The State of National Anxiety

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I know that the topic of the day will be the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President yesterday, so I don’t think I will dwell much on the matter. Suffice it to say that I was not disappointed that he adlibbed for most of the time, but well, I also agree that he did speak from his heart. Anyway, the SONA delivery was rare, rather, exceptional, in that it had the least in attendance of probably all the others delivered before it.

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My suspicious mind, however, was tempting me to believe that some of the applause was canned, as who could expect a riotous clapping from an audience expected, or earlier announced to consist of 50 people only? But His Excellency, the President of the Philippines, the Honorable Rodrigo Duterte did say a mouthful in the entire one hour and forty minutes that he took to deliver it. He did start by recalling his last SONA, delivered in 2019, but, gosh, it was far different from this one!

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But one thing he appeared very emphatic about is that he is still not in favor of face-to-face classes. That brought an enigmatic expression on the face of Education Secretary Leonor Briones. But I am sure most parents will be in favor of it. Especially now that some cases of younger people, teenagers and children have been reported. So there is still no likelihood that classes will open on August 24, at least not the kind of classes we have all been used to. Teachers will have a lot of adjustments to do, aside from keeping themselves free from infections that, who knows, may even be brought in by their pupils and students.

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The President, in his address, said very firmly that he will not put the health and lives of students and teachers to risk. So that will be the guideline for any institution, public or private that may be girding now for the opening of face-to-face classes. On this, he pledged that this will be true during the rest of his term which is due to end in 2022. But oh my goodness, the guy really can’t help it! At least once during that formal address, he did inject one of his favorite cuss words “yawa”. I am not sure, though, being a bit distracted at the time, if he was referring to the two cellphone companies when he mouthed that.

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But the most frightening thing that the President touched on was our relationship with China admitting frankly that we would be no match if we get China for an enemy. This, when the subject of the West Philippines Sea was mentioned. Oh my goodness, does this mean that, in case China has a mind to attack us, or declare full ownership of the area being considered, we will just have to clap, clap and bow? But who would dare contradict the President in this? I am sure his speech writer(s) must have been gritting their teeth when he seemed to go along with his own words and ideas but they must know him by now.

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I am sure, too, I was not the only one who was quite shocked when he sailed into the topic of penalties and stressed in no uncertain terms that he was in favor of the return of the death penalty. When his audience seemed stunned by that, he even asked why they were not clapping, and they obediently did! But what has he got against Senator Franklin Drilon? I understand it was about Drilon having mentioned dynasties and that President Duterte’s daughter Sara was mayor of Davao. Aren’t his sons also in politics there?

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At last it came out. The President also disclosed that he was a “casualty” of the ABS-CBN network during the election. As the Japanese would say it: “Ah su des ka” I hope my translation of “Ah, so that’s it” is correct. By the way, I heard later an interview of Senator Drilon about his being specially mentioned in the SONA, and the poor guy seemed to be nonplused about it. One thing the President said that was reasonable, and I bet seconded by the people, was for government officials to stop their “expeditions”. I only later got what he meant when he explained that those were their travels for seminars, conferences and other trips at the expense of their offices.

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Were there rallies against the SONA, the kind that all the others we had gone through? Seems that protests and rallies there were, prohibited as they were for getting anywhere near the Batasang Pambansa that was the site for the SONA. Alas, they were neither as numerous nor as ferocious as before. How could they whip up the old enthusiasm and ferociousity when they were not even allowed to come near the Batasan and had to be limited to the University of the Philippines grounds in Diliman where neither their voices nor their numbers could be seen? And that was the State of the Nation 2020.*

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