He said, they said: The ‘state of the nation’ according to Marcos, media

“IN MY heart, I know that the state of the nation is sound and is improving. Dumating na po ang bagong Pilipinas (The new Philippines has arrived.)”

This was how President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. capped his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) last July 24. Except for the new slogan for his brand of government, his claim that “the state of the nation is sound” is a mere repetition of his first Sona delivered merely a month into his presidency.

A full year later, the country’s problems Marcos inherited remain. Prices of goods continue to increase, violence in its many forms still rages across the country, and the threat of the climate crisis is felt more profoundly.

From June 28 to July 24, CMFR reviewed the coverage of primetime news programs of four TV channels (ABS-CBN, CNN Philippines, GMA-7, and TV5) and six Manila-based broadsheets (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Daily Tribune, Manila Times, and Manila Standard). TV’s online counterparts as well as online news outlets Rappler, Philstar.com, Inquirer.net, Bulatlat, Altermidya, VERA Files, and BusinessWorld Online were also monitored.

TV Patrol aired reports on Marcos’ one year in office starting June 27; Frontline Pilipinas and CNN Philippines’ News Night on June 30, and GMA Integrated News’ 24 Oras on July 17. Out of all broadcast media’s pre-Sona assessments, CNN Philippines and GMA Integrated News were the most consistent in TV, while online media did well to publish in-depth reports. Common themes include agriculture, economy, inflation, and foreign relations.

Meanwhile, the broadsheets did not produce reports specifically labeled as part of any pre-Sona series. But CMFR noted the following for its focus on areas and sectors of public interest: Inquirer’s July 20 follow-up on the Mindoro oil spill and the Star’s story on July 23 about the high number of dropouts for basic, secondary and tertiary education.

The Daily Tribune’s 23-part series titled “Tribune, Marcos share good gov’t journey” stood out as an obvious and unapologetic effort to drum up the president’s performance. Running from July 3 to 24, the stories did not only recall Marcos’ statements or actions as president but also his political views and actions in the past, that the Tribune had picked up through the years. Some of the pieces went way back to Marcos’s time as senator, recalling his vote against the impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona and his visit to Tacloban to assist Typhoon Yolanda survivors.   

Overall, media’s pre-Sona reports did more to communicate to the Filipino public the true state of the nation. Coverage provided details that were found to be lacking in the president’s speech and consulted sources that gave a more complete picture of on-the-ground realities. Rather than tout accomplishments, the reports held Marcos to account for the promises he made in the first Sona.

CMFR provides the record of media’s notable coverage on the following issues and what Marcos said in his second Sona:


SONA: The concurrent agriculture secretary named boosting local agricultural production as the administration’s primary aim. Among the achievements Marcos claimed in his speech were the 2.2 percent growth in the agricultural sector, distribution of seeds and machinery, 600 kilometers worth of new farm-to-market roads, distribution of land titles to farmers, moratorium on payments from agrarian reform beneficiaries under Executive Order No. 4, and the passage into law of the Agrarian Emancipation Act, which wrote off PHP57 billion in farmers’ debts. Marcos also promised to go after agricultural smugglers, announcing in Filipino that their days are numbered. He claimed the Kadiwa stores , a recycled program of his late father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., as an achievement, saying the stores were “helpful” in linking farmers and consumers and benefitted 1.8 million families. He announced further expansion of the program.  

Media’s Pre-Sona assessment: BusinessWorld cited economists who noted the agriculture department’s “Band-Aid solutions,” such as temporarily eased import restrictions and Kadiwa stores, in addressing food security issues. The assessment of CNN Philippines’ News Night included interviews with farmer recipients of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, who claimed that the aid was inadequate; and that  some farmers still resort to loans to continue production.

Economics professor Leonardo Lanzona on VERA Files raised concerns on Kadiwa “creating barriers to the smaller stores” while Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas official Bruce Tolentino said that “it is wasteful as long-term intervention.”

In praising Kadiwa stores for offering some commodities at lower prices, Marcos neglected to mention his unfulfilled promise of bringing down the price of rice to PHP20 per kilo. In past speeches, Marcos said rice is sold at PHP25 per kilo in Kadiwa stores. Anthony Lawrence Borja, DLSU political science professor, said to Philstar.com that Marcos’s supporters can “easily brush off” his promise of lowering rice prices while projecting the expansion of the Kadiwa program.

Build Better More

SONA: Branded as an expansion of his predecessor’s flagship infrastructure program, Marcos’s “Build Better More” is budgeted at PHP8.3 trillion for 194 projects, 123 of which are new. Marcos also announced that the road network, airport, seaport, and rail projects serve the purpose of “economic efficiency,” to move goods and services at reduced costs and time.

Media’s Pre-Sona assessment: CNN Philippines’ New Day reported the series of transport challenges faced by the Marcos administration, such as the airport mess, railway connectivity, and higher toll costs, among others. The report noted that the government aims for public-private partnerships but this might entail an increase in fares and strain commuters’ budget. TV Patrol also noted transportation issues such as the inadequate supply of license plates, jeepney modernization, and fuel price increases, among others. Inquirer.net cited transport advocate Move As One Coalition’s concern over the delay in the implementation of the Active Transport Infrastructure Improvement Project by the Department of Transport and Department of Public Works and Highways. This project to improve safety and convenience for pedestrians along walkways in Edsa.


SONA: Admitting that inflation was the “biggest problem” encountered in post-pandemic economic recovery, Marcos softened the statement by saying that inflation is easing up and “moving in the right direction,” in alignment with projections by the BSP. Marcos trumpeted economic progress through numbers, such as the World Bank’s projected 6 percent growth rate and the 7.6 percent growth rate recorded in 2022. He claimed that the country remains “among the fastest-growing economies” in Asia and globally.

Media’s Pre-Sona Assessment: CNN Philippines highlighted the struggle of Filipino workers who, said labor lawyer Luke Espiritu, receive “starvation wages.” The report cited economist Miguel Chanco who recalled the administration’s slow response to curb the rising prices of food and other commodities, while noting how the Russia-Ukraine war had partly driven the global oil crisis.

ABS-CBN News Online reviewed the country’s economic recovery following the ease of COVID-19 mobility restrictions, which allowed onsite work and growth in tourism. Economist Emmanuel de Dios described Marcos’ inflation response as “mishandled,” compared to neighboring countries. The report also discussed the price surge of sugar and onions, the country’s outstanding debt, the government’s need for higher revenue, and workers’ difficulty in landing jobs. TV Patrol issued several reports, linking inflation, wages, and poverty and making sure to gather genuine insight from the general public, lawmakers, and experts rather than rely on government numbers alone. Citizens lamented the soaring prices of basic commodities and the stagnating wages that made it difficult to cope with daily needs.

24 Oras took a similar approach. But economist Randy Tuaño, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, stressed that the government could shift its focus from boosting the country’s per capita income and gross domestic product to improving access to basic services that are crucial for Filipinos striving for economic security. 

Inquirer.net recalled Marcos’s first Sona and cited data from surveys and experts in comparing the country’s economic situation under Duterte and Marcos Jr.’s term, particularly on Filipinos’ quality of life, involuntary hunger, and employment. Sonny Africa, economist and executive director of Ibon Foundation, argued that the economic gains had not been felt by ordinary Filipinos and that government’s lack of social services worsened this crisis.


SONA: Marcos emphasized that the administration is keeping climate change adaptation on the agenda. The Philippines, he said, is “sometimes over-prepared” for natural disasters and calamities.” In particular, he claimed the country is readying for El Niño and water security “deserves a special focus.” Marcos also listed the improvement of evacuation centers.

Meanwhile, he mentioned reducing carbon footprint and protecting forests, but did not include concrete plans. He also failed to mention one of the biggest catastrophes under his administration — the oil spill in Mindoro — or the continuing attacks against environmental defenders.

Media’s Pre-Sona Assessment: Inquirer.net explained the impact of El Niño and its direct relation to the climate crisis and other problems like water shortage. Rappler closely looked into the Oriental Mindoro oil spill that left fisherfolk suffering “worse than the COVID-19 lockdown” for months. Altermidya and Philstar.com cited environmental groups which slammed Marcos’s silence on reclamation, the oil spill in Mindoro, the “escalating” attacks against environmental defenders, and the environmental conflicts of development projects with indigenous lands. 

Foreign Policy, Trips

SONA: Marcos was tight-lipped on issues like the West Philippine Sea (WPS) tensions and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca). He only touted an estimated US$71 billion or PHP3.9 trillion worth of investments from his “economic missions” abroad.

Media’s Pre-Sona Assessment: TV5’s Frontline Tonight examined Marcos’s “neutral” stance on foreign relations, in particular his position on the WPS dispute with China and Edca with the United States. GMA Integrated News’ 24 Oras and Inquirer.net provided the record of incidents of harassment in Philippine waters, as well as cited sources who explained the Hague ruling in 2016 that favored the Philippines.
Providing a closer perspective, Altermidya interviewed residents near Edca sites who said they had not been consulted and that they continue to worry for their safety.

Human Rights

SONA: Marcos said that the police and military are being “strengthened and modernized” to maintain peace and order. He also said that he supports the justice system to protect constitutional rights. On the drug war, he maintained that it has a “new face” geared toward “community-based treatment.” But he did not mention the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) July 18 decision to resume its probe on former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “drug war.” He also did not mention the case of former Senator Leila de Lima, attacks against local officials, enforced disappearances, and peace talks, among others.

Media’s Pre-Sona Assessment: Altermidya provided the full picture of worsening human rights violations under Marcos – 342 drug-related killings, 60 extrajudicial killings, 78 illegal arrests, and bombings, indiscriminate firing, and threats. CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Ngayon recalled that Marcos’s first Sona was “silent” on peace and order, and supplied the record of the continuation of violence against local officials. Apart from officials, Rappler provided the timeline of Marcos’s war on drugs, pointing to its lack of transparency coupled with the hundreds of killings recorded. Meanwhile, Bulatlat captured the “everyday struggle” of the families left behind by the victims of enforced disappearances, despite existing laws that should have protected them.


SONA: Marcos expressed his “hope and optimism” on the “enormous pool” of officials serving the government. He added that it is up to them to provide “good leadership and guidance.” He touted increased efficiency after government efforts combined digitalization and streamlining of government services. Marcos cited digitalization of internal government processes and public services as a way to combat graft and corruption.

Media’s Pre-Sona Assessment: Bulatlat and ABS-CBN News Online cited civil society organizations who described Marcos’s appointment of officials based on “patronage over competence,” particularly the controversial appointment of Larry Gadon as “anti-poverty czar.” ABS-CBN News Online and One News also interviewed University of the Philippines professors Maria Fe Mendoza and Jaime Naval, respectively, who both underscored the non-appointment of an agriculture secretary, early resignations in the Marcos cabinet, and the late appointment of a health secretary.

VERA Files tracked Marcos’s promises, noting he had seven promises fulfilled, 63 in progress, three stalled, and one failed. TV5’s Frontline Tonight noted the digitalization of government services to address corruption. Meanwhile, 24 Oras pointed to Marcos’s first executive order abolishing the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and his unfulfilled promise to strengthen the Presidential Commission on Good Government. 

CMFR cheers media’s independent evaluation of the state of the nation!