Senators expect SONA to rally the people; hope to hear plans for poverty alleviation

Published July 21, 2019, 2:08 PM

by Dr. Eduardo Gonzales

By Hannah L. Torregoza

Senators on Sunday said they foresee President Rodrigo Duterte presenting a combination of a “report card” and “marching orders” on his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he expects this would be the “tenor and content” of the President’s 4th SONA, as this has been traditionally used by past leaders of the country as a “national pep talk” where they rally the public’s support for their administration’s programs.

“Traditionally, these are the two main ingredients of a SONA. And I don’t think that the one tomorrow will be anything different. It is one half ‘What we have done and one half ‘What is to be done’,” Recto said.

“Presidents have used the SONA as a national pep talk, a feel-good speech, to boost the morale of the nation, and to rally them to support programs that need to be accomplished for the good of the country,” he added.

As such, Recto advised the people “not to get their hopes up” and expect that “every concern, every solution, every sector, every region will be mentioned in the SONA.”

“The SONA is constrained by time so it is physically impossible for the President to cover all subjects,” he stressed.

Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, for her part, echoed Recto’s belief, but said she still hopes to hear how the President will extensively tackle “the gut issues” Filipinos face during his fourth SONA.

“I really hope that this year’s SONA is goal-driven. We, in the Senate, will always have a listening ear for the President’s legislative priorities. It would be comforting and encouraging, even in the slightest regard, if these three top issues –salaries, prices, jobs/livelihood creation—are given emphasis in his speech,” Binay said, citing the latest Pulse Asia survey on the top three issues Filipinos would “most like” to hear from the President.

Poverty alleviation should still be the government’s primary focus and having concrete plans for the next three years would help assure Filipinos that something is being done or acted upon, according to Binay.

While everyone still expects the President to continue to echo an imagery of a drug-free country and his usual staple references to crime and drugs, Binay said she hopes that the SONA, this time, would be devoted to keeping the Filipinos’ stomachs first in the agenda.
“An empty stomach can’t be filled by words,” she pointed out.

“We are facing demographic challenges, and the strain of unemployment is real. Let us provide jobs that would give our people hope, dignity and a sense of purpose. Huwag naman nating ibigay sa mga banyaga ang dapat para sa mga Pilipino (Let’s not give to foreigners what should be given to the Filipinos),” Binay stressed.

Binay further said it is important to hear the President talk about the policy direction of his administration in the last three years of his term.

“We know there is so much more the country needs to face—poverty, health, shelter and jobs and livelihood that should be exclusive to Filipinos,” the senator said, adding that she hopes the President lays down fresh ideas on how to close the gap between the actual 21 percent poverty rate and the 14 percent target by the end of the President’s term.

“The Senate will be listening. Even with a giant list of legislative priorities, we are ready to help craft the necessary laws that will benefit the people,” Binay said.