Some senators dismayed over lack of 'comprehensive' COVID-19 plan in Duterte's 5th SONA

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2020 09:45 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2020 01:17 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte gives his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives on July 27, 2020. Screengrab from RTVM

MANILA (UPDATE)- Several senators on Monday lamented how President Rodrigo Duterte missed the opportunity to give a "clear" COVID-19 roadmap during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Duterte could have used his annual report to the nation to give a "detailed and nuanced" plan on the global pandemic "in a language that is comforting, assuring and emphatic," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement.

"It scored low in the inspirational index," he said.

"People were expecting a pep talk that will boost their morale, steel their resolve and will leave them to conclude, without a doubt, that indeed, we shall overcome," he said.

"To a people in need of hope and direction, he could have used that speech to ignite their fighting spirit and light the way forward for them."

UNEMPLOYMENT NOT TACKLED

Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, said he was "waiting" for the chief executive to "tackle a clear and comprehensive plan to address the unemployment problem," noting that the COVID-19 crisis has left about 7.3 million jobless Filipinos, as of April.

"The concrete plan was not clearly stated earlier," Villanueva said.

"It would have been a relief for them if the government stated its plan to generate jobs for them and ensure that they and their families will have something to eat in the days to come," he said, referring to unemployed Filipinos.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros echoed Villanueva's observation, saying the President did "not directly address" the issues of unemployment and hunger during the health and economic crises.

"Walang trabaho at gutom ang mga Pilipino, pero ang mga inunang isyu — death penalty, drug war, at kung anu-ano pa," she said, referring to Duterte's call to revive the death penalty in the Philippines.

RANTS AND PERSONAL GRUDGES

Instead of "laying down a comprehensive plan" on how the Philippines can survive the COVID-19 crisis, the President began his speech "by assailing his critics & ranting about his personal grudge against the media," Hontiveros said.

A few minutes into his penultimate SONA, Duterte took a swipe at Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, accusing him of lawyering for ABS-CBN after he challenged the administration of banning political dynasties if it really wants to dismantle oligarchy in the country.

Days after ABS-CBN's application for a fresh broadcast license was denied by the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises, Duterte cited the Lopez family, who owns the media network, as among the Philippine oligarchs he claimed he had dismantled.

Reacting to the chief executive's remarks, Drilon reminded Duterte that wealth is not the sole basis to identify an oligarch. "You are an oligarch if you use your power to promote through the political system your own interest," Drilon had said.

Three of Duterte's children are incumbent elected officials. His eldest son Paolo represents the first district of Davao City in the House of Representatives, daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio is Davao City mayor, while youngest son Sebastian sits as the city's vice mayor.

"Sa umpisa pa lang ng talumpati ng Pangulo, puro pagbanat sa mga oligarchy ang siniwalat ngunit sino ang papalit sa mga oligarchies na na-dismantle niya kuno? The oligarchies clustered around the president himself," Hontiveros said.

"The president makes no promise to unchain government from serving vested interests," she added.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also criticized Duterte for not mentioning the government's "missed targets" in mass testing, contact tracing, and the distribution of cash aid for the poor during thel pandemic.

"COVID, matinding gutom at kawalan ng trabaho ng 10 milyon nating mga kababayan ang kalaban, hindi si Drilon," Pangilinan said.

"Kapalpakan, kapabayaan at garapalang kurakot sa DoH at PhilHealth ang matinding problema at kalaban, hindi si Drilon," he said.

On the other hand, Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel noted that the President requested many legislative measures to help Filipinos cope the COVID-19 crisis.

"COVID-19 could not be the only topic because it is not our only concern," said Pimentel, who leads Duterte's ruling PDP-Laban party.

"But there were many measures mentioned by the President which will allow us to live and progress with COVID and after the pandemic," he said.

But Recto pointed out that instead of giving the Congress a "long laundry list," Duterte should have "given marching orders" to his Cabinet secretaries, "especially those who are lagging behind in delivering programs to the people."

"There are good new programs [mentioned in the SONA], like the Plant-Plant-Plant, but like existing ones, their proof is in the implementation," Recto said.

"Oftentimes, excellent visions are cancelled by poor execution... Cabinet or sub-Cabinet changes should be explored so that promises made can be fulfilled," he said, without mentioning names.

Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon said he would still want to hear a thorough report from the President on what direction the country is taking in the fight against the virus.

Gordon told journalists Tuesday that the country’s recorded testing until now is at 0.1 percent.

“That is very very low and we are not going to remove COVID-19, [kung] basta aasa tayo sa tinatawag nating vaccine."