Minority bloc factions renew rivalry in post-Sona speeches
The two factions of the minority bloc renewed their rivalry as their leaders delivered their speeches to counter the State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Rodrigo Duterte – or at least, one faction started it.
The counter-Sona, a tradition in the House of Representatives, is usually delivered by the minority leader, who is presumed to lead an opposition in the lower chamber.
The 17th Congress has been marred with a squabble for the minority post between Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, although Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman took the lead in delivering the Counter-Sona.
During Tuesday’s session, Suarez said he found nothing to criticize in Duterte’s Sona, owing to the President’s high satisfaction and trust ratings.
“The title of my prepared address is Kontra-Sona,” Suarez said. “Paano mo ma-ko-kontra ang isang Pangulong 82 percent ang trust rating at 92 percent ang awareness?”
(“How do you countradict a President who has an 82-percent trust rating and 92-percent awareness?”)
He called his speech instead as an “enhanced Sona.”
“Hindi po ito Kontra-Sona (This is not a Kontra-Sona),” he said. “The position of the minority is to enhance the President’s address yesterday.”
Suarez lauded the President’s theme to provide a “comfortable life” for Filipinos by eliminating the drug menace.
“Yesterday, the President delivered his second State of the Nation Address with the theme, “A comfortable life for all’,” Suarez said. “Interpreting the President’s Sona, a comfortable life requires several basic components. A comfortable life means living in a drug-free community.”
He also lauded Duterte’s bid to ease the public bidding rule by amending the procurement law, a bill the minority supports.
“A comfortable life means you can trust the government,” Suarez said. “President Duterte mentioned that the lowest bid policy on government projects promotes corruption. The minority has been advocating for the amendment of the procurement law.”
Suarez also lauded the government for its go-signal in the national broadband plan. But he lamented the “restrictions” imposed on Duterte’s government by the 2017 budget proposed during the previous administration.
Finally, Suarez also lauded Duterte for talking to the protesters after his Sona, an indication that the peace process with the left could still push through.
“A comfortable life is a peaceful life,” Suarez said. “While this Sona had a fighting tone, the fact that the President faced the leftist protesters after his speech is a sign that maybe the peace process with the Left may still have a chance of being rekindled.”
Suarez’s flattering Sona compelled Lagman to deliver a more scathing counter-Sona critical of the administration’s war on drugs.
“I have entitled my speech, the real 2017 Kontra-Sona,” Lagman said.
Lagman slammed Duterte for pursuing his bloody war on drugs and for continuously refusing to acknowledge that the drug menace should be more of a health problem than a “police matter.”
“The President’s ongoing bloody campaign against drug dealers and users is a ‘centerpiece’ of human rights transgressions,” Lagman said. “More than 8,000 victims, mostly coming from the poor sectors, have been sacrificed without due process to the barrel of the gun.”
Lagman also lamented that Duterte used his Sona to bully his critics and to trivialize the issue of human rights by saying criminals could not be reformed.
“It is most regrettable that President Duterte denigrates human rights,” Lagman said. “He even branded human rights advocates as enemies of the State. He has repeatedly said that ‘criminals have no human rights’.”
Lagman said the administration’s “violent” means to eliminate the drug menace “aggravates the problem.”
Lagman lauded, however, the President for supporting the reproductive health law in his Sona. He also expressed support for the administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.
But he lamented the failure of Duterte to tackle the problem of job contractualization in his Sona. And he criticized the administration’s so-called independent foreign policy subservient to China and Russia.
Lagman also called the Marawi siege, the basis for Duterte’s martial law declaration over the whole of Mindanao, as a “malevolent myth” because the Maute terrorists’ attacks did not amount to an invasion or rebellion.
“The dominance of the men and armaments of the Armed Forces and the police was always ascendant over the Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters,” Lagman said.
He said Duterte’s Sona might have been populist, but it failed to show the true state of the nation, where summary killings had proliferated, along with the dissent of critics.
“We are in for trouble because we live in troubled and uncertain times,” Lagman said. “And I fear that things might get worse before they become better. His prescription to this cryptic assessment is: More of martial law, more of summary killings, and to hell with his critics.”
The Supreme Court recently dismissed Lagman’s petition seeking its intervention in determining the “authentic minority” bloc in the House of Representatives. /atm