MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte, whose 6-year term ends in June next year, will deliver his final State of the Nation Address on Monday, as the Philippines struggles to stop one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks that has dragged millions into unemployment and poverty.
Duterte is set to identify his remaining legislative agenda for his last year in office in his sixth SONA, as protesters prepared to defy bad weather and they rally near the venue.
The President's final SONA comes as authorities scramble to contain local transmission of the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant.
The Philippines has so far tallied some 1.54 coronavirus infections, the second highest in Southeast Asia. At least 5.5 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the pathogen.
The government aims to vaccinate 58 to 70 million of the 109 million population to safely reopen the economy that suffered its worst post-war slump last year due to lockdowns meant to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 48 percent of Filipino families rate themselves as poor and 23 percent do not, while 29 percent placed themselves on the borderline between the 2 categories, based on a Social Weather Stations survey released on Sunday.
Filipinos will most like to hear Duterte discuss jobs and the economy in his final SONA, according to a survey released on Monday by Pulse Asia.
Other issues on top of Filipinos' mid include measures to control inflation, plans to expedite the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program, increasing workers’ pay, improving the educational system, preventing further Chinese incursion into the West Philippine Sea, and fighting government corruption, said the pollster.
Duterte, 76, is not eligible to run for a second term. But he has repeatedly said over the past few weeks that he was considering running for vice president in 2022 to avail of immunity from lawsuits by political opponents.
Political vendettas are common in the Philippines and former leaders, minus their immunity of office, have been prosecuted and even jailed after changes in power.
Duterte is facing possible investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity and killings under his war on drugs.
He defends the narcotics crackdown fiercely, saying critics including as Western leaders and institutions do not care about the Philippines. The President says he will not cooperate with the ICC probe.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters