“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” – Henry Green, novelist.
The prevailing problems, the present priorities, and the prospective resolutions: sprinkle them with a spice of showbiz bits such as the congresswomen’s matching gowns.
We have been all familiar with this format as we listened to his 4th SONA last July 22, 2019.
Some key points, which were expected to be mentioned included his main agenda since he took office as President, corruption, the revival of some tourist spots to their former beauty, new telecommunication companies, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and tax reform.
But while these current issues remain as the main focus of the President for the past year, there is still a crucial need to scrutinize other concerns not mentioned in his SONA. That is, hunting for the missing jigsaw pieces that equally deserve a national platform also need to be voiced out and opened for discourse. These issues include the following:
1) the ongoing construction of the China-funded Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve in Sierra Madre
The President did mention his take on the issue on the West Philippine Sea but he didn’t say anything about another critical issue on the Kaliwa Dam construction, which, coincidentally, is funded by the Chinese government. Three critical consequences about this unstated issue arise:
- the tragic loss of the ancestral domain itself, which are also all home to a hundred endemic species that will be displaced as well;
- the displacement of the Agta-Dumagat-Remontado indigenous peoples; and
- the government transparency with regards to the agreement between the MWSS and the Export-Import Bank of China, which was not immediately disclosed to the tribal leaders and indigenous communities that will be directly affected by the dam construction.
2) the optional inclusion of Filipino and Panitikan subjects in the curriculum in the tertiary level
- The President did mention the rebirth of the mandatory ROTC in Grade 11 to ensure national security and strengthen nationalism. However, this seems to run opposite to the Supreme Court’s final ruling to make the two subjects—both of which equally aim to promote and strengthen nationalism—merely optional in the tertiary level; and
3) the support for public school teachers
- President Duterte did recognize DepEd Secretary Briones regarding the successful enrolment of over 20 million students for 2019-2020, but he did not mention her insensitive remarks about the “dramatic” incidents (and the problem) of how public school teachers use comfort rooms as makeshift faculty rooms.
These are only some of the “hidden” issues not raised during President’s SONA. He was right to say:
“I have identified the enemy who dumped us into this quagmire we are in. I have met the enemy face to face. And sadly, the enemy is us…”
Surprisingly, this statement is reminiscent of Heneral Luna’s statement when they were still battling for our freedom:
“May mas malaking kaaway tayo kaysa sa mga Amerikano: ang ating sarili.”
We have to start recognizing these enemies in us, face them, conquer, and live above them. Of course, the President and the government itself are no exception.