SONA 2019 Highlights: Towards a ‘better’ Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2019   •   10185

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.

NBI warns against proliferation of cybercrimes amid ECQ

Marje Pelayo   •   April 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Scammers are increasingly active these days especially with everyone practically living in cyberspace due to lockdowns in different parts of the world.

In the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has warned the public of the rise in cybercrime as the national government’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) limits movement outside of residence.

With almost all services migrating online, scammers are taking advantage of online platforms to pursue their schemes.

Such is the problem of Jodel Merjudio who operates an online travel agency.

Merjudio reported to UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan that some scammers created an impostor account of his enterprise’s Facebook page.

It only came to his knowledge when one of his clients told him about an alleged representative of his travel agency who transacted and asked money from that client on his behalf.

Part of the scammer’s modus operandi is to block the clueless victims from its fake page once payment is received.

The victims are then led to Merjudio’s official page to follow up on transactions that the latter had no knowledge of.

“Ang nangyayari, iyong kliyente pag nag-search sila sa Facebook, dalawa ang lalabas na agency. So kami ang nako-contact nila kasi naka-block na sila doon sa scammer page,” Merjudio said.

Jodel said he initially reported the incident to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Region 4A Cybercrime Division.

To assist Jodel, Kuya Daniel Razon contacted Atty.Victor Lorenzo of the NBI’s Cybercrime Division who agreed with Jodel’s initial move of reporting the incident to proper authorities.

The official promised to help Jodel in identifying the perpetrators behind the impostor account and to eventually resolve the case.

“Kunin nila ang mga contact details [ng kliyente] at kung makipag-ugnayan sila sa amin ay iyon kasi ang hihingiin namin (Get the contact details [of the client] so when you come to us, those are the details that we would be asking],” Lorenzo said.

Kokontakin namin sila para malaman kung ano ba ang mode of payment? Paano ang money ay transmitted? Bank to bank? Kasi ang best lead natin kung sino ang nag-create ng fake account ng travel agency (We will ask them what the mode of payment was; how the money was transmitted; and was it bank to bank? Our best lead would be the creator of the travel agency’s fake account),” he added.

Atty. Lorenzo said incidents of online travel agency scams have already dwindled for some time but since the country is under lockdown, scammers have again started to become active online. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte threatens to impose ‘martial law-like’ measures if quarantine violators persist

Marje Pelayo   •   April 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose a more drastic measure particularly against violators of the government’s lockdown rules as cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to climb in the country.

In his late-night address on Thursday (April 16), the President warned of military and police take over if Filipinos continue to break the government’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

I am just asking for your disiplina, kasi kapag ayaw ninyong maniwala, mag-take over ang military at police (I am just asking for your discipline because if you do not obey, the military and police will take over). I am ordering them now to be ready,” the President said addressing quarantine violators.

Sila na, parang martial law na rin. Mamili kayo (They will take over like in martial law. You decide),” he added.

The President expressed frustration over reports of residents repeatedly violating quarantine rules despite the government’s efforts in providing social relief at this time of crisis.

Nearly two weeks before the extended Luzon-wide ECQ is lifted on April 30, President Duterte said he will be compelled to order the government forces to enforce strict social distancing and curfew measures if the number of quarantine violators continue to increase.

“Ayaw ko pero kapag naipit na ang bayan at wala kayong disiplina, (I don’t want to do it but if the entire country is compromised because you lack discipline),” he warned.

The Chief Executive also directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate the perpetrators of cockfighting and street drinking sessions in Metro Manila amid the ECQ.

He threatened to cut government aid to those who would further ignore ECQ measures.

 “May pera pala kayong pangsabong. May pera pala kayo pang-inom. Ibigay ko na lang (sa iba,) [You have money for cockfighting. You have money for drinking sessions, so I might as well give the money [to those in need,] ” the President said.

“There’s not enough to go around. Hindi talaga magkasya. We are getting low sa supply ng pagkain na. Ilang araw na iyan buong Pilipinas pinapakain mo – 18 million families (Our supply especially of food is getting lower. We have been feeding 18 millione Filipino families for days now],” he concluded. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

READ: Duterte warns unruly quarantine violators not to taunt gov’t amid relief delays

Presidential yacht ready to accept COVID-19 patients

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 13, 2020

The Presidential yacht BRP Ang Pangulo is now ready to accept coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients after its conversion into a floating quarantine facility.

The Philippine Navy (PN) said it can accommodate a total of 28 patients with five medical personnel.

“Three exclusive compartments were prepared by PN personnel for the patients with temporary division in place observing 3-meter distance between them. Patients and medical staff are given different access points,” their statement reads.

The Navy added that the crew will remain onboard while the ship is being utilized as a quarantine facility.

PPEs were provided for the crew and rapid antibody tests were also conducted on them.

The ship’s remodeling began 48 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to utilize the ship for COVID-19 patients. AAC

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