Govt. gains, limitations, and detours: What Duterte said during his final SONA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26)— President Rodrigo Duterte took a look back at some of the government’s accomplishments under his term — while also admitting there’s more to be done — as he delivered his final State of the Nation Address on Monday at the Batasang Pambansa.

In his speech which lasted two hours and 45 minutes — the longest address recorded after the 1986 EDSA Revolution — the chief executive touched on a range of topics, including the war on drugs, insurgency, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some highlights of Duterte’s SONA:

War on drugs: A long way to go

One of Duterte’s campaign promises was to eradicate the drug problem in the country six months into his term. With less than a year left in his presidency, he admitted there is still a “long way to go” in the battle against illegal drugs.

"While we have made great strides in ending rebellion and insurgency in various parts of the country, we still have [a] long way in our fight against the proliferation of drugs," Duterte said.

The chief executive confessed he made the vow to swiftly eliminate drugs thinking his approach in Davao City while he was mayor would work. “I thought it was like in Davao — you can either coerce, intimidate or bribe them.”

You cannot stop corruption, unless…

Another vow Duterte made prior to his election was to rid the government of corruption.

But it wouldn’t be that easy, Duterte also said during his speech.

“Corruption is endemic in government. You cannot stop corruption, unless you overturn government completely," he said. "If I were the next president, if you think there is a need for you to change everybody in the system, then you declare martial law and fire everybody and allow the next generation to come in to work for government.”

Duterte likewise recalled going after Bureau of Immigration officials tagged in the controversial “pastillas” airport bribery scheme.

And for other corrupt officials, the president issued a new warning: “I will reach you.”

Duterte admin gains: Passage of priority measures, improved travel time

Despite these setbacks, Duterte lauded the passage of priority measures under his term. These include free tuition for state universities and colleges, Universal Healthcare, and the Freedom of Information bill.

RELATED: Duterte touts passage of FOI bill, but his wealth report stays a secret

He also boasted that it was only under his leadership that farmers gained back the multibillion-peso coco levy fund collected by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"We fulfilled our promise to coconut farmers. We returned the coconut levy fund to its rightful owners — the coconut farmers," Duterte said of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, which he signed in February.

Duterte also claimed that travelling and commuting improved in the last five years amid his administration's increased infrastructure spending.

While highlighting the passage of these policies, the President still appealed to Congress to act on the other important bills, including one that would create a center for disease control and a virology and vaccine institute in the country.

Script detours

Like his other speeches, Duterte made a few detours and off-script remarks during his SONA.

Two hours into his speech, he started talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, which he labeled an unexpected health crisis that hit his presidency. He then started stammering then touching his neck as if to check if he has a fever, one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

"Hindi na ako maka-pronounce nang mabuti, baka meron na ako. May ambulansya ba diyan? Mukhang iba na, I cannot pronounce the words. I hope this is not a symptomatic (sic)," he said.

[Translation: I cannot pronounce properly. Maybe I have it. Is there an ambulance here? This is different, I cannot pronounce the words. I hope this is not a symptom.]

Apart from cracking jokes, Duterte also deviated from his prepared speech to attack ABS-CBN anew.

This time, he claimed the media giant owes the government "billions" in taxes — despite the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commission already saying the network has been compliant with regulations.

‘Not my swan song’

Duterte admitted that the past five years of his presidency have been challenging. “But if there's one thing I could be proud of, it's that not once did I waver in doing the unpopular, even if it means upholding the greatest good,” he noted.

Despite this being his final SONA, Duterte said it would not be his “swan song,” as he vowed to push for the enactment of more essential policies and to help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.