The way forward

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    ‘I truly hope that the President takes this opportunity to elevate the discussion and focus what needs to be done… or letting the applause of your chosen few lull you into a false sense of complacency about what is truly happening in the country. Show us the way forward, Mr. President.’

    I WRITE this while waiting for President Duterte’s penultimate State of the Nation Address, one that is already quite unique from other SONAs by past presidents in as much that it has for its backdrop an uncontrolled pandemic with still no resolution in sight.

    While previous presidents have used the SONA as an opportunity to drumbeat the administration’s accomplishments in the year that was, the people’s expectations for this particular SONA may be markedly different from years past. In the face of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, Filipinos will be looking to the Commander-in-Chief to lay out the way forward from this mire and into recovery. This means that all eyes are now on the President to provide a solid, concrete and doable plan to ensure that Filipinos – both economically and health-wise – will have a fighting chance to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As you know, the President also holds the role of Comforter-in-Chief, one he seems to have embraced in full, given his team’s constant cultivation and reinforcement of the image of “Tatay Digong.” While equally important as the expectation to roll out a full recovery plan for both the economy and how to address the pandemic, Mr. Duterte’s fifth SONA is the perfect opportunity to provide inspiration and hope to millions of Filipinos who are suffering in many different ways because of the disruption to our way of life and livelihood. The impending decimation of what used to be the Filipino middle class, the deeper poverty and hardship of ordinary citizens, the plea of small business owners for government relief – all these need to be addressed in a clear and practical manner in order to provide a measure of hope for all stakeholders.

    Some might argue that government also needs to shine a light on the many other problems being faced by the country, and I don’t disagree. But hopefully, a majority of the SONA I hope will be devoted to address the biggest and most pressing issue of all – how government plans to extricate us out of this mess. There is perhaps no other bigger event that can be used to address as many citizens at one time, though I am fairly certain that less Filipinos will be able to actually watch the SONA or hear about it soon enough, given that non-renewal of broadcast giant ABS-CBN’s franchise has a significant impact on the SONA’s reach.

    My politics and criticism of this administration do not stop me from hoping against hope that the fifth SONA of President Duterte will provide more than a glimmer of hope for millions of Filipinos who are in sore need of leadership and true governance at such a trying time. Never mind the fanatics, the pundits, the observers. I truly hope that the President takes this opportunity to elevate the discussion and focus what needs to be done, instead of just touting “achievements,” defending policy or personalities, or letting the applause of your chosen few lull you into a false sense of complacency about what is truly happening in the country. Show us the way forward, Mr. President.