What lawmakers said on Duterte’s first SONA

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2016 12:52 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his State of the Nation Address at Congress in Manila on July 25, 2016. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA – The runner-up in the House speakership election is assuming his "fiscalizing" role even with no clear recognition from the plenary.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, who got eight votes during the Speakership election, welcomed the President's statements in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) concerning his support for the Freedom of Information Act, support for the peace talks and lessening of the bureaucratic backlogs.

However he also sought clarity on other issues.

Among these are the proposals for emergency powers to address the worsening traffic situation and the proposal for charter change to implement a shift to a federal form of government with a presidential unicameral set up.

Baguilat also wondered where the President's pet proposals were, like the re-imposition of the death penalty and lowering the age of criminality. Baguilat also expressed reservations when it came to the President's conflicting signals about human rights.

Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo, for his part, pointed out the challenge of sustaining a quorum to work on the legislative agenda. Quimbo is confident that the government can approve his pet proposal on tax reform.

Progressive bloc congressmen who had been critical of previous president's SONA's had a rather muted reaction.

In a statement, Kabataan Party-List Rep. Sarah Elago even praised the speech. "All in all, President Duterte's first SONA gives the Filipino people reason to hope -- for a better future, a better nation, and for a government that is willing to listen to the people's demands. There may be points in his SONA that we do not totally agree on, yet we believe the way forward is for the people to continue and intensify the people's campaign for their rights and demands.”

“Let us continue to engage with President Duterte and help him towards adopting progressive and genuine change. Clashing opinions aside, we can describe President Duterte's first SONA as the opening salvo of a promising and engaging conversation with the people that we hope will result in a progressive future for our nation," Elago continued.

However, she noted the President's silence on the issue of political prisoners.

"He could have done better. He could have allotted a few words with regard to his promise of freeing political prisoners. Still, the unilateral ceasefire announcement is a welcome development," the youth lawmaker said.

In his SONA, Duterte said that his administration is committed to "promote and protect the human rights of our citizens" and that the "rule of law shall at all times prevail."

However, Duterte short of mocked a recent alleged drug-related death in Pasay City portrayed by the media as "La Pieta."

"The President is sending mixed signals as regards the spate of killings in connection with his administration's anti-illegal drug campaign. On one hand, he promised to respect the rule of law, yet he veered off from his speech at one point to short of mock the media handling of the recent spate of drug-related killings. Mr. President, again we say: if the fight against illegal drugs involves a sense of healing communities and providing better basic services to the vulnerable, then we are even ready to volunteer. Yet we remain adamant in our call for the administration to always and always adhere to due process and the rule of law in its fight against illegal drugs," Elago said.

Prosecuting Aquino?

Elago also noted that while Duterte started his SONA by saying that he will not waste time on "finger-pointing," the President also promised that "those who betray the people's trust shall not go unpunished, and they shall have their day in court."

"Even if the President did not specifically mention former President Aquino and his sins to the nation, we believe that the opening lines of the SONA pertain to Aquino. And we are one with the president in wishing that the past administration's 'day of reckoning' will come," Elago said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said "President Duterte's first SONA is very heartfelt, straightforward at lapat sa lupa. His SONA stated what the people want and need.His declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDF is most welcome and the subsequent release of political prisoners would be a great confidence building measure to jumpstart the formal peace negotiations to finally address the root causes of the armed conflict."

Duterte's allies came to amplify the President's messages. Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said in a statement, "The message of President Duterte was clearly about peace. Peace in our communities against crime and illegal drugs. Peace in governance against corruption. Peace with China in our waters and territories. Peace with the National Democratic Front, the CPP-NPA; and final lasting peace in Mindanao. Peace in our economy with faster processes and ease in doing business, more jobs, better infrastructure. Peace against horrendous traffic. Peace in families' incomes with the lowering of income tax. Peace in the countryside under a federal form of government."

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Treñas said, "President Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) is funny but tough and very reassuring. His call for all insurgency groups to embrace peace and his commitment to bring peace in the country before his term ends is every Filipino's dream no matter which side you're with.”

“His commitment to fight crime and drugs without prejudice to human rights should also extinguish claims that the Duterte administration has no respect for human life and human dignity. His pledge to kill red tape in its tracks is also very encouraging. His SONA encapsulates the people's wish and dreams and President Duterte is their last hope to make it happen," Treñas added.