By Genalyn Kabiling
While the campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption as well as the West Philippine Sea issue could be among the highlights of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the public should also brace for possible “surprises” from the Chief Executive, Malacañang said Friday.
As the President prepared for his Monday’s annual public address, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo hinted that Duterte may veer away from the prepared speech, saying Duterte was known for being “spontaneous.”
“The President is extemporaneous, spontaneous,” Panelo told reporters at the Palace.
Asked if he will stick to his prepared speech before the joint session of Congress, Panelo said: “He’s faithful to himself which means he’s a man of surprises.”
According to Panelo, the President was expected to outline moves to build on the government’s achievements on fighting drugs, corruption as well as endorse a number priority bills during his upcoming SONA.
“My educated guess is he will be focusing on the same campaign issues he enunciated at the start of the campaign until his assumption f the presidency which are corruption, criminality, drugs, terrorism, maybe West Philippine Sea.. what he will do for the next three years,” Panelo said.
Among the proposed measures are amendments to the foreign investment act and retail trade liberalization act to help spur economic growth, he said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar also said the President’s speech will likely focus on his “legacy” plans for the next three years.
Andanar identified three priority areas, namely sustaining programs on poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, and peace and order, particularly in addressing the local Communist conflict.
“You can never have progress without peace and order—I think the President will focus on that message,” he said.
The President earlier said his forthcoming address would be “short” after his Cabinet members were already able to present the administration’s achievements in three pre-SONA events.
President Duterte also previously said he might “educate” his critics about his West Philippine Sea policy amid criticisms he supposedly violated the Constitution for failing to protect territorial waters and its resources from China’s sweeping claims.
He insisted that there was nothing unconstitutional after allowing China to fish in the local waters, citing the widely accepted practice of granting traditional fishing rights.
On the survey showing the public wants Duterte to talk about workers’ salaries, consumer prices, and jobs in his next SONA, Panelo said the President has previously discussed these concerns. Policy statements have also been issued by the Cabinet about these matters, he said.
“But it will not prevent the President from articulating on those issues,” he said.
Panelo also gave anew the President’s an almost perfect score for his accomplishments in the past year. On a scale of one to 10, he said he would give the President a 9 for his performance.
“Based on the statistics, employment has increased. Poverty level has gone down. There are more people with jobs now. Prices of commodities have have become stable. It’s a success,” he said.