Press Statement | July 25, 2017 

Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, +63918-9790580

On Duterte’s second SONA

Indeed, respect begets respect. And if a self-proclaimed bully invokes respect for himself, while disrespecting the most basic of the people’s rights and demands, the thousands who bravely marched in the streets yesterday to present an alternative picture of both the current situation and how people are fighting back reflects the current State of the Nation. 

*Photo by Carlo Manalansan and Bulatlat

In his policy statement during his SONA, Pres. Duterte talked about strengthening his military, police and repressive State security forces, amid the widespread and continuing attacks against communities and individuals. Never mind the peasants, indigenous people, Moro, urban poor and workers, who have been victimized by State repression.

He had a mouthful for the Lumad schools and communities in his press conference, that his forces should not hesitate to bomb these schools. Bullying Lumad kids and communities is one thing – his State forces get away with it every time – but bombing their schools and communities is a war crime, one of the gravest violations under international humanitarian law. 

Duterte’s mad obsession with his war on drugs, insisting in his SONA that this will not stop, is going beyond absurd, at the expense of people’s rights, especially that of the poor. Indeed, only a privileged bully can have no qualms about killing the poor as collateral damage, while letting the big fishes in the illegal drug trade, including perhaps many of his policemen and military, off the hook.  

Duterte repeated his declarations that he will not pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and insults the NDFP panel and its consultants, deriding the existence and influence of a revolutionary movement that has endured and strengthened throughout the years. The self-proclaimed bully said in the rally outside Batasan, that he is unable to release all political prisoners because the military doesn’t want him to. But then again, this is the kind of bully, who allows himself to get bullied by his BFFs Lorenzana, Esperon, Ano and the US government and joins them in a kill-all-enemies-of-the-State and martial law frenzy. What he constantly reveals during these episodes is his militarist framework in resolving the roots of the armed conflict in the country and his disinterest in pursuing just and lasting peace through social, economic and political reforms. 

And it is in these gut issues where Duterte has sorely failed. Has the quality of lives of poor Filipinos improved in the past year? Do the peasants benefit from the fruits of their toil on lands long denied them? Are workers free from the clutches of big companies preying on their time and labor? Is the promise of ending contractualization a mere election campaign gimmick? Isn’t Kadamay’s assertion of the poor people’s right to free, decent and accessible housing a most justified one, given the billions of funds lost to contractors and housing officials? Aren’t those new taxes more beneficial for the rich? As long as neoliberal policies exist and serve the oligarchs in the land, respect for people’s economic, social and political rights remains a distant aspiration. 

The thousands who marched yesterday and are fighting for their basic rights from Luzon to Mindanao, where martial law is imposed, have looked at Duterte straight in the eye and told him that the Filipino people will not be bullied and silenced. Beyond the hubris, rhetoric and the circus of lawmakers and officials yesterday in the halls of Congress, the continuing struggle of the Filipino people for a truly just and lasting peace and for progressive change is a most eloquent statement of the real State of the Nation. 


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.