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Key points in Duterte’s SONA 2018: Rice, taxes and war on drugs

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his third State of the Nation Address on July 23, 2018. Image courtesy of PCOO/ROBINSON NIÑAL JR.

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte did not veer away from his script during his 48-minute-long State of the Nation Address on Monday (July 23) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City, contrary to earlier expectations that the President might opt for an extemporaneous speech.

His moment was almost snatched after more than an hour delay because of a sudden “leadership row” at the House of Representatives between House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo.

But as the saying goes, “the show must go on” for the President and here are the main points of his third SONA.


War on Drugs

The President began his speech emphasizing on his government’s top campaign – the war on illegal drugs. He said “the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling…as on the day it began.”

He also slammed critics of his anti-drug policy stressing on the “terrible harm that they cause to the people and communities” and the future, especially to the youth. He said human rights advocates and church leaders criticizing the government on war on drugs are “misdirected.”

“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives,” the President said.

“You worry about the present; I am concerned [about] both the present and the future. I worry about the future because I know what crimes can do to the youth of this country. If not stopped, crimes can make human cesspools of succeeding generations. I will not allow it to happen. Not during my term,” he added.


Lower price of rice

The President vowed to provide a long-term solution to the country’s rice problems such as rice shortage and high prices. He said that lowering the price of rice is a top agenda.

As he certified it as urgent, the President asked Congress to prioritize the passage of a rice tariff system.

“We need to switch from the current quota system in importing rice to a tariff system where rice can be imported more freely. This will give us additional resources for our farmers, reduce the price of rice by up to 7 pesos per kilo, and lower inflation significantly,” he said.

He warned “rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors” to stop their illegal practices as he directed “all intelligence agencies to unmask the perpetrators of this economic sabotage.”

Likewise, the President urged Congress to “pass at the soonest possible time the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund” that would help the coconut farmers.


TRAIN will not stop

In his speech, the President stressed that the government will not allow the suspension of the implementation of TRAIN or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law as it is needed for the country’s sustainable growth and has helped improve infrastructure.

“TRAIN is already helping poor families and senior citizens cope up with rising prices…We cannot and should not. We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino left behind,” he said.

Thus, he urged Congress to pass all five packages of the administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP). These packages will include additional taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and reform in property valuation, reform in capital income and financial taxes, and an amnesty program


End “Endo”

President Duterte was pleased to announce that the government’s campaign against contractualization and the end-of-contract scheme or Endo “has resulted in the regularization of more than 300,000 workers as of early this month.” He added that through Executive Order 51, workers will somehow get the protection of their rights to security of tenure.

The President, however, said that though he understands that the E.O. does not satisfy all sectors, he does not have the power under the Constitution to end the said labor scheme.

“That is why I add mine to their voices in asking Congress to pass legislation ending the practice of contractualization once and for all,” he said.


On Mining and the Environment

The President emphasized in his SONA that “the protection of the environment must be the top priority and extracted resources must be used for the benefit of the Filipino people, not just a selected few.”

Thus, he warned the mining industry of “restrictive policies” not just taxes, if mining operators continue to compromise the country’s resources and destroy the environment.

“I warn irresponsible miners, along with their patrons, to stop destroying our watersheds, recharge areas, forests, and aquatic resources,” he said.

He ordered the mining operators to “repair what they have mismanaged.” The President warned them of “radical reforms” and among them is the prohibition of open-pit mining.

“For as long as I am here I said: you will just have to contend with me. I expect you to do your part in ensuring our nation’s sustainable development, starting now,” the President stressed.

The President also urged the Senate to urgently pass the National Land Use Act “to put in place a national land use policy that will address our competing land requirements for food, housing, businesses, and environmental conservation.”

He stressed that what happened to Boracay is an indication of the decade-long mismanagement of the country’s land that resulted to abuse and destruction.


Disaster Resiliency

The President said his Cabinet already approved “for immediate endorsement to Congress the passage of a law creating the Department of Disaster Management.”

“We need a truly empowered department characterized by a unity of command, science-based approach and full-time focus on natural hazards and disasters, and the wherewithal to take charge of the disaster risk reduction; preparedness and response; with better recovery and faster rehabilitation,” he said.


On Friendship and Corruption

President Duterte said that though he values his friends, he is willing to let go of them if they go against his anti-corruption policies.

“I value friendship. Make no mistake about it. But it has its limit…Do not make it lonelier by forcing me to end our friendship because you gave me a reason to end it,” he said.

Duterte has fired several high ranking officials, who were close to him because of corruption allegations. However, he remained under fire after some officials accused of irregularities remained close to the President such as Agriculture Undersecretary Pompee La Viña, former Customs Commissioner-turned Civil Defense administrator Nicanor Faeldon, and Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo.

The President also issued a stern warning against government agencies particularly under the executive branch which was reported to have the most number of red tape complaints.

“I particularly call the attention of the agencies with the [most] number of red tape-related reports from the public, make your services truly customer-friendly. Our people deserve efficient, effective, and responsive government services. They deserve nothing less,” he said.

He also directed all local government units to implement the law on ease of doing business and make the process simpler.


On Federalism

President Duterte expressed confidence that the Filipino people will support him in achieving his campaign promise of shifting to a federal form of government.

“I am confident that the Filipino people will stand behind us as we introduce this new fundamental law that will not only strengthen democratic institutions but will also create an environment where every Filipino… will have an equal opportunity to grow and create a future,” he said.

The Consultative Committee formed by the President has submitted a draft federal charter to Congress.


Bangsamoro Organic Law

The President promised to sign the Bangsamoro Organic law within two days in his commitment that his administration “will never deny our Muslim brothers and sisters the basic legal tools to chart their own destiny within the Constitutional framework of our country.”

Duterte said “the law has been passed actually,” but he asked for the next 48 hours to read, sign and ratify the law to make sure that nothing unconstitutional has been inserted therein.

The President was supposed to make history by signing the BOL during his SONA. However, the signing was delayed after the Lower House failed to ratify it due to the “power struggle” on House Speakership hours before the SONA. The Senate ratified the BOL without objection even earlier on Monday. — UNTV News & Rescue


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Malacañang shrugs off ‘guilty’ verdict of International People’s Tribunal vs Duterte

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2018


The panel of the International People’s Tribunal | Image grabbed from the Facebook page of International Peoples’ Tribunal PH


MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang shrugged off the guilty verdict handed to President Rodrigo Duterte by the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) on charges of human rights violations.

According to presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, the said tribunal which recently convened in Brussels, Belgium, is propaganda body comprised of left-leaning groups.

“That’s a sham decision. It has no official sanction. The validity of the findings will depend on the credibility of the tribunals. They appear to be a propaganda body of the international left, and therefore we set it aside as a useless piece of propaganda against the government,” said Roque.

IPT 2018 convened this week to hear cases filed against Duterte on his alleged violations against political, civil, economic, social rights, international humanitarian law and others.

The IPT findings will reportedly be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), European Parliament and International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

“We heard the summary of testimonies of witnesses — many of them heart-wrenching, traumatic and horrific- experts and resource persons as well as the digest of wealth of data, information, facts, and other evidence. It is our consensus therefore, the defendants Duterte, trump and all other defendants are guilty of all the charges specified in the indictment and therefore they are accountable for crimes against humanity,” said the jury.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said the International People’s Tribunal is initiated by the people to seek redress when traditional institutions are either limited or skewed.

NUPL President Edre Olalia also said in a statement that the IPT is a unique arena or platform for the urgent process of establishing the truth.

He also stood firm that IPT observes due process and defendants are notified and given the opportunity to participate and defend themselves.

Olalia added that IPT’s panel is composed of eminent jurors from different disciplines and the proceedings are conducted in an open and public trial. — Rosalie Coz


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Chinese president sends condolences to Philippines over Typhoon Mangkhut

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018


FILE PHOTO: China’s President Xi Jinping. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday extended condolences to his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte over Typhoon Mangkhut that has hit the Philippines, killing some 65 people.

In his message to Duterte, Xi said the typhoon has caused severe casualties and loss of properties in the Philippines. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, and in his own name, Xi mourned the victims and expressed sympathy to those injured, the bereaved families and the people in the affected area.

Xi said that China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors, and the Chinese people shared the sadness of the Philippine people over their sufferings, and are willing to help as much as possible.

Xi added that he believed that under the leadership of President Duterte and the Philippine government, the Philippine people will quickly overcome the disaster and rebuild their homeland. — Reuters

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Israelis protest arms sale to the Philippines as Duterte, Rivlin meet

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2018


A protester holding a banner showing Duterte holding up an Israeli made Galil assault rifle | REUTERS

Israelis staged a protest against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Jerusalem on Tuesday (September 4) as the Filipino leader met with his counterpart Reuven Rivlin.

Duterte, on a four-day visit to Israel and Jerusalem, thanked Rivlin and welcomed further defense deals with Israel that were on the president’s trip’s agenda alongside tourism and labor deals.

The visit is aimed at cementing relationships between the Asian power and booming Israel, both historical U.S. allies.

The Philippine military, coast guard, and police have in the past acquired defense systems and weapons from Israel. But the Asian power has also purchased arms from other countries as well.

The Israeli defense ministry said it does not comment on the country’s defense exports.

In front of the presidential residence, a handful of protesters demonstrated against a possible weapons deal between the two countries.

The protesters chanted “shame” and “fascist” at Duterte and held up banners depicting the president with an Israeli-made Galil assault rifle, reading ‘Stop the Killings’.

Duterte who also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial on Monday (September 3) departs for neighboring Jordan on Wednesday (September 5). — Reuters

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