By Genalyn Kabiling
A proposed salary hike for public school teachers and nurses, the postponement of the 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, and return of the death penalty law are among the legislative measures endorsed by President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Facing the joint session of Congress Monday afternoon, the President sought the swift passage of more than a dozen priority measures, that included vital tax reform measures, in the 18th Congress.
“It is now time for Congress to approve a new version of the Salary Standardization Law. Ngayon na. And to the teachers, alam mo dito who toil and work tirelessly to educate our young. Kasali na po dito ‘yung hinihingi ninyo [Your request will be part of this],” he said in his speech that lasted for an hour and a half.
“Hindi naman masyadong malaki, pero it will tide you over during this hard time. A little bit bigger than before. This is intended to increase the salaries of national government workers, including teachers and nurses,” he added.
Duterte also urged lawmakers to move the barangay and SK elections from 2020 to 2022 and pass the magna carta for barangays.
“You have to study this very carefully. Congress has to postpone the May 2020 elections and ‘yung Barangay, Sangguniang Kabataan to October 2022. Because if you read it, this… To rectify the truncated terms. Paiba-iba na eh. The truncated terms of sitting barangays but also provide them with the ample time to finish their programs and projects,” he said.
Duterte likewise pushed for the approval of a measure establishing the National Academy for Sports for high school students, the comprehensive tax reform package including the Trabaho bill, and the proposed rightsizing the national government to improve public service delivery.
“I am also asking Congress to pass the remaining packages of my Administration’s Tax Reform Program, and the bills that would further raise excise taxes on — very good, let us do it — tobacco and alcohol,” he said.
“Sinong naninigarilyo dito? They should be exterminated from the face of the earth,” he said, warning that he acquired Buerger’s disease because of his warning habit.
He also asked Congress “to review and pass the Government Rightsizing Bill to reconfigure the existing Metro Manila-centric bureaucracy, streamline government systems in order to deliver services without delay and within a short timeline.”
Other pet bills of the President are measures seeking the creation of the department on water resources, overseas Filipino workers, and disaster resiliency, creation of the coconut levy fund, as well as the establishment of the fire protection modernization program.
He also expressed support for the bills seeking amendments to the national defense act, retirement and pension, and the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. “Military training will be good for everybody,” he said.
On the death penalty, the President asked Congress to reimpose capital punishment for heinous crimes related to illegal drugs and plunder.
“It has been three years since I took my oath of office, and it pains me to say that we have not learned our lesson. The illegal drug problem persists. Corruption continues and emasculates the courage we need to sustain our moral recovery initiatives,” he said.
Duterte also backed the bills filed by Senator Christopher Go such as measures on additional benefits for solo parents, the assignment of health workers in all barangays, and the expansion of the Malasakit Centers.