marawi”.
“Whether it is peace and order or security, the enemies of the state are clear: these are the criminals, the drug lords, the NPA, and terrorists,” Rye said. “The President has said in his own language, you can’t negotiate with these people, you can’t be nice to them. The past policies didn’t solve the problem.”
Although not front and center in the President’s 2016 SONA, the need for tax reform was also emphasized this year. “His message was, you can’t have development without the revenues so he focused on tax reform. This is part of his reform agenda,” Rye said.
Throughout the President’s SONA, which was initially estimated to last 50 minutes, the President was applauded 82 times. This is fewer than the 90 times he was applauded last year. He elicited laughter 28 times, nearly as many times as he did in 2016.
But the President cursed far more in 2017 than he did in 2016—28 times compared to just 4 times last year.
Holmes said this indicates that the President is more comfortable today. “That the President cursed more in the second SONA is an indication that he has liberated himself from the convention that he may have felt uncomfortable with the first time he delivered the SONA,” Holmes said. “In other words, he is just being himself.”
That Duterte used the curse words in relation to peace talks with the CPP-NPA, the war on drugs, mining, smoking and corruption may be a reflection of the issues he is most exasperated about.