July 29, 2020 (9:42 PM)

10 min read


#SONA2020. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte renders his fifth State Of The Nation Address (SONA), asserting the push for death penalty accompanying the administration’s anti-crime campaign. Photo taken from Inquirer.net

After Pres. Rodrigo Duterte expressed the administration’s priority on life as reflected in the government’s COVID-19 interventions, he proposed for the passage of reviving death penalty by lethal injection for crimes under Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. 

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27, Duterte emphasized that the government initiatives for the pandemic, although “far from perfect,” were able to prevent 1.3 to 3.5 million infections more.

“Buhay muna bago lahat,” the President said.

However, on the latter part of his speech, Duterte asked for the “swift passage” of death penalty as part of the administration’s anti-crime campaign which was not initially welcomed by the Congress’ applause until he took notice of it.

“Ayaw kong lalaruan ang Pilipino. Do not do it in my country because I will really kill you. That is a commitment,” he said, pertaining to the chain effects of drugs in Filipino families.

He also promised that runaway crimes such as robbery and rape will not be a problem even amid the pandemic.

“Do not ever go back to your old ways. Maghanap na lang kayo ng anong trabaho diyan. Magtiis kayo,” he said, addressing the criminals.

Duterte also criticized oligarchs who control public services such as internet connectivity, water, electricity and the media, mentioning Frank Drilon who voted for granting ABS-CBN its franchise renewal and said that oligarchy is not bad.

“My countrymen, it is sad that while government focuses its attention and resources to battle the coronavirus, there are those who take advantage of a pre-occupied government. One of them is Senator Frank Drilon,” he said, pointing out Lopez’s use of media channels in disputes with political figures.

Aside from that, he also mentioned that he pleaded Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow the Philippines to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine in case China will discover it; until then, face-to-face teaching or learning is prohibited.

“About two weeks ago, I seemed to have said that I would allow the face-to-face classes to resume but we were talking actually of January because my thinking is that by September, we would have the vaccine… Education that is delayed can be recovered,” he stressed, suggesting the use of online learning, modular learning, and television and radio based broadcast instead.

Although he assured that the Philippines will continue to work with its international partners for peace and progress while imposing its sovereignty and independent foreign policy, he also made it clear that the dispute on the West Philippine Sea favors China due to its artillery and capacity to engage in war.

“China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms; we do not have it. So, it is simple as that. They are in possession of the property,” he said, emphasizing his inutility on the matter.

On the other hand, he expressed that the United States’ plan on rebuilding its base in Subic in this time will only instigate another war.

He also asked the people to “reinvigorate the deep-seated Filipino spirit of pakisama and malasakit” as opening the economy in the same way before the pandemic happened will be detrimental.

“As a government worker, I am addressing each and every Filipino that the government cannot do this without your help… I do hope that this spirit of solidarity and unity will serve as the drumbeat to which we shall march in unison in our quest for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Governments need to have the support and cooperation of the people if it is to succeed in battling the cause of that crisis,” he said.

He also repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the frontliners who “made possible the steady supply of food, water, and basic utilities [to] our households and the provision of basic social services and financial assistance to our people.”

“You showed us kindness and selflessness. You gave us strength. You risked your own lives to serve the greater good in keeping with the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan,” he said.

COVID-19 initiatives

Duterte boasted 93 accredited testing laboratories nationwide and the timely relevance of the Malasakit Centers Act which ensures medical services for the less privileged.

“The Malasakit Centers Act has proven to be of great help to our less fortunate citizens needing medical services through a one-stop platform in government hospitals,” he added, commending the initiative of Sen. Bong Go which resulted to the country’s 75 Malasakit Centers.

The administration is also aiming to perform 1.4 million tests by July 31 and a rapid return of results of 48 to 72 hours.

He also mentioned the imposed ceilings on the retail prices, Php 205 billion allotment of the Social Amelioration Program, COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program which provided financial assistance to OFWs abroad and repatriated, implementation of the TUPAD Project which gave indigent senior citizens financial assistance for the first semester of this year.

On the other hand, the DTI also helped micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) by providing zero-interest loans through the Php 1 billion COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises Program, aiming to recover the MSME’s losses due to the pandemic.

A plan to increase the number of schools with information and communications technology equipment is also at work in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) through the Public Education Network, connecting all public schools and DepEd offices.

Public health

He also mentioned the continuous hiring and deployment of health professionals to respond to the need for a stronger health workforce in the margins, improving the Barangay Health Stations, Rural Health Units, and other healthcare facilities.

He also emphasized the need to provide security and peace interventions in the peripheries through the participation of Armed Forces of the Philippines and implementation of the Barangay Development Program.

“We have made significant strides in the past four years, but we need the support of local government leaders. We need your help to implement the Barangay Development Program,” he said.

He also found the passing of the Nursing Education Act, establishment of the Medical Reserve Corps, and creation of the National Disease Prevention and Management Authority relevant in case of future outbreak.

“In the long term, we are looking into the creation of the National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to better prepare for pandemics, protect lives, and allow development to proceed even in the worst of times. We are counting on the full support of Congress for this critically important endeavor,” he said.

Economic plans and achievements

Focusing on economic recovery, Duterte also called the Congress to hasten the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, and Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act.

The government also promised to help businesses, especially (MSMEs) by providing better assistance and services.

“I also enjoin the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and banks operating in the country to provide regulatory relief for our MSMEs and allow loan payment extensions, without incurring penalties and charges,” he said.

With the goal to refocus economic and social welfare programs to the countryside, he directed agencies to strengthen special economic zones outside Metro Manila, and institutionalize the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program.

e-Commerce and e-Governance

Meanwhile, he prompted the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to empower consumer rights especially in the e-commerce industry by safeguarding the country’s cyberspace through data protection and privacy laws.

“We need to build trust and confidence in online transactions, stronger protection for online consumers and enabling measures for online businesses is needed through the enactment of an Internet Transactions Act,” he said.

He also emphasized the role of the government in transitioning towards online system of governing.

“Panahon na para mawala na ang pila para mapagsilbihan ang gobyerno nang walang kahirapan para sa tao,” he said.

He also said that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through one of its flagship programs Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program, helps businesses especially MSMEs in transitioning to online operations.

OFW and labor programs

He also asked the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to focus on reequipping Overseas Filipino Workers to find employment in the Philippines, Commission on Higher Education to provide scholarship programs for qualified OFW’s dependents, Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade Industry to help rebuild OFW’s livelihood, and Landbank and other government financial institutions to provide low-interest loans to OFWs.

In line with addressing the concerns of OFWs and their families., he also urged the Congress to pass a law creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos.

“Kawawa kasi itong ating mga overseas. If it’s only an office there in the Labor department they are overworked or for whatever reason, their needs, their pleas are not really attended to with dispatch and with care,” he said.

He also called for the amendment of the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016 which requires professionals to undergo seminars considering the current pandemic.

Telecommunications and media

He also directed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña, DICT Gregorio Honasan, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, Budget and Management Secretary Wendel Eliot Avisado, and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to formulate programs and mechanisms guaranteeing that the government will be able to maximize the use of TV frequencies through PTV4’s facilities. 

“For the remaining two years of my term, all that is good that belongs to government, whether it be the airwaves, whether it be the lines, or whatever that is good for the people, will belong to the government and it should be government who should be given the first option to utilize them. Ang sobra, kanila [media outlets],” he said.

He also blasted the telecommunication companies Smart Communications and Globe Telecom for their “half deals, half-cooked transactions, lousy service” demanding an improvement of their services before December.

“If it’s just a question of added capitalization or the infusion of money, go and look for it. Maghanap kayo because if you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone at kukunin ko ‘yan, i-expropriate ko sa gobyerno,” he said.

Security and safety

He also encouraged the modernization of the Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Immigration and emphasized the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience.

“Our people’s safety cannot be delegated to a council or commission. Equally important is the establishment of evacuation centers in every city, province and municipality throughout the country,” he said.

He also asked the Congress to prioritize adjusting the pension system of newly hired uniformed employees so that raising the military budget in the future will not endanger the military’s pension and benefits.

He also encouraged the Congress again to pass the National Housing Development Bill and the Rental Housing Subsidy Bill to allow Filipinos “regardless of social status, to live in decent homes.”

Aside from that, he also said that the martial law in Mindanao “ended without abuses by the civilian sector, by the police, by the military” on contrary with the concerns of other sectors.

Agricultural sector

Aside from that, he also stressed the need for the enact the National Land Use Act, and the Boracay Island Development Authority to protect the environment and equitable distribution of natural resources.

Meanwhile, he also emphasized the country’s economic dependency on a strong agricultural industry which will be further strengthened through the passing of the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund.

“We must utilize the coconut — ito, isa — we must utilize the [coco levy funds] for the welfare our coconut farmers and the development of our coconut industry… Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka pagka hindi mawawala ‘yang pera, bilyon ‘yan,” he said.

He also added that the passage of the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act and the Plant, Plant, Plant Program will be beneficial for the agriculture and fisheries sector with its Php 66-billion stimulus package.

He also mentioned the reemergence of Boracay Island’s “former glory” due to the implemented rehabilitation. 

The SONA lasted an hour and forty minutes.

End the silence of the gagged!

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