President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called on officials of the executive department and local government units to act more and talk less as he spoke twice as long as he was supposed to in his fourth State of the Nation Address.
The President likewise underscored the need to simplify the bureaucracy and cut red tape.
“I reiterate my directive to all government instrumentalities, including the LGUs and government corporations: simplify and make your services responsive and client-friendly. I want results and I need them fast. Much has to be done in ensuring our responsiveness to the people’s needs. Based on complaints received by the Contact Center ng Bayan, the Land Transportation Office, Social Security Systems, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Registration Authority, and Pag-IBIG are the top five agencies that need to drastically improve their services,” the President said.
Underscoring the need to provide more efficient governance and to eradicate corruption, he called on officials and government employees to “let deeds and accomplishments do the talking.”
“We, in government, talk too much, act too little, and too slow. I recall saying that before a congressional hearing when I was mayor of Davao City. I say that again to emphasize how little we have changed since then. We are long on rhetoric but short on accomplishments,” Duterte said.
“That is why, I implore those who occupy positions of power and authority, to let your deeds and accomplishments do the talking. Lead by example. Words ring hollow when not followed by positive and prioritized action,” he added.
Duterte also said that corruption can be found “anywhere in government,” citing the latest scandals to hit the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Bureau of Customs.
PhilHealth came under fire months ago after it was revealed that it paid out hundreds of millions of pesos to pay for bogus dialysis treatments for deceased members.
“I am grossly disappointed. The government is conned of millions of pesos which could be used to treat illnesses and possibly save the lives of many,” Duterte said.
In his fourth SONA, he also called out Customs officials who were facing criminal and administrative charges for alleged corrupt activities.
“If I cannot dismiss them for the reason that there is a security of tenure, I will just allow them to have their plantilla positions but they have to report to Congress everyday to help me in the huge paperwork that we have to do everyday. All of them will go out from the premises of the Customs area,” Duterte said.
Last week, Duterte relieved a whole administrative section of Customs and asked them to report in the Palace.
“Corruption continues and emasculates the courage we need to sustain our moral recovery initiatives,” Duterte said in his speech that lasted an hour and 33 minutes—more than twice the 45 minutes the Palace said his address would last.
“Corruption exasperates. It frustrates. It is also exasperating that there are times when I think that perhaps it is blood that we need to cleanse and rinse away the dirt and the muck that stick to the flesh like leeches,” he added.
Duterte also urged the Congress to pass bills he had deemed important, including the reimposition of death penalty for illegal drugs and plunder.
“It pains me to say that we have not learned our lesson. The illegal drug problem persists,” Duterte said.
Duterte launched a war on illegal drugs when he took office in 2016, and has been widely criticized by both local and international human rights groups for thousands of drug-related deaths.
The President has pushed for the reinstatement of the death penalty since he was a 2016 presidential candidate. He had called for capital punishment also in his second SONA in 2017.
He also asked the Congress to pass the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities, also known as “Trabaho bill.”
The bill seeks to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 30 percent to 20 percent and making tax incentives performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent.
He also appealed to lawmakers for the creation of departments, such as Department of Resilience, Department of Water Resources and Fire Protection Program, and the Department of Overseas Workers.
He also asked for the suspension of the Sangguniang Kabataan polls to October 2020.
The polls were supposed to take place in October 2016, but were later postponed to Oct. 23, 2017. The elections were further postponed to May 2018 after Duterte signed Republic Act 10952, which dictates that the next elections would be held in May 2020 and every three years after that.
The Chief Executive urged Congress to speed up the Bangsamoro transition. Bangsamoro, the region which abolished the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, gives more power and resources to the leaders of the region.
Duterte also asked them to pass the National Land Use Act and the National Defense Act, and revive mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps.
A Magna Carta for barangays would give village workers mandatory social protection, he said.
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the President’s address was straightforward and direct to the point.
Romualdez said under the leadership of newly elected Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the House would work double-time on the President’s priority bills.
He also assured the country’s economic managers that Congress would align its legislative agenda with the President’s priority economic bills that aim to cut poverty by almost half in 2022.
Senator Joel Villanueva said they are keen to look into the President’s proposal to include teachers in the next salary standardization law that Congress could take up in the coming months.
He acknowledged that teachers play a critical role in shaping the hearts and minds of the youth.
“We need to make their efforts more rewarding so that they are kept motivated to fulfill their duties,” he said.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, slammed the President for turning his SONA into “China’s educational channel.”
She said she was dismayed with the President’s failure to show he has an actual plan to secure the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity instead of sheepishly kowtowing to China’s dictates.
“Three years of dancing around the truth is far too long. Three years of foul language, insulting women and inciting and glorifying violence is three years too many,” Hontiveros said.
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