SONA 2019 Highlights: Towards a ‘better’ Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2019   •   8673

No surprises, no fiascos. President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth state of the nation address (SONA) has been smooth despite the more than one hour delay due to sudden rains.

Nevertheless, the annual event pushed through with the President starting his speech at 5:14 p.m. and ending it at 6:47 p.m., an almost expletive-free 93-minute talk.

President Duterte opened his fourth SONA with the usual pleasantries and his expression of gratitude “to all who kept faith with me in our most trying times.”

He noted that the landslide victory of administration candidates in the May 2019 polls as well as recent survey results just proved the Filipino people’s support to his presidency as compared to the only 3% disapproval rating, which he joked about with the members of Congress.

“I hope that the members of Congress – sana hindi kayo included sa 3%,” he said earning laughter from the audience.

This amount of support, the President said, inspires him with determination to pursue relentlessly what the government has started even at the beginning of his term as the highest leader of the country.

No matter how controversial, the President said his policies on the fight against illegal drugs and corruption will remain “whatever be the opposition.”

“For it is not the eagle in the fight but the fight in the eagle that matters,” he said.

“Believe me, I will end my term fighting,” the President said strongly to start his SONA.

For those who did not have the time to sit and watch the President’s SONA, here are some of the highlights.

Illegal Drugs, Corruption, Death Penalty

The President acknowledged that the government still has a long way to go to fight the social menace that is illegal drugs, which he believes is a by-product of corruption.

 “The drugs will not be crushed unless we continue to eliminate corruption that allows this social monster to survive,” he noted.

This is the reason, he said, why he advocates on the reinstatement of death penalty.

“I respectfully request Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, as well as plunder,” the President said.

Ease of Doing Business

The President, likewise, emphasized the necessity to ensure a responsive government to the needs of the people.

Even after signing the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, he said, much has yet to be done.

Thus, he ordered specific government agencies to simplify their transactions and impose the law “to improve service delivery and fight corruption.”

The agencies mentioned were the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Social Security System (SSS), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA), and the Pag-IBIG Fund.

He also called the attention of local government units (LGU) to do the same.

“My directive to the government and instrumentalities, including the LGUs and the government corporations: simplify,” he said warning those concerned to suffer sanctions if they again fail.

“Simplify and make your services responsive to — client-friendly. Your client is the Filipino, our employer — from where the money in our pockets come from, from our salaries,” he stressed.

Priority Legislation

Aside from the revival of death penalty, the President directed Congress to pass the creation of new agencies vital to the accomplishments of the administration’s programs for development.

Noting natural disasters as ‘poverty creators,’ the President asked Congress to fast track the establishment of a Department of Disaster Resilience that would focus on programs that would mitigate the impact of natural hazards and climate change.

Recognizing the damaging effect of El Niño to the country’s agriculture sector and the inconveniences it caused brought about by water crisis, he urged lawmakers to pass a bill creating the Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission.

Similar to his appeal last year, the President called Congress to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers to ensure Filipino workers abroad access to government services as well as protection from abuse in foreign lands.

The Chief Executive also urged lawmakers to enact the Magna Carta for Barangays and to postpone the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2022 to provide sitting barangay officials ample time to finish their programs and projects.

To encourage the country’s MSME sector, the President urged Congress to immediately pass Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program also known as Trabaho bill which he said would create more jobs for Filipinos.

In addition to these priority bills, President Duterte also asked Congress to pass a new Salary Standardization Law to increase salary for government workers, including public school teachers and public hospital nurses.

He also asked Congress to approve the National Defense Act, Uniformed Separation and Retirement Pension Bill, and the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

“Very important,” the President said referring to military training to re-instill the spirit of patriotism among Filipino students.

 “Kapag mag giyera, 10 out of 10 hindi marunong maghawak ng baril (If war breaks out, 10 out of 10 do not even know how to hold a gun) to defend even his father and mother and brothers and sisters. Itong mga bata ngayon (youth nowadays,) they are bereft of the patriotism and the love of country. Balik sila dito (Let’s encourage them on this),” he said.

Traffic woes

President Duterte specifically directed Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to suspend mayors or governors who refuse to heed his order to “reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends.”

With the help of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the President wants immediate action “to ensure speedy and smooth flow of vehicular traffic” in Metro Manila.

On China

True to his promise, the President did ‘educate’ the Filipinos regarding the West Philippine Sea issue, how it started and why his administration cannot drive away China from Philippine waters.

Again, he reiterated that war is not an option as it leaves “widows and orphans in its wake.”

“More and better results can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in public. That is why I will do in the peaceful way,” he said.

Amid criticisms, the President still promised that he would assert the country’s sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea “in due time.”

A better Philippines ahead

Through the end of his SONA, the President assured the Filipino people that his government will continue to propel towards a better Philippines.

“Our goal for the next three years is clear: a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos,” he promised.

‘Tracker team’ all set for deployment as Duterte’s surrender deadline for heinous crime convicts passes

Marje Pelayo   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s surrender deadline for heinous crime convicts freed through the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) will be until midnight of Thursday (September 19).

After which, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will deploy its tracker team to chase those who refuse to yield to the President’s call.

According to National Capital Region Police (NCRPO) Chief Police Major General Guillermo Eleazar, out of 1,914 heinous crime convicts released under GCTA, a total of 202 reside in Metro Manila.

From that number, only 26 surrendered.

Therefore, a total 176 convicts remain at large and they are the target of the NCRPO’s tracker team.

“All the tracker teams natin of the 176 targets in Metro Manila, they will start their manhunt at 12 o’ clock. They are distributed in the 26 police station,” Eleazar said.

“Within 6 hours from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock all the 176 addresses, lahat iyon ay pupuntahan ng tracker teams natin, (They will all be chased by our tracker teams,)” he added.

Eleazar said they want to arrest their targets alive as much as possible.

“We want to get them alive, but kung mayroong (but in the event of) aggressive behavior on their part, of course, we have to defend ourselves,” he explained.

The official warned to file appropriate charges against those convicts who would refuse arrest.

Earlier today, four convicts surrendered to the NCRPO though their names were not included in the list of GCTA-freed convicts of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

All they wanted, they said, was to make sure their lives are safe.

They are now under the custody of the BuCor. – MNP (with details from Lea Ylagan)

Yemen’s Houthis threaten to attack United Arab Emirates targets

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

Yemen’s Houthi group said on Wednesday (September 18) it had identified dozens of sites in the United Arab Emirates as possible targets, in an attempt to underscore its military clout following a weekend attack it claims to have carried out on Saudi oil facilities.

Speaking in a televised speech, Yahya Saria, the military spokesman for the Iran-aligned movement, said that even one drone operation would cost the Emirati regime dearly.

He said the Houthis have new drones that can reach targets deep into Saudi Arabia.

“Our forces have reached a very high level of competence and ability on every front. Today, our forces can manufacture and produce several drones in record timing. The armed forces have assured its capability to produce one or more drones per day,” Saria said.

“Today, there are global stances that deserve recognition, the stances that support Yemen’s right to reply to the Saudi-Emirati aggression against our country. And we must specifically name Iran and Turkey, and the other stances who consider the humanitarian situation in Yemen, and I’m sure you’ve all seen these stances,” he added.

In Riyadh, Saudi Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said the attack could not have come from Yemen, adding the Houthi movement was “covering up” for Iran.

The UAE is a leading partner in a Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government after it was toppled by the Houthis in late 2014. (Reuters)

(Production: Tarek M Fahmy, Soraya Ali)

Duterte certifies passage of 2020 national budget as urgent

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 19, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified the proposed P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget as urgent.

According to his letter dated September 17 addressed to the Senate and the House of Representatives, he wants the immediate passage of the proposed national budget to “maintain continuous government operations.”

“Ensure the budgetary preparedness that will enable the government to effectively perform its constitutional mandate,” the letter stated.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the president certified the proposed 2020 national budget as urgent to avoid a repetition of last year’s delay which affected several economic programs of the administration.

“He [Duterte] wants the members of Congress [to know] the importance of passing the budget on time to avoid a repeat of last year’s delay of its passage that wreak havoc in the economic program of the administration, and affected the delivery of basic services to the people,” he said in a statement.—AAC

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