Sona ’17: ‘Frank, realistic, hopeful’ | Inquirer News

Sona ’17: ‘Frank, realistic, hopeful’

President Rodrigo Duterte will press for the passage of the tax reform bill, according to Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, but lawmakers expect the President to dwell on the security situation and make a fresh push for federalism in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) this afternoon.

Senior leaders of the House of Representatives also expect the Sona to focus on “the accomplishments and the propeople plans and programs of the administration.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte’s second Sona would “be frank, challenging, realistic but hopeful.”

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Abella said the prepared speech should take 50 minutes but the President’s off-the-cuff remarks and applause from those present could extend it to an hour and a half.

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“The President’s State of the Nation Address will be rendered in broad strokes reviewing past achievements, stating the present situation and announcing future prospects,” Abella said.

Proposed budget

Diokno told reporters on Friday that the President would submit the proposed 2018 national budget to Congress.

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The Department of Budget and Management hopes that Congress will approve the P3.767-trillion 2018 budget by October to give agencies more time to plan their respective spending programs and avoid underspending.

Priority bills

Besides next year’s budget proposal, Diokno said economic managers had pitched for inclusion in the Sona a number of priority measures, including the national government rightsizing bill and the national ID system.

However, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the President had yet to discuss with the chamber his priority legislative agenda for the second regular session of the 17th Congress.

“I have no idea about his Sona,” Fariñas said when asked by the Inquirer.

Charter change

The Sona will also mention martial law and the situation in Mindanao, constitutional amendments and federalism, the drug menace and continuing modernization of the military and police, according to Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.

In a statement issued by the House leadership, Davao Oriental Rep. Joel Mayo Almario expected the President to express displeasure with the New People’s Army, a week after calling off peace negotiations due to continued attacks on government forces.

Almario said the President might also drum up the country’s foreign policy pivot toward Russia and China.

The same statement quoted Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo as saying, “The Sona will show we are better off by leaps and bounds” under Mr. Duterte’s “inspiring leadership [which] contributed greatly in attaining national discipline.”

In a separate statement, Deputy Secretary General Artemio Adasa said the Sona would focus on prosperity for all, law and order, and peace.

Recognize human rights

Still, lawmakers from the opposition “Magnificent Seven” bloc have pressed the President to recognize human rights amid criticism of police abuses and increase in vigilante killings in the antinarcotics 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 socioeconomic programs and expound on his peace agenda, including making a pitch for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Martin Andanar, Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary, said Mr. Duterte’s speech would dwell on providing a “comfortable life for all.”

In an interview on dzBB on Sunday, Andanar said the President would spell out his roadmap for the country in the next five years in the Sona.

“That’s why we all need to listen so we’ll know where he’ll take us in the next five years,” Andanar said.

Abella said the prepared speech was in English but the President was known to go off script and “speak from the heart.”

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