• Melo Acuna

President Duterte delivers his 5th SONA

President Duterte cites gains, hits oligarchies

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address to an almost empty House of Representatives at 4:00 P.M. today with a handful of allies from both Houses of Congress in attendance and 17 of his cabinet officials.

“We live in a troubled time. Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snuffed by a pandemic virulent virus. No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were exwmpt from the onslaught of this deadly disease,” he said.

He added the people need not despair because the vaccine “is around the corner.” Sounding optimistic, President Duterte added “sooner or later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest.”

He said while the government responds to the challenge posed by the coronavirus, “there are those who take advantage of a pre-occupied government.”

He singled out Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon for associating the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy where the topic was President Duterte’s daughter and son.

“Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he said.

He said wealth enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage as Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs “like the Lopezes who used their media outlets in their battles with political figures.”

“I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 election,” he claimed. He referred to the interview Drilon gave after the House Committee on Franchise rejected ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal. Malacañang earlier said they had nothing to do with the Committee’s decision.

Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Duterte clarified he will not allow the traditional face-to-face teaching or learning until risks to COVID-19 are eliminated.

“I cannot and will not put to risk the health and lives of our students and teachers,” he added.

The President said he talked with President Xi Jinping four days ago.

“I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first or it is needed, If we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible,” he added.

He lashed out at telecommunication companies to improve their services “lest we be forced to take drastic steps to address the less-than-ideal service that the public is getting from you.”

He said he may opt to close all of the existing telcos (telecommunication companies) and revert to the old telephone lines and move to have their assets expropriated in favor of the government.

Forward looking, the chief executive said he will increase access to healthcare services by hiring and deploying more than 20,000 health professionals to augment existing health workers in the local government units, with emphasis on isolated and disadvantaged areas and improve Barangay Health Stations, Rural Health Units and other healthcare facilities.

He called for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos to address the concerns of millions of Filipinos working elsewhere as he called for the reinstitution of the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes prohibited under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He also called on lawmakers to create an office to be called National Disease Prevention and Management Authority as well as the Department of Disaster Resilience.

As President Duterte was delivering his 5th SONA, the Department of Health said there were 82,040 Filipinos found COVID-19 positive since February. A total of 0f 1,657 confirmed cases were reported based on tests made by 59 out of 90 current operational laboratories.

The Department of Health also reported 359 recoveries for a total of 26,446 recoveries since February this year. There were 1,945 deaths recorded by the Department of Health.

During the same speech, President Duterte admitted he was “inutile” and “cannot do anything” with China’s quest of territory and resources in the South China Sea. The Philippines won its case at the International Arbitration Tribunal in a decision handed out July 12,2016.

He suggested the country needs to use diplomatic endeavors to counter China’s claims “unless we are prepared to go to war.”

The Philippines is one of the countries in the ASEAN with claims to certain portions of the South China Sea. He said China is well armed and the Philippines is ill-equipped. He said he cannot simply declare war but added “Maybe some other president can, but I cannot.” (Melo M. Acuña)

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address before a select crown of lawmakers and government officials at 4:00 P.M. today at the House of Representatives. (Presidential Photos/PCOO)

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