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Fact-checking the 2021 SONA

FactRakers fact-checked several claims President Rodrigo Duterte made as he was delivering his sixth and final State of the Nation Address on Monday.

Below is a compilation of the fact checks that first appeared in FactRakers' Facebook page.

Duterte's SONA lasted two hours and 45 minutes, his longest address.


SONA 2021: Duterte complained he only receives a monthly salary of P219,000 and urged people not to become president.

FACT: Duterte gets a monthly salary of more than P400,000.

As president, he enjoys the highest salary grade -- Salary Grade 33 -- among government officials and employees. In 2021, the monthly compensation for Salary Grade 33 ranges from P403,620 to P415,728.

This is not the first time Duterte misstated his salary.


SONA 2021: Duterte attacked broadcast network ABS-CBN, saying it had cheated the government in “billions” in taxes.

FACT: The Bureau of Internal Revenue told Congress last year that ABS-CBN had been paying its taxes regularly and in a lawful manner.

The network, whose free-to-air stations were shuttered last year after its Congress refused to renew its franchise, paid P15 billion in taxes from 2016 to 2019, according to BIR.


SONA 2021: Duterte says he has not been to the United States in “10...20 years.”

FACT: Duterte said in July 2017 he will not visit the United States during or after his term, saying the country is “lousy.”

He previously said he was once denied a United States visa when he planned to visit a girlfriend in college.

Quoting a friend and associate of Duterte, a Wall Street Journal report said the US denied Duterte a visa and canceled the US work visa of his partner, Honeylet Avancena, in 2002 due to extrajudicial killings in Davao City when he was mayor. Avancena worked as a nurse in the US for four years.


SONA 2021: The government has pursued an "independent foreign policy."

FACT: At an economic forum in Beijing in October 2016, Duterte announced the government’s separation from the United States, “both in military and economics.”

He abrogated the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. but has twice suspended the abrogation.

Duterte has called China and President Xi Jinping a “good friend” that he can’t go to war with despite China's incursions in Philippine waters amid its refusal to honor the international arbitral ruling on the South China Sea favoring the Philippines.

Duterte has described the ruling “just a paper” on the one hand and as part of the international law “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon” on the other.


SONA 2021: Duterte said he instructed government officials to make Davao the last priority in infrastructure spending.

FACT: Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in September Mindanao is “at the front and center” of the government's Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

The government last year secured funding for at least two big-ticket projects in Davao: the second phase of the Davao City Bypass Construction project and Davao City Coast Road.

Davao City, where Duterte was once mayor, was also allocated P1.64 billion from the Barangay Development Fund of the National Task Force to End Communist Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a large chunk of which will go to road concreting projects.

Davao City received the largest amount among the 197 local government units chosen for the fund.


SONA 2021: “Those who destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you.”

FACT: Duterte has repeatedly issued this warning against those involved in the illegal drug trade, especially policemen, since he was declared president-elect in May 2016.

He has used this to justify his brutal war against drugs. Official figures place the number of deaths at 6,117.


SONA 2021: About 17,000 former communist rebels have surrendered to the government.

FACT: Task Force Balik-Loob reports that a total of 17,958 communist rebels returned to the government fold from July 2016 to May 2021.

The breakdown: 3,684 New People's Army regulars, 2,039 members of the Militia ng Bayan, 1,736 from underground mass organizations, 636 from Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad, and 7,074 communist mass supporters.

Created in 2018, the interagency task force supervises the government's reintegration efforts for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front and NPA, including their immediate family members.


SONA 2021: President Duterte addressed “Honeylet” as “his lovely wife.”

FACT: Cielito “Honeylet” Avaceña, 51, is not married to Duterte.

The businesswoman and former nurse is the president’s longtime partner or common-law wife, a relationship that dates back to 1996. They have a daughter Veronica.

Duterte’s 27-year marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman, 73, was annulled in 2000. They have three children: Paolo, the deputy House speaker; Sara, Davao City mayor; and Sebastian (Baste), Davao City vice mayor.


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