MANILA - A citizens group has expressed disappointment over the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte, finding it lacking in concrete solutions to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte, in his latest annual report to the nation last Monday, didn't give a "detailed and nuanced" plan on the global crisis, as the deadly virus continues to batter the Philippines. Instead, he went on "assailing his critics and ranting about his personal grudge against the media."
In a virtual forum organized by Citizens Urgent Response to End Covid-19 (CURE Covid) on Wednesday, Prof. Carl Ramota of the UP Manila Social Science Department questioned the priorities of the President, saying his policy pronouncements and legislative agenda failed to address unemployment and hunger.
CURE Covid is a network of organizations and individuals involved in responding to the health and socio-economic needs of Filipinos affected by COVID-19.
Ramota said there was no assurance for frontliners in the health sector on how their needs are going to be addressed.
Duterte instead focused on the restoration of death penalty and the denial of the franchise of ABS-CBN, which the President had threatened to deny last December, and was fulfilled this month.
CURE Covid spokesperson Judy Taguiwalo also found the President’s SONA wanting, sharing the observation that the plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic was overtaken by Duterte’s obsession with going after supposed oligarchs by shutting down ABS-CBN.
Ramota accused Duterte of committing “downright treason” for surrendering Philippine sovereignty to China over the West Philippine issue and for sacrificing the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk.
The President in his latest SONA said that he was "inutile" and "cannot do anything" against Beijing's pursuit of territory and resources in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Manila.
“Sa gitna ng laganap ng pagkasakit at kamatayan, death penalty ang uunahin ng pamahalaan. Nauna na rin ngang sentensyahan ng kamatayan ang franchise ng ABS-CBN at nangangamba tayo sa pagkakapasa at pagpapatupad eventually ng IRR ng anti-terror law na higit pang mage-escalate ng human rights abuses o violations,” Ramota said.
Dr. Lopao Medina of the UP College of Medicine demanded to know where funds intended for the COVID-19 response have gone, dismissing the creation of “malasakit centers” as mere additional layer of bureaucracy.
He said there was no mention of the real situation nor a concrete plan for testing and access to care and support for health care workers, amid the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases.
“Tayo ba ay nananalo na ba talaga? Tayo ba talaga ay nagagamot na natin at naaayos na natin ang sistema natin para tugunan ang pandemya? Ano ang pinaggagastusan ng pera ng ating pinag-utangan? Saan napunta ang resources na ito? Ano ang mga programa at kumusta na sila? Iyon sana ang gusto nating narinig noong SONA at nakakalungkot na hindi ko iyon narinig,” Medina said.
Marie Dinglasan said she was not satisfied with the SONA, noting the inadequate assistance for people affected by COVID-19. She also questioned the sincerity of the administration in running after so-called oligarchs.
“Lahat ng inutang ninyo, ilaan nyo ngayon sa sambayanang Pilipino. Ipakita niyo sa amin na ang inutang ninyo ay pakikinabangan naming lahat pagkat kami naman ay magbabayad niyan,” Dinglasan said.
"Payag kami na i-lockdown, pero ibigay ninyo ang karampatan at tamang gastusin ng lahat ng mamamayan na maapektuhan ng lockdown pagkat kayo rin ang may kasalanan kung bakit nagka-ganito ang ating bansa."
Public officials earlier blasted Duterte's SONA as "usually full of rants and excuses" due to his failure to show the public action plan for the pandemic. The President's allies have defended him however, saying he requested many legislative measures to help Filipinos during the coronavirus crisis.