Opposition lawmakers on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte did not give Filipinos a genuine appraisal of his kind of governance, as thousands marched in Quezon City toward the Batasang Pambansa to protest his final State of the Nation Address.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the SONA was "a dud" and that it showed the urgent need for “some willing and able government officials,
members of the private sector and civil society leaders to step forward and work together in the next 10 months to prevent our country going into a downward spiral.”
“In summary, the President seems to be unwilling and unable to lead the country in reducing corruption, alleviating poverty, healing us from the pandemic, asserting our national sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and attending to other major concerns of Filipinos,” she said.
“All we need to do is look at the dolomite disaster at Manila Bay. Itsums up his term perfectly—wasteful and pretentious, foolish, dangerous, and all in all, fake," added Akbayan spokesperson Dr. RJ Naguit.
Akbayan and other militant and progressive groups led a "Goodbye Duterte Rally" along Commonwealth Avenue, which was blocked by policemen as the President delivered his remarks to Congress.
Senator Leila M. De Lima, who has been detained by authorities on illegal drugs charges almost since the start of the Duterte administration, said the current “reign of terror” and “continued deception of the Filipino public as shown by his unfulfilled promises to the nation” must end.
De Lima cited her indictment letter to Duterte where she bewailed his failure to fulfill all of his campaign promises, particularly on illegal drugs, corruption, the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and the economy.
She said Duterte’s regime thrives on the weaponization of the law, repression of basic freedoms and the manipulation of the truth, “citing political assassinations, extrajudicial killings, red-tagging, and his use of foul tactics against her and all those whom he perceived as threats to his reign.”
“And now the man who turned death, destruction and disorientation into a state policy wants to stay in power, this time, as Vice President because as he said, he will have immunity from suit,” she said.
Senator Grace Poe said she was looking for assurances that there will be jobs in the near future and food on the table.
"Our people are tired and hungry. What I believe we needed to hear was the plan moving forward. What’s the plan to restore the dignity of our people and provide opportunities for their future?"
Poe said she believes many were looking forward to hearing whether or not the country will be able to afford another round of cash assistance.
"The assistance that was given before was merely enough to help some Filipino families through two months but this pandemic has gone on for over a year," said Poe.
As this was the President’s last SONA, she said he should not only have focused on what he has accomplished but rather what he still wishes to accomplish to safeguard the future of the country in terms of jobs, education, and health care.
“That in my opinion would leave a message of hope and a better legacy for our people,” she said.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the SONA was comprehensive, as the President spelled out all the reforms that were undertaken by his administration.
On the scale of 1 to 10, Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez gave the President a grade of 8.
He said while the President has been consistent with his prime advocacy on the anti-drug war, Rodriguez said much of its impact has fallen on the poor and marginalized.
"We have yet to see prosecution on big time importers of illegal drugs and the big distributors in the country," he said.
Going to war with China is not an option in enforcing the country’s arbitral victory in the West Philippine Sea, Rodriguez, of Cagayan de Oro, said.
But he added: "President Duterte should also be lauded for going against onerous contracts against the people, such as those he mentioned in the area of water distribution.”
“He should also take a look at electricity rates, which are among the highest in our region. The law that is supposed to reform the power sector has failed us and has brought about even higher rates,” the lawmaker said.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Duterte’s decision to endorse anew three investment-friendly bills indicates that Malacañang “does not consider Charter Change (Cha-Cha) as the silver bullet that would address the country’s relatively modest FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows.”
Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga, Jr. of Cavite's fourth district said the President “has done a great job in the past five years, bringing meaningful change to the Filipino people through his no-nonsense policies particularly in the area of peace and order as seen in his war against illegal drugs."
"We were on the way to a better future when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and threw a monkey wrench to some of the administration's economic achievements, something that other nations have also experienced," said Barzaga, chairman of the House committee on natural resources.
"Despite this, we cannot discount the fact that the Duterte administration did all that it could to safeguard the public, cushioning them from impact of this health crisis through various measures," he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said the President accomplished most of the things he planned to do in the security sector.
"Five years on, I believe we’ve accomplished most of the things we planned to do. The Department of National Defense is stronger than it was before. President Duterte strongly supported the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) especially in protecting our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
“We have intensified our internal security, counter-terrorism, and peace-building efforts and HADR (humanitarian assistance disaster relief)," Lorenzana added in a Facebook post.
Placard-beating members of various militant and progressive groups flocked to the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City early Monday to stage their protest ahead of the SONA.
Wearing face masks, the protesters arrived before 8 a.m. from various areas with some carrying streamers of "Duterte, inutil na, pahamak pa, wakasan na," "Uphold prophetic faith," and "Hustisya."
Those belonging to the group Rise Up for Life and Human Rights led a prayer. Kadamay and PISTON members then gathered in front of the National Housing Authority on Elliptical Circle to proceed to UP Diliman, accompanied by the groups Sanlakas, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, and Anakpawis.
Akbayan Spokesperson Dr. RJ Naguit said that like the dolomite sand project at Manila Bay, Duterte is a "dismal failure."
"When Duterte came to power in 2016, he made 'dolomite populist promises.' He talked a big talk: crime and drugs gone in six months, labor contractualization over in one week, zero tolerance for any whiff of corruption, jetskiing to the West Philippine Sea to assert our sovereign rights, and 'build, build, build' to help bring jobs and development," he said.
"Five years later, Duterte's big promises were completely washed away like his precious dolomite sand. All that is left are stagnant pools of blood and filth. For all of his strongman talk to make our country safer and better, he is a dismal failure. Like his dolomite sand, Duterte withers in the face of the slightest challenge and adversity," Naguit added.
Naguit, a medical doctor, said that under Duterte, thousands of Filipinos have died either from his bloody drug war or botched pandemic response.
He also said that the Philippines became one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and trade unionists.
But the Department of Health reminded protesters who joined the rallies near the Batasang Pambansa to observe health protocols amid the threat of the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant.
“We cannot deny their freedom of expression, but they should be compliant in the health protocols," Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press conference.
“We have variants of concern. Risk is high especially when there are gatherings,” she said.
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