Duterte to dwell on security, federalism, pro-people goals – House
MANILA — Tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to dwell on the country’s security situation and make a fresh push for his federalism advocacy in his State of the Nation Address this Monday.
Senior House leaders also said they were expecting Mr. Duterte’s address, coming after completing the first year of his presidency, to focus on “the accomplishments and the pro-people plans and programs of
Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I think the President will dwell on the proposed budget of 2018, Martial law and the situation in Mindanao, constitutional amendments and Federalism, the resurgence of drug menace in the country, continuing modernization of the AFP and PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police) among others.”
In a statement issued by the House leadership, Davao Oriental 2nd Dist. Rep. Joel Mayo Almario noted that Mr. Duterte would talk about continuing his controversial “war on drugs.”
“The President will acknowledge it was almost an impossible task, citing the return of the syndicates inside the Bilibid [Prisons]. We expect him to declare he won’t stop doing what he has to do,” he said.
Almario also expected the President to express displeasure with the New People’s Army, a week after calling off peace negotiations due to continued attacks by the rebel group on government forces. At the same time, the lawmaker said the President would likely drum up the country’s foreign policy pivot towards Russia and China.
The same statement also quoted Quezon City 2nd Dist. Rep. Winston Castelo as saying “SONA will show we are better off by leaps and bounds” under Mr. Duterte’s “inspiring leadership [which] contributed greatly in attaining national discipline.”
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said the President would present his administration’s focus and direction to serve as “a signal for Congress to align its priority measures in keeping with the President’s agenda for the people and the nation.”
However, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the President has not yet discussed with the House his priority legislative agenda for second regular session of the 17th Congress, which also starts on Monday.
“I have no idea about his SONA,” Fariñas said when asked by the INQUIRER.
Recognize human rights
Still, lawmakers from the opposition Magnificent Seven bloc have pressed the President to recognize human rights too, amid criticism of police abuses and increase in vigilante killings hounding the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said he hoped to hear some changes in the speech to be delivered by the man whose election campaign mantra was “change is coming.”
“For a refreshing change, I hope he doesn’t badmouth human rights defenders, any other country on earth or her leader,” he said.
Baguilat said he hoped Mr. Duterte would “talk less about the ascendancy of his drug war, which has terrorized the poor” or “not brandish his Martial Law as the panacea for Mindanao’s ills.”
Instead, he called on the President to emphasize his socio-economic programs and expound about his peace agenda including making a pitch for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin said “the President must recognize that human rights are intrinsic to our values as Filipinos, not the law of the jungle where only the fittest survives.”
In the aftermath of the extension of martial Law approved by an overwhelming majority of congressmen on Saturday, it is now “incumbent upon [Mr. Duterte] not to turn it into a weapon of mass destruction,” according to Villarin.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, the opposition lawmaker who unsuccessfully sought Mr. Duterte’s impeachment, said he expected the President to report on his war on drugs which we extended to a year from the earlier vow of three to six months, as well as his anti-corruption drive in which “so far, no cases of big people in government were filed.”
Huge political capital
Baguilat added Mr. Duterte should take advantage of his “huge political capital,” especially as he has been “armed with popular support and an almost blind following from Congress.”
He said the President should “provide the steroids for Congress to help him fulfill his promises, such as an end to contractualization and the release of coco levy funds to the farmers.”
As a lawmaker from the highland region, Baguilat hoped Mr. Duterte would endorse his bill for Cordillera autonomy and start expounding on his federalism initiative and Charter change to guide Congress.
Sought for comment by the INQUIRER, other members of the administration-led House super-majority revealed several legislative agenda they wanted Mr. Duterte to call attention to in his SONA.
Like Baguilat, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate hoped the President would “shift his focus on the interest and improvement of the lives of the Filipino masses rather than on militarist solutions like Martial Law or the bloody drug war.”
He said Mr. Duterte should also abandon “neoliberal economic policies,” like the tax reform package being pushed by the Department of Finance before Congress which would “further burden the majority of the people.”
Zarate and fellow Makabayan bloc members Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao and ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio also renewed their call for the prioritization of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, as well as national industrialization to reduce foreign dependence.
Casilao and Tinio also mentioned the implementation of a P750 national minimum wage and the end to contractualization.
Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting wants to hear the President’s update on the Marawi City conflict and the war on the drugs, asking if “it’s been successful or do we still have a long way to go?”
He also hoped Mr. Duterte would push for the Freedom of Information Bill, although he admitted “it might be a long shot.”
Samar 1st Dist. Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento echoed the call and said that while Mr. Duterte already issued an executive order covering the executive branch of government, a law passed by Congress would be a “more unalterable weapon in ensuring transparency.”
Tambunting as well as Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption Rep. Sherwin Tugna and Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles also stressed the need for action on the country’s traffic and public transportation problems.
Tugna and Surigao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Joseph Ace Barbers mentioned the need to eliminate red tape too. Tugna said the Ease of Doing Business and Fast Business Permit acts tackled by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council should be coupled with dismissal and criminal action against corrupt government officials.
On security, Tugna and Sarmiento said the President should also prioritize the creation of a Unified National ID System.
Biazon wanted policies “to assert and protect our interests in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise” to be included in Mr. Duterte’s legislative agenda, as well as a rehabilitation plan and the transfer of the New Bilibid Prisons to “address the gap in the criminal justice system which we have seen to have even been exploited by criminal groups.”
He also stressed that the AFP’s capabilities should be enhanced because of the “new kind of warfare that the enemies of the state have ventured into—urban warfare.” Such a tactic is currently seen in Marawi City, besieged by the Maute group for the past two months already.
Speaking of Marawi City, Sarmiento said Mr. Duterte could push for a special appropriations bill for the rebuilding of the devastated city. SFM
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