Filipino lawmakers, key public figures react to SONA 2020

SENATE’S SONA LOOK. A total of 17 senators, donning face masks led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III (3rd from left, topmost), opens the 2nd regular session of the 18th Congress on Monday, July 27. It opened hours before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City. | PNA photo by Gil Calinga

A day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City, several Filipino lawmakers and key public figures publicly reacted to the points highlighted in the chief executive’s speech.

Senator Grace Poe noted that reviving the death penalty without judicial reforms would put the “innocent poor with scant resources” at risk.

She lauded the country’s efforts in saving lives and preventing deaths in its fight against the novel coronavirus, but stressed that the government “must also protect the lives of the defenseless and disadvantaged from the peril of injustice.”

“Without the needed reforms in our justice system, the innocent poor with scant resources to wage a decent defense in court will be the ones at risk in any attempt to revive the death penalty in the country,” Poe said Tuesday, July 28.

The statement came after Duterte, in his SONA, called on Congress to reinstate the death penalty in the Philippines for drug-related charges.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also called out the president for bringing up the death penalty in the middle of the pandemic.

“I cant believe I need to say this: but the death penalty is not a solution to the pandemic,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Hontiveros pointed out that Duterte should be prioritizing the economy as well as the Filipinos who lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

“The president uttered the same incoherent statements that did not present a health and economic roadmap that could lead us through this pandemic. Issues of unemployment and hunger were not directly addressed,” she said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, showed his support for the death penalty.

“Having served as a law enforcer in my previous life I have good enough basis to believe that the reimposition of the death penalty is a deterrent to crime and an encouragement for victims to come forward and seek justice. Just like the Anti- Terrorism Act of 2020, timing is of no moment when we are dealing with heinous crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto expressed disappointment with Duterte’s SONA, noting that it was neither reassuring nor hopeful.

He also said that Duterte failed to give much detail on how to fight the war against COVID-19.

“I think the president economized in spelling out his anti-pandemic program, which is what Filipinos were expecting to hear more from him. He could have made it detailed and nuanced, in a language that is comforting, assuring and emphatic,” he added.

Former adviser to the COVID-19 task force Tony Leachon echoed this sentiment, saying he was expecting more from Duterte’s SONA.

“I was expecting that…60% of the [discussion would be on] the health crisis: the granular plan regarding detection, testing, isolation and quarantine, and then [transition] to the economic recovery plan, [around] 20 to 30%, and then the 10% would be other matters,” he told ABS-CBN.

Leachon added that he was hoping for “a review of the national action plan” that would be “inspiring, powerful, [and] engaging.”

Palace rates Duterte’s SONA 9 out of 10

Malacañang gave the President’s SONA a near perfect grade.

“Sa akin po, nine out of 10 ang grado ng Presidente (For me, the president’s grade is nine out of 10),” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

His only complaints that hindered him from giving the speech a perfect score were the length and lack of “quotable quotes.”

“Well, sa akin naman po, siguro ‘yung sa pagsulat ng speech, number one, mahaba. One hour and 40 [minutes]. Eh meron na ngang pre-SONA (For me, the speech was lengthy. It lasted for one hour and 40 minutes. We already had pre-SONA [fora so it could have been shorter]),” Roque noted.

“Kung ako ang nagsulat diyan, mas marami akong ilalagay na quotable quotes sa simula at sa ending ng speech (If I were the speech writer, I would have included quotable quotes in the beginning and ending of the speech),” he added.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go also gave Duterte’s SONA a positive review, saying it was “inspiring” as it articulated the government’s plans, goals, and vision for a better future for Filipinos.

“The president was able to clearly lay down measures in his speech that will strengthen the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, address the immediate needs of the people to overcome the hardships, and sustain the gains of the administration in fulfilling its promise of a comfortable life for all,” he said.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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