A week before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 2018 State of the Nation Address, let us take stock of the developments of the issues he tackled a year ago. Here is a look-back at issues mentioned by Duterte in his 2017 SONA, and how things have changed since then.
1. FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL DRUGS
In his second SONA, Duterte reiterated his campaign promise to eradicate illegal drugs.
As of May 15, 4,279 drug suspects were killed, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said. Meanwhile, a total of 143,335 drug personalities have been arrested in 99,485 operations. Duterte, who initially promised to end the drug problem within his first three to six months in office, asked for an extension admitting he did not realize the extent of the problem until he assumed power.
The PNP took a four-month hiatus from the drug war when the institution faced allegations of abuse after teens Kian Delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz were slain allegedly during police operations. The PNP later relaunched “Oplan Tokhang” with new guidelines for the enforcers of the fight vs drugs.
2. PEACE, LAW, AND ORDER
President Duterte’s 2017 SONA came just two months since the ISIS-inspired Maute rebels attacked Marawi City, which prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. The siege ended in November, but rehabilitation has still a long way to go.
Meanwhile, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, a measure that seeks to help end decades of fighting in the Mindanao, finally passed the bicameral conference committee level Friday (July 13, 2018) after pending a while as the Senate and House of Representatives were unable to iron out the differences in their respective versions of the bill. Congress is saying it plans to ratify the bill when session resumes on July 23, in time for the SONA.
On the other hand, there is no clear direction in sight for the peace negotiations with communist rebels after talks fell through in November last year. Government has been eyeing “localized” peace talks with the rebels as it declared Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army founding chairman Joma Sison "irrelevant". This came after a bitter word war following the postponement of peace talks scheduled in June.
In 2017, the Duterte administration unveiled an P8-trillion infrastructure plan dubbed as the “Build, Build, Build” program.
As of June this year, the National Economic Development and Authority (NEDA) has approved 35 projects out of the 75 priorities listed under the program. The 35 projects amount to a total of P1.24 trillion. Majority of the projects are scheduled to be completed in five years.
The government also received an unsolicited proposal from a “super consortium” of seven of the country’s biggest conglomerates and the Filipino-Indian GMR-Megawide to upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
4. FOREIGN POLICY
Majority of Filipinos want the Duterte administration to assert the Philippines’ rights over the exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. Duterte has not enforced a Hague tribunal's South China Sea decision as he sought closer ties with China. But the government said it has been silently taking diplomatic actions regarding China's incursions in the disputed waters.
Just days before the 2018 SONA, red banners bearing words "Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China" were hung on several pedestrian overpasses in Metro Manila. Fishermen in Zambales have also complained that Chinese coast guard had taken their catch in exchange for cigarettes, noodles and water. Chinese military aircrafts have also landed in Davao to refuel on two different occasions.
Duterte made seven foreign trips after his 2017 SONA.
In February, Duterte ordered a deployment ban in Kuwait following reports of deaths of Filipino workers, including that of Joanna Demafelis whose body was found in a freezer. The ban was only lifted when the Philippines and Kuwait signed a memorandum of understanding protecting overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
5. WOMEN, GENDER
The Palace says Duterte is an advocate for women despite some of the president’s remarks and actions that have been viewed as encouraging violence and abuse against women. Among the more controversial ones are a comment directed at government forces who were told to shoot female rebels in the genitals, and the kissing of a married woman in the mouth before a heckling public in South Korea.
Meanwhile, in December 2017, Duterte said he has been planning to create a commission for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. This came after a bill protecting LGBT rights hurdled third reading in the House of Representatives. The same bill is still pending in the Senate.
Duterte also said he is in favor of allowing same-sex civil union. The Supreme Court has held an oral argument on a petition seeking to allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines.
6. DEATH PENALTY
The death penalty bill was approved by the House of Representatives way back in March 2017. After President Duterte talked about the capital punishment in his 2017 SONA, not much has been said about it.
Meanwhile, the bill is not prioritized in the Senate. But Senate President Tito Sotto said death penalty, if limited to drug lords, is most likely to hurdle the Senate before 2019 elections.
7. MINING AND ENVIRONMENT
President Duterte in April ordered mining companies to conduct tree-planting projects or have their permits revoked. The mining sector has been under fire for environmental damage and alleged violations that include building mines in prohibited areas like watersheds.
He also warned that he might declare a total ban on open-pit mining by 2019. The president in 2017 prohibited new open pit mines.
President Duterte’s recent statement calling God ‘stupid’ whipped a media firestorm. This led to a series of more tirades which ended in the formation of a committee tasked to hold a dialogue with religious leaders and mend the ties with Christian groups.
Duterte later met with Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Romulo Valles, after which the Palace said Duterte will refrain from making any comment about God.
Duterte also met with Jesus is Lord leader Eddie Villanueva, who demanded a public apology from the president. In their meeting, Duterte said he had apologized to God, but "not to the people nor to the religion."
- with Dianne Mariano