MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) was "usually full of rants and excuses" and did not use the opportunity to lay out a plan to further address the coronavirus crisis in the country, several public officials said Monday.
Duterte opened and closed his speech accusing Sen. Franklin Drilon of defending the Lopez family, whom the President labeled as "oligarchs." Drilon earlier challenged the Chief Executive to ban political dynasties after the latter claimed to have "dismantled" the country's oligarchs, days after the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN was denied a new broadcast license.
Rather than lay down a course of action on how the country can survive the COVID-19 crisis, the President began his speech "by assailing his critics & ranting about his personal grudge against the media," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.
She blasted Duterte's tirade against Drilon, refuting the President's claim that he has squashed oligarchs in the Philippines.
"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."
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also noted Duterte "again used this 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. Malacañang earlier said it had a "neutral" stance on the broadcast franchise renewal application of ABS-CBN, a claim which many refute since Duterte himself threatened to shut down the network last December.
Other senators meanwhile also hit Duterte's failed opportunity to give a "clear" COVID-19 roadmap, something that the Palace earlier said the President will discuss "in detail." The country has already logged over 82,000 cases of the deadly virus.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan castigated Duterte for not mentioning the government's "missed targets" in mass testing, contact tracing, and the distribution of cash aid for the poor during the 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."
Duterte's latest SONA "scored low in the inspirational index" for failing to give a pep talk that will "boost morale" and "steel resolve" "to a people in need of hope and direction" amid the pandemic, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.
"He could have used that speech to ignite their fighting spirit and light the way forward for them," Recto said in a statement.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, said the President "did not clearly state" a concrete plan to address the unemployment problem in the Philippines, noting that the COVID-19 crisis has left about 7.3 million jobless Filipinos, as of April.
"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."
Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, who leads Duterte's ruling PDP-Laban party, meanwhile said that the President requested many legislative measures to help Filipinos during the coronavirus crisis.
"COVID-19 could not be the only topic because it is not our only concern," Pimentel said.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman meanwhile emphasized that the SONA "was not the proper" time to threaten telecommunication providers Globe Telecom and PLDT, saying Duterte "is using his threatening rhetoric against his perceived oligarchies."
Duterte in his address warned PLDT and Globe Telecom to improve their services or face "closure" or "expropriation."
"If there (is) 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," Lagman told ANC.
"It's for the court to resolve whether there are violations and what punishments should be imposed."
The Magdalo Party-list meanwhile said Duterte's SONA contained the "same elements" heard in his previous state reports.
"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," it said in a statement.
"One thing is sure, our nation will suffer great losses in the hands of Mr. Duterte."--With reports from Katrina Domingo and Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News
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