SONA FROM THE HEART
True to form, the campaign against illegal drugs and federalism were among the issues emphasized by President Rodrigo Duterte during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
But what some local government executives expected the President to include were not mentioned.
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale said she was actually expecting Duterte to reveal the names of local mayors allegedly involved in illegal drugs or were under the payroll of drug lords.
She said perhaps the President didn’t find the SONA as the appropriate forum for his revelations.
Cebu City Councilor Jose Daluz III had earlier said Duterte should name the mayors linked to drugs in a different forum and instead discuss concrete and doable programs.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella said he had really expected the president to name names but he wasn’t disturbed because the SONA was “comprehensive.”
Most of the local government officials thought the President’s SONA was sincere, straightforward, comprehensive and had a clear action plan on the issues that mattered most to him.
“He was really straightforward. He’s really coming out strong. Maybe he’s really the person we’ve been needing all this time,” Magpale told reporters.
“I’m just happy there were no more curses,” she added.
Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing said he was happy with Duterte’s SONA, adding that “Mandaue City will do its part to realize the vision of the President of a better country for every Filipino.”
Labella, meanwhile, said he was impressed with the president’s speech and felt his passion in his campaign against illegal drugs and corruption.
He also praised Duterte’s statement to stop finger pointing.
“Let us stop vindictiveness and I hope that all our leaders will follow his thrust and his mind set to ‘wad-on ang panimalos ug ang pagpanggukod’ (eradicate revenge and running after political foes),” said Labella.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña praised Duterte’s use of English.
“I like how the President is delivering his SONA in English. It shows no favor to a particular group, makes the message more accessible to other countries and demonstrates to them that the Philippines is willing to be a part of the global community in a bigger way,” Osmeña posted on Facebook.
Rep. Raul del Mar said the president’s speech was comprehensive and inspiring.
“He outlined the many ills plaguing the country and his proposed solutions. Important in his undertaking is to implement the necessary measures immediately,” he said.
No finger pointing
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte will be remembered for not pointing fingers at his predecessors as he laid down his government’s plan for the next six years and vowed to uphold a clean leadership.
“We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back. Finger pointing is not the way, that is why I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past,” Duterte said during his opening message on Monday as he addressed both Houses of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
But the President vowed to punish crooked government officials and those who make the life of Filipinos hard.
“Those who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished. They will have their day in court,” he said.
“I assure you, this will be a clean government,” the President said.
Vice Gov. Magpale agreed with the President’s thrust to eradicate corruption, saying, “He had a firm warning for local officials against corruption. He also had a message for everybody. I’m all for it. We should stop graft and corruption up to the lowest level.”
True to his campaign promise, Duterte said he would be no letup in the government’s fight against illegal drugs.
“There will be no letup in this campaign against illegal drugs. We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier or the last pusher is put behind bars or below the ground if they so wish,” the President said.
In Cebu, Police Regional Director, Chief Supt. Noli Taliño vowed to do their best to address the spread of illegal drugs.
“We were given marching orders by the President and the PNP Chief. Now is the best time to fight illegal drugs because we have the full support of the President,” he said in an interview.
He urged the police, local government officials and the different agencies to double and triple their efforts at combating the drug menace and corruption in government.
Since Duterte’s assumption in office last June 30, close to 100 thousand drug lords, users and pushers have surrendered to the government.
However, more than 300 individuals have also been killed amid the government’s anti-drug campaign.
Amid the rise in killings of suspected drug peddlers, Duterte said he respects the separation of Church and State amid concerns from the Catholic Church about his bloody anti-drug campaign.
“Let me assure that while I’m a stickler for the principle of separation between the Church and State, I believe quite strongly that there should never be a separation between God and State,” Duterte said.
Implement RH Law
Duterte said the Reproductive Health (RH) Law must be implemented to curb the population growth and assist the poor in family planning.
“The implementation of the Reproductive Health Law must be put in full force and effect so that couples especially the poor will have freedom of informed choice on the number and spacing of children,” he said.
The President said the RH Law, which was stalled by the Supreme Court, must be implemented to help the poor plan their families to ensure that the marginalized would become productive sectors of society.
Duterte made a historic announcement as he declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels effective immediately.
“I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA effective immediately,” he said, adding that the communist rebels would respond accordingly.
“Let me make this appeal to you. If we cannot as yet love one another, then in God’s name, let’s not hate each other too much,” he added.
The President lamented that it was both “ironic” and tragic” that while the government and the rebels expressed willingness and readiness to return to the negotiating table, both forces continue to fight each other.
“We cannot talk peace while we load our guns with bullets,” he said.
The Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army would start the formal peace talks on August 20.
Solving climate change
The President said addressing climate change was one of his administration’s top priority but this should not hinder economic progress.
“Addressing climate change shall be a top priority but upon a fair and equitable equation. It should not stymie our industrialization,” he said.
Duterte had earlier stated that he will not honor the historic Paris Agreement, saying that it is “stupid.”
“We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here. That’s stupid. I will not honor that,” Duterte had said.
The Philippines has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent in 2030 when it signed the agreement last April.
The President also vowed to lower individual and corporate tax rates as well as to “relax” the bank secrecy law during his term. (see separate story on page 18)
Duterte also asked Congress for emergency powers to address traffic woes plaguing the metropolis.
“The worsening traffic situation should be legitimately addressed if Congress could accord emergency powers to me. Kung gusto niyo nang madalian, isagad na. Nasa inyo ‘yan (If you want it fixed immediately, give it to me. It’s up to you),” he said.
To aid in easing up traffic congestion, he said that there would be no letup in its campaign against out-of-line (colorum) transport services and that he would revive the Pasig River Ferry system.
The President urged Congress to put up a federal form of government with a prime minister and a president.
“My advice to you is mainly a federal system parliamentary but be sure to have a president. Hindi na ako iyan (Not me). I’m disqualified. And by that time, I would no longer be here,” he said.
“If you hurry up the federal system of government, you can submit to the Filipino people [in the] fourth, fifth year . . . You call for a referendum. And after that, call for a presidential election, sibat na ako (I’ll be leaving). But you must have a president,” he added.
The President said only federalism would put an end to the Muslim conflict in Mindanao.
“Nothing else will work. Believe me, nothing else will do. Please sleep on it and ponder on it. That’s the only way to proceed,” he said.
Rep. Del Mar said he will be one of the congressmen who will support the push for a federal form of government in the Lower House.
“Yes, I have long been in federalism so long as the constitutional amendment is via a constitutional convention,” he told CDN.
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