Duterte urged to veer away from divisive rhetoric, focus on COVID-19 measures


Posted at Jul 28 2020 10:01 AM | Updated as of Jul 28 2020 10:15 AM

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MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte needs to veer away from divisive rhetoric and focus on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as he failed to present a comprehensive plan against the virus in his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA), a political analyst said Tuesday.

Malacañang earlier said Duterte would lay down a recovery roadmap in his SONA for the country's pandemic-battered economy and virus-weary public. The novel coronavirus has so far sickened 82,040 people in the Philippines, of whom 26,446 recovered and 1,945 died.

It is very important for the President to communicate his plans clearly and set the tone for policymakers, said professor Leon Flores III of the Ateneo School of Government.

"It’s important for him to really get a hold of himself in terms of his stream of consciousness...We need to really unite the country on the COVID pandemic. All these things that seem divisive should really take a backseat towards where we should focus our efforts and that really should be towards our COVID pandemic response because people are dying, our healthcare system is about to be overwhelmed again," he told ANC.

"The strategic directions should’ve been outlined clearly, in categorical terms so people know exactly what to do, measures are in place."

The President's tirades against people in government, the opposition and supposed oligarchs "send the wrong signal," Flores added.

"This stream of consciousness inserted every now and then in his SONA, his weekly addresses will not help reassure the people, will not send the right signal to policymakers down the line in different agencies and local government units exactly what are we supposed to do in this pandemic," he said.

"If you have 2 different persona in 1 address it sends a a confusing signal to many people who receive the message. Clarity is important at this point. When you talk about a crisis it’s very important clarity is there."

Duterte opened and closed his speech accusing Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon of defending the Lopez family, whom the President labeled as "oligarchs."

Drilon, meantime, said he was defending press freedom and not the Lopez family.

The President also threatened to close all telecommunication providers and "expropriate" if services won't improve by December.

Duterte, meanwhile, rejected the resumption of face-to-face classes until next year and said he has asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to give the Philippines priority access if Beijing discovers a vaccine against COVID-19.