Duterte’s 5th SONA draws mixed reactions from Senate members

Duterte’s 5th SONA draws mixed reactions from Senate members

MANILA – Several senators on Tuesday welcomed and expressed various views on President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) which he delivered Monday at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Duterte delivered an “inspiring” SONA that articulated the government’s plans, goals and vision for a better future for Filipinos despite the challenges the country is facing brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“The President was able to clearly lay down measures in his speech that will strengthen the fight against the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, address the immediate needs of the people to overcome the hardships, and sustain the gains of the administration in fulfilling its promise of a comfortable life for all,” said Go, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health.

Duterte, he said, emphasized how important it is for Filipinos to stay united in the spirit of “bayanihan” (cooperation) and “malasakit sa kapwa tao” (concern for fellowmen) “in order for us to achieve our goals and lead our country towards a ‘better normal’ and better quality of life despite the challenges that we are currently facing”.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian welcomed Duterte’s directives on various measures to push forward the economic recovery, saying the economic agenda set by Duterte is “quite comprehensive”.

“It is embodied in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) which is supported and certified as urgent by the President. The Bayanihan 2 will supplement funds for recovery and response against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

The vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs agreed with Duterte’s key economic legislative measures: the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act, which cuts the corporate income tax to 25 percent from the current 30 percent; and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act that will assist banks and other financial institutions in managing their non-performing assets (NPAs).

He also commended the President’s support for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) by providing capitalization for their business operations, and for providing loans and assisting displaced Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in entrepreneurship projects.

“The real challenge, however, is operationalizing these plans. Putting all of these into action at the least possible time is the most essential objective that we need to accomplish now. The people need to see these implemented as fast as the government can,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian urged his fellow lawmakers to set aside politics for the immediate passage of the measures endorsed by the President.

With Covid-19 infecting more than 80,000 Filipinos now, Gatchalian emphasized that this is the best opportune time for everyone to set aside political differences and work towards a common goal which is beneficial to all Filipinos.

On the other hand, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto believed that Duterte’s penultimate SONA was not re-assuring, hopeful, and allegedly divisive.

He said that while he supports the Bayanihan 2 and agrees with investments in agriculture, the President failed to give much detail on how to win the war against the pandemic.

“I think the President economized in spelling out his anti-pandemic program, which is what Filipinos were expecting to hear more from him. He could have made it detailed and nuanced, in a language that is comforting, assuring and emphatic,” he said.

Recto said Duterte should have also given marching orders to his men, especially those who are lagging behind in delivering programs to the people.

“Oftentimes, excellent visions are canceled by poor execution. In this regard, Cabinet or sub-Cabinet changes should be explored, so that promises made can be fulfilled. In the battle for national survival, we need the best men up the front,” he said.

But for Senator Imee Marcos, hammering up an elaborate and all- encompassing economic plan is up to lawmakers and the country’s economic managers, not the President.

“To me however, it is our job, both the economic managers and the legislature, to hammer together the details of effective social protection, genuine healthcare modernization and quick and universal economic recovery,” she said.

Marcos said Duterte declared in his SONA the government’s readiness to lead the way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In every crisis there is indeed an opportunity – and the opportunity for launching at last a truly transformational agenda is here. To be rid of corruption in government, of crime, and most of all the stranglehold of an ancient oligarchy. We have heard his clarion call, let’s get to work and save our country,” Marcos said.

Death Penalty

Marcos also expressed support to Duterte’s call for the reimposition of the death penalty for drug-related heinous crimes and capital offenses.

“I’m for the death penalty because the nature of the time has changed… Today, what we see in the international landscape are vast syndicates of multi-national corporations involved in drugs, terrorism, gun-running, human trafficking, and it’s very obvious that their tentacles extend from the police, the justice system, and even narco-politicians, so kailangan ang (we need) death penalty as a deterrent,” she said.

She appealed to her colleagues, especially to those who oppose the death penalty, to at least start the debates and hear all sides of the arguments.

“That’s the only time that we can judge. To hear everyone and everything. That’s the only time we can make a fair judgment. If we continue to keep it in the back burner and refuse to hear it, I think we will not be doing our jobs,” Marcos said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said he also supports the reimposition of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.

“Having served as a law enforcer in my previous life I have good enough basis to believe that the reimposition of the death penalty is a deterrent to crime and an encouragement for victims to come forward and seek justice. Just like the Anti- Terrorism Act of 2020, timing is of no moment when we are dealing with heinous crimes and crimes against humanity,” the former chief of the Philippine National Police said.

Another former PNP chief-turned lawmaker also voiced his support for the death penalty.

“I am happy that he (Duterte) appealed to Congress for the passage of the death penalty law for drug trafficking because my death penalty bill has been languishing at the referred committee for one year already without actions taken,” Senator Ronald Dela Rosa said. (PNA)

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