[OPINION] Untangling Duterte’s SONA

I ACTUALLY survived reading the online transcription of the recent SONA delivered by President Rodrigo Duterte before a joint session of Congress last July 27.  I noted that it was remarkably substantive.  Too bad, the Malacanang speech writers mixed up the key points, in  a rambling and disjointed speech, much like pinakbet or chop suey. At any rate, here is my attempt to reshuffle and digest the SONA.  With due respect, for his next SONA, the president may want to hire a new team of speech writers.

We live in a troubled time (sic). Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snuffed (sic) by a pandemic virulent virus (sic). No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were (sic) exempt from the onslaught of this deadly disease. But let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner.

The dealers and purveyors of illegal drugs, hiding in the shadow of COVID-19, have stepped up their activities.

Concomitantly, didiretso rin itong mga criminal na rarami at crimes will increase. But let me assure you, for as long as I am President, there can never be a runaway crime in any of our cities.  I reiterate the swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty [applause] by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous [Drugs] Act of 2002.

The corrupt, the grafters and the influence peddlers also take advantage of the fear and confusion that the coronavirus generates.

To open up the economy to pre-Covid-19 levels at this time is not an option because whatever good it can produce will only be gobbled up, or be outweighed, by the bad it will generate…We are not ready and therefore we will not gamble with the lives and health of the people.

We must implement online learning, modular learning, and TV- and radio-based broadcast, which students coming from different backgrounds can avail…we plan to increase the number of schools with ICT equipment in the coming months. The DepEd and the DICT are building up the Public Education Network or PEN that will connect all public schools and DepEd offices nationwide…

In 2021, we aim to increase access to healthcare services by continuously hiring and deploying more than 20,000 health professionals…We will implement projects to establish and improve Barangay Health Stations, Rural Health Units, and other healthcare facilities.

We received a BBB plus credit rating despite a sea of credit rating downgrades and negative outlook revisions worldwide. [applause] The Japan Credit Rating Agency upgraded us from BBB plus to A minus last month. Meanwhile, Moody’s has affirmed and maintained the country’s ratings at B2 — Baa2 rather…Our fiscal position is strong, our economic and fiscal management prudent and our banking system robust.

We have accomplished significant infrastructure projects under the Build Build Build Program…We issued last year Executive Order No. 100 establishing the Diversity and Inclusion Program as a national program of the Government.

Part of our efforts to uphold human rights is protection of the rights of children and the right against discrimination. Early last year, I signed Executive Order No. 92 creating the National Council Against Child Labor.

Over 4.3 million poor families benefited from the Pantawid Pamilya; over 9.2 million beneficiaries received subsidies under the Unconditional Cash Transfer program; we also made available [free] tertiary education and universal health care. Public utility drivers were given assistance through the Pantawid Pasada Program.

The Salary Standardization Law of 2019 increases the salary of civilian government workers.

Under the Social Amelioration Program, we allotted [PhP205 billion] for poor and low-income households who were affected during this pandemic — who thrive on a “no-work, no-pay” arrangement.

To our business community and the general public, we assure you that the landmark Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act has been gaining momentum. We are closer to eliminating overregulation in government services. Frontline processes, including consular services, processing of building and… We came up with the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program. We extended financial assistance to over 650,000 affected individuals in the formal sector, 110,000 OFWs abroad, and almost 83,000 repatriated OFWs. We also provided temporary wage employment [opportunities] to displaced marginalized workers through the TUPAD Project. Our indigent senior citizens were also provided with a stipend for the [first] semester of the current year…the Office of the President worked closely with Congress for the quick passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act…

I likewise issued Executive Order No. 104, which imposed ceilings on the retail prices of at least 133 drugs and medicines, and directed a continuous review of the retail prices of others.

We must facilitate the country’s economic recovery. I call on Congress to fast-track the passage of proposed measures such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act. [applause] … The Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act will set up mechanisms allowing banks and other financial institutions to dispose of and transfer non-performing assets and loans to asset management companies similar to Special Purpose Vehicles. ..The [DPWH] has resumed the construction of the North Luzon Expressway Harbor Link, the NLEX-SLEX Connector, the Cavite-Laguna Expressway, the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, the R-1 Bridge Project, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway Project, and the Subic Freeport Expressway Project, to name a few…The TESDA launched an online mode of livelihood and skills training…I ask the TESDA to come up with special training programs to retool our OFWs so they can find employment opportunities here at home. I am also calling on the CHED for scholarship programs for the qualified dependents of our OFWs. I direct the Department of Agriculture and DTI to come up with agri-business and entrepreneurship projects to help displaced OFWs rebuild their livelihood. Further, I ask the LANDBANK and other government financial institutions to continue providing low-interest loans to our OFWs…

Nananawagan po ako sa ating mga lessors – nananawagan po ako sa ating mga lessors: malasakit at Bayanihan po sana ang pairalin natin ngayon…Now, it’s time to be fair and compassionate. Come up with amenable arrangement with your tenants. Huwag po natin silang ipagtabuyan, tanggalan ng tubig, kuryente, at bubong. Commercial establishments are requested to give grace periods [or] allow deferment of payments, especially for MSMEs that were forced to close down during the quarantine period. Let us help them recover. [applause]..The DTI, through the Small Business Corporation, set up the PhP1-billion COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES Program to provide zero-interest loans for MSMEs affected by the pandemic. As of July 10, 2020, over 2,600 loan applications worth [PhP182.5 million] have been approved…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. [applause] ..

In the same manner, the tourism and recreation industries, which are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, count on our full support.

I appreciate the law establishing the National Academy of Sports. We can now give our deserving student-athletes the training and support they need to excel in their chosen field of endeavors.

The DoST offers its Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program to enable businesses to access training that will help them transition to online and contactless operations.

Panahon na para mawala [applause] na ang pila para mapagsilbihan ang gobyerno nang walang kahirapan para sa tao. The DILG, DBM, and the ARTA, along with all agencies and instrumentalities of government, are hereby directed to make [all] possible services available online. We need to adjust to and adopt a paper-less type business and work performance…and cut or minimize red tape.

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…I’ll be straight, iyong Smart pati itong Globe, ilang taon na ito, at ang sagot palagi sa akin, “the party cannot be reached.” .. The next two years will be spent improving the telecommunications of this country without you. I will find a way. I will talk to Congress and find a way how to do it. [applause]

I issued Administrative Order No. 18, directing concerned agencies to strengthen the development of Special Economic Zones in areas outside Metro Manila. I also issued Executive Order No. 114 to institutionalize the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program.

I welcome the passage of the law postponing the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections.

[But] we [still] need to address internal security. We are pursuing a whole-of-nation approach to bring peace and order and development in the countryside. We need to provide interventions and implement the Barangay Development Program. ..

Certain sectors expressed concerns when I declared martial law in Mindanao and its extension three times. But 2019 ended without my office requesting any further extension.

I strongly urge Congress to pass a law establishing the Department of Overseas Filipinos [focused] solely on addressing the concerns of Filipinos abroad and their families.

Owning safe, decent and affordable housing is every Filipino’s dream. But the housing market remains inaccessible to most of our countrymen. I renew my call for Congress to pass the National Housing Development bill and the Rental Housing Subsidy bill.

I also call on Congress to amend Republic Act No. 10912 [or] the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016. In this time of great pandemic and forthcoming reconstruction, requiring our professionals to undergo seminars is burdensome and not realistic…May mga profession na they would require — I think it’s the nurses — they would require them to come to Manila to retrain and — for another round of expenses. Itong mga seminar-seminar na ito dapat mahinto….Now is the time to pass the Advanced Nursing — iyan ho — Nursing Education Act and the law instituting the Medical Reserve Corps.

COVID-19 will not only be the last pandemic. We need to create a National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to better respond to future outbreaks.

I call on Congress to prioritize the passage of a law for the Unified System of Separation, Retirement and Pension of the Military and Uniformed Personnel without however diminishing the benefits that our uniformed personnel are entitled to under existing laws. [applause].

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 (ITA). [applause].

Major economic activities take place in a borderless environment with meager regulatory controls. They expose consumers to various risks related to security, data privacy, and misrepresentation. …We must run after online scammers and those undermining the people’s trust in online transactions.

I cannot stress enough the importance of agriculture. The growth of our economy depends on a robust agricultural sector…I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund…I am also requesting Congress to pass the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act. We aim to provide adequate, accessible and affordable food for every Filipino [family] through the Plant, Plant, Plant Program. [applause] After the Build, Build, Build…This P66-billion agricultural stimulus package will help the agriculture and fisheries sector recover. [applause]

Within ASEAN and beyond, the Philippines will continue to work with partners to address global perils and ramp up cooperation to secure for our peoples, greater peace, progress and prosperity…Alam mo, I read a little over three weeks or last month na the Americans would — intends to go back to Subic…I have nothing against America, I have nothing against China but if you put bases here, you will double the spectacle of a most destructive thing just like Manila during the Second World War –Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim about nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea. Alam mo, unless we are prepared to go to war, I would suggest that we better just call off and treat this, I said, with diplomatic endeavors. China is claiming it. We are claiming it. China has the arms, we do not have it. So, it is simple as that…So what can we do? We have to go to war and I cannot afford it…. And I’m willing to admit it. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Wala akong magawa.

Great wealth enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage. Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who used their media outlets in their battles with political figures. I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 election.

Senator Frank Drilon… In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned among others that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son. This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs.

The oligarchy that exists in this country is the oligarchy that existed during the Spanish time…This is the oligarchy that controls the Philippines by what? By taking control of the water and the electricity and power.

Thank you. I am through. (gregmacabenta@hotmail.com)

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