MANILA (UPDATE) — Some lawmakers on Monday found President Rodrigo Duterte's penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) wanting, saying the chief executive didn't provide a detailed and concrete action plan towards the country's recovery from COVID-19.
"We were expecting that the President will tell us very accurately what the administration's plans are with respect to responding to the health and economic crisis brought about by the pandemic but he did not," Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman told the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Duterte had his usual "rants and excuses" but lacked direction as to how the country can move forward from the catastrophic effects of the pandemic.
"The long winding speech of Duterte is once more of the same rants and excuses to camouflage his administration's grave failure to effectively and efficiently respond to the crisis aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic... He made excuses on his administration’s dismal COVID response but did not enumerate ways for it to be effectively contained," Zarate said in a statement.
The Magdalo party-list said Duterte's SONA contained the "same elements" heard in his previous addresses.
"As usual, the elements of a Duterte SONA were there – very few important updates, some more promises, bloated drug problem, defeatist stance in the West Philippine Sea, fear-mongering, ramblings against the opposition, Xi Jinping and Bong Go. The COVID-19 pandemic was not given the commensurate attention it needs considering that it is the most urgent problem right now," the party-list group said in a statement.
Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday said while he understands that covid19 is a “formidable enemy”, he would still want to hear a thorough report from the president on what direction the country is taking in fighting the virus.
Gordon in an online interview with journalists, gave credit to efforts by the Inter-Agency Task Force officials like Vince Dizon, Carlito Galvez and Eduardo Año – and other government agencies to combat COVID-19.
Yet, he was expecting the president to allay the people of their fears by telling them what the government is doing to protect them against the virus.
“Ang gusto ko sana ang sabihin ng Presidente, we will group no people who are endangering others. ngayon may nagsasabi na hard line na tayo. But ang importante Huwag matakot ang taong pumunta at magpagamot at i-access ang mga testing, whatever it is that you want para nalalaman natin,” Gordon pointed out.
The country’s recorded testing until now is at “0.1%” according to Gordon.
“That is very very low and we are not going to remove COVID basta aasa tayo sa tinatawag nating vaccine,” he added.
What’s needed at this point, according to Gordon, is to speed up the release of financial support to scientists who are trying find ways to put an end to the viral pandemic.
There is also a need to identify what role can the people take to help, he said.
“Medyo hindi ako masyadong happy, because the master plan was not clear, it has to clarified, ano-anong role ng tao. First, hindi mo magagawa iyan kung walang role ang tao,” Gordon said.
The Palace earlier said Duterte would lay down a recovery roadmap for the country's pandemic-battered economy and virus-weary public. The novel coronavirus has so far sickened 82,040 people in the Philippines, with 1,657 new cases reported on Monday.
But instead, Zarate noted, the President used his speech to criticize Sen. Franklin Drilon and the Lopez family, whom he tagged as "oligarchs."
"From the beginning and towards the end of his speech, he again used these as opportunity to hit his critics like Sen. Drilon and the Lopezes. From the start of his speech, it is now clear that he is not at all neutral on the shutdown of ABS-CBN network," Zarate said.
While the country still grapples with the public health crisis, the President in his 2-hour speech mainly urged Congress to pass the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill, which earmarks P140 billion as "standby fund" to support the government's coronavirus response efforts.
"That's a very miniscule amount. It could not properly respond to the health and economic emergencies. It is stingy compared to our ASEAN neighbors whose COVID-19 expenditures are much, much bigger in growth and per capita outlay," Lagman said.
"It is completely disappointing for the President not to make a clear discussion of the administration's stimulus package and just rely on a small amount in the Bayanihan 2," he added.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said the government did "enough within its means" to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as it gave cash aid to the most vulnerable families and workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic.
In June, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the P1.3 trillion economic stimulus package allocated to help keep and generate jobs.
Lagman also took exception to Duterte's threatening remarks against telecommunication providers, Globe Telecom and PLDT, in his SONA.
"I think the President is using his threatening rhetoric against his perceived oligarchies. He can't take the law into his own hands. If there are any violation, shortcomings in the delivery of services of these utility companies, those involved in power and water distribution and also telecommunications, then these violations should be brought up before the court. It's for the court to resolve whether there are violations and what punishments should be imposed," he said.
"SONA was not the proper venue or time to make this threatening rhetorics," he added.
Duterte warned PLDT and Globe Telecom to improve their services or face "closure" or "expropriation."
- with a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News