What senators expect to hear in President’s SONA

Published July 21, 2019, 10:57 AM

by Patrick Garcia


By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Tomorrow, July 22, President Duterte will deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), and the people, especially the lawmakers and government officials, will listen closely and hope that their expectations on the future will be part of the Chief Executive’s plan.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

We interviewed members of the Senate on what they hope to hear in the President’s SONA.
The major issues they raised were on foreign policy following recent events in the West Philippines Sea; the continued campaign against illegal drugs; updates on the administration’s top project –“Build, Build, Build,” and his drive against corruption.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, Sotto said he expects President Duterte to expound his position on the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that seeks a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Duterte had slammed Iceland for initiating the resolution, saying it did not understand the country’s drug problem.

While he was supportive of the administration’s war on drugs, the Senate chief said he also hopes that Duterte will lay out his programs against dangerous drugs for the next three years.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri

Citing the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse surveys, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the Senate majority leader said he was satisfied with Duterte’s performance in the past year.

“Over-all the economy is performing well and a good number of infrastructure projects are being completed or under construction. And the President shows that he is serious on his anti-corruption stance and has the political will to make things happen,” he told the MB when asked to comment.

Zubiri said that with the implementing rules and regulations of the Ease of Doing Business Act already signed, he hopes to hear Duterte’s marching orders to the Anti-Red Tape Authority.

Also important, according to Zubiri, is the President’s “full support” to the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Sen. Leila de Lima

De Lima, meanwhile, called for a “true and real state of the nation” on July 22.

“I want to hear him explain how his strategy of appeasing China is protecting the country’s maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea, instead of betraying and abandoning the national interest and national security as exemplified in the government’s handling of the Gem-Ver ramming incident,” the detained senator told MB.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian

Gatchalian, who has been supportive of the Duterte’s leadership, sought for clarity on Duterte’s “independent foreign policy.”

In a recent radio interview, he noted the confusing pronouncements of government officials amid the Recto Bank incident.

Despite this, Gatchalian praised Duterte for the growth of Philippine economy and decline in poverty incidence.

Sen. Christopher Go

Go, Duterte’s long-time aid, said he believes that Filipinos are “very satisfied” with Duterte’s performance.

The neophyte lawmaker called on Duterte to expound on possible measures to further push government’s efforts in fighting illegal drugs and maintaining peace and order. He said he expects Duterte to endorse his legislative agenda to the 18th Congress.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said it would be a “wrong move” on the part of Duterte to “defend” the actions of China in the Philippines’ EEZ in his SONA.

Hontiveros said she wishes, instead, that Duterte would “finally” invoke the country’s successful arbitration case versus China over the West Philippines Sea, and purse justice for the distressed Filipino fishermen in the Recto Bank incident.

Sen. Imee Marcos

Marcos told the MB that she would be glad to hear that Duterte will focus on poverty reduction. She said she likes to see ”more inclusive growth” in the country, specifically in eradicating poverty in Mindanao.

The first-time senator also urged Duterte to address the diminishing profits of farmers and the country’s agriculture sector.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III

Pimentel, in a recent press briefing, said the SONA is also the chance for Duterte to tell Congress his priorities for the last three years of his term.

Pimentel said he expects Duterte to reiterate his push for Charter change (Cha-cha) even if it is not for federalism.

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.

Revilla, in a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin, said he also hopes that “a clearer picture regarding foreign policy is articulated” in Duterte’s speech.

“I would personally want to hear about how fiscal reforms implemented in the past three years have impacted the lives of Filipinos and the economy in general,” he added.

Sen. Joel Villanueva
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor looks forward to Duterte acting on the priority measure ending the practice of contractualization of workers ahead of his SONA.

The Security of Tenure bill, transmitted by Congress late last month, awaits Duterte’s signature.