MANILA - Opposition lawmakers and rights advocates slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for what they called as his "mere ramblings" during his final State of the Nation Address on Monday.
Duterte was criticized for largely pushing his violent drug war again in his nearly 3-hour speech before Congress, despite a continuous rise in COVID-19 infections in the Philippines.
The Philippines is battling one of Asia's worst coronavirus outbreaks, which local transmission of the highly infectious COVID-19 Delta variant is threatening to worsen.
Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said the SONA was a wasted opportunity, wherein Duterte failed to discuss the Philippines' problem with poverty and unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Bakit mas binigyan pa ng priority at importansiya ang ilegal na droga habang trabaho, hanapbhay, dagdag na kita at solusyon sa gutom ang gustong marinig ng mamamayan na wala pa atang 5 minuto pinagusapan," he said in a statement.
Gabriel Rep. Arlene Brosas also criticized Duterte for not laying out in detail a plan to finally put the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines to an end.
"Itong final SONA ni Duterte ay parang lasing na naman ang Presidente sa pagsasabi ng same threats pero walang exit plan sa pandemic," she said.
Duterte admitted in his speech he does "not know what to do" with the COVID-19 crisis at home.
"I have to listen to the task force [on COVID-19]," said Duterte.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate called the President's last annual speech a "joke of the nation address."
"Hindi naman it state of the nation talaga. Formula ng SONA ay last SONA. Pilit niya pagmayabang at meron siyang nagawa. Di napigilan magmura at birahin ang mga kritiko," he said,
Duterte's allies defended his final SONA, claiming he has achieved a lot for the Filipino public.
"Clearly, three hours were not enough to spell out all the relevant programs and projects that the Duterte administration has implemented to improve the living conditions of our people," House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said in a statement.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also said his final SONA "covered a wide range of subjects."
"What made the biggest impression for me was his heartfelt remarks on drugs, seen from the level of the people, the family, as opposed to his critics who view it thru the eyes of the West," she said.
Duterte, who assumed power in 2016 on a tough anti-narcotics platform, will step down in June 2022.