MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte’s biggest failure in all his years in office is his centerpiece campaign against illegal drugs.
This was the stinging rebuttal or contra-SONA delivered by opposition lawmaker Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman two days after Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address last Monday.
"It is an irony that President Duterte’s centerpiece program – the elimination of the drug menace – is his Waterloo. Instead of saving lives from the clutches of drug addiction, thousands of lives have been forfeited to his unabated brutal war on drugs," Lagman said.
"Whatever the horrific figure is, the fact is almost all the victims are impoverished and marginalized whose deaths were mostly instigated by President Duterte’s 'kill, kill, kill' pronouncements, and where the culprit agents of the State were extended the presidential shield and condonation," he added.
Lagman drew a comparison between Duterte's drug war and the Battle of Waterloo which Napoleon Bonaparte lost to a British-led coalition in 1815.
He also pointed out that Duterte miserably failed the acid test of his leadership--the COVID 19 pandemic.
When Duterte delivered his SONA last year, the number of COVID-19 positive cases was 80,448, said Lagman. On Monday, the country already recorded 1,548,755 confirmed infections, which is 1,924 percent higher
The death toll, as of July 27, 2020 was 1,932, while it stood at 27,224 exactly a year later, up by 1,409 percent, he noted.
Lagman added that the Philippines fared poorly in fully vaccinating its citizens compared to its neighbors.
The lawmaker believes Duterte has no time to make up for his failures in the last five years, in the remaining months of his administration.
"Verily, President Duterte both have floundered in his centerpiece program of terminating the drug scourge, and failed incompetently, adequately, and speedily confronting the pandemic crisis, a failure which is compounded by his lack of a pandemic roadmap to revive the people’s health and restore the economy," Lagman said.
"What President Duterte failed to accomplish or fulfill in five years, he cannot cram into completion in barely six months considering the onset of the election fever in early 2022."
Likewise, Lagman highlighted what he says is continuing impunity in the matter of human rights.
"Seemingly unmindful of the constitutional and legal proscription of judicial killing or the death penalty, President Duterte instigates what is even worse – EJK – throwing due process of law into the dustbin," he said.
Lagman scored the President for continuing to defy the International Criminal Court and supposedly threatening the freedom of the press in the country.
"President Duterte’s contempt of the Constitution is highlighted by his derogation of the freedom of the press, which is a component of the freedom of expression. In his SONA he insisted that ABS-CBN cheated the government in unpaid taxes, despite clearances from the tax agencies," he said.
Lagman pointed out that Duterte did not confirm the precariousness of the economy. He cited the country’s decelerating Gross Domestic Product (GDP), runaway unemployment, increasing poverty and hunger, galloping inflation, ballooning national debt, and problematic COVID-19 loans.
Lagman pressed the government to make a full accounting of the sources and use of COVID-19 funds, which Duterte did not address in his SONA, particularly the delayed vaccination program.
He also underscored Duterte’s silence on what he called, "the infrastructure of the mind", particularly basic education.
Lagman mentioned the World Bank report that of the 79 countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment 2018, the Philippines ranked last in reading, and second to last in science and math.
He also cited that in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2019, the Philippines’ rank in math and science was lower than in 2003. In the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Matrix 2019, among six participating ASEAN countries, the country never rose above fourth or fifth, he said.
"While it is true that the World Bank published the results of the three international education assessments without prior notification to the Department of Education, a breach of protocol for which it has subsequently apologized, the Philippine Government did not refute or contradict the validity of the results," he said.
The solon also noted the worsening corruption situation in the country.
"Compared to other ASEAN countries, the Philippines ranked 7th out of 10 nations lower than Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand," he said.
Lagman said the opposition’s Counter-SONA has been institutionalized like the President’s SONA.
"As its appellation suggests, it is a rebuttal to the President’s SONA. It presents to the people the unalloyed state of the nation, devoid of aggrandizement, hyperbole, and pretense. It is a critique of the President’s declarations, misdeclarations and non-declaration," he said.