All set for President Duterte’s fifth SONA

Published July 26, 2020, 9:24 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

• Roadmap to recovery
• COVID-19 response
• A different scenario

President Duterte is set to take the stage for his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday to summarize his administration’s achievements and lay down his plans before his term ends in 2022.

President Rodrigo Duterte

What to expect?

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, President Duterte will summarize the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s response, and how the government will actually approach this problem particularly on moving forward.

“I think there’s no other problem as big as COVID-19 right now. We can imagine that the upcoming State of the Nation Address will discuss this pandemic in much detail,” he said.

The President is also set to unveil the government’s COVID-19 recovery plan on the day of his SONA.

Roadmap for recovery

“I think the difference will be… he will be presenting now a roadmap to recovery,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“The Economic Team has not unveiled [it] yet and the reason, I think, is they want to unveil it on the SONA itself and in many fora after the SONA,” he added.

Like in the previews years, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) held its pre-SONA fora that allowed Cabinet secretaries to report their respective department’s accomplishments and to bare their plans.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, having the pre-SONA fora gives the President more time to talk about the things “in his heart” because every accomplishment has been reported already.

Different scenario for SONA

The President’s SONA, which will be aired live unlike his weekly public addresses, will still be directed by TV and movie director Joyce Bernal.

However, it will be the first SONA with the fewest guests due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

Aside from a yet-to-be-specified number of guests, only 15 Cabinet secretaries and 50 legislators will be allowed inside the Batasang Pambansa.

No private media is allowed inside the Congress. The PCOO said that only the Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) will be allowed to cover the event.

Private media entities were advised to hook up to the live feed of PTV or cover through RTVM’s social media pages.

But before the President discusses the problem at hand and makes another list of promises, let’s look back at the ones he made last year.

Illegal Drugs

Last year, President Duterte said that despite the efforts of his administration, the illegal drug problem still persists and that the country has a long way to go in this arena.

President Duterte’s drug war continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on the last update of the government’s #RealNumbersPH program, a total of ₱43.58 billion worth of illegal drugs and paraphernalia were seized as of May 31, 2020, with 9,350 high-value targets arrested.

In June this year, President Duterte lauded the police for busting a total of ₱5.1 billion worth of shabu in an operation in Marilao, Bulacan despite everyone’s focus being on COVID-19.


Duterte’s fight against corruption has not taken the back seat even during the pandemic.

Last month, the President said he would go after local officials who misused government money intended to assist poor households who were affected by the quarantine measures.

Last month, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said 663 local officials, government employees, and civilian accomplices were subjected to investigation for the anomalous distribution of the cash aid.

Of the said figure, 397 were already charged by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Death Penalty

President Duterte has called on Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes, particularly those related to drugs and plunder.

Congress, however, did not deliver on the President’s call.

Third Telco

After the establishment of third telecommunications provider Dito Telecommunity, President Duterte challenged the new player to fulfill its commitment to provide fast and reliable services to the people, especially in the underserved areas.

Dito Telecommunity Corporation, a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications, however, missed its July 8 deadline.

Uy said Dito’s services will be available by March 2021.

Communist rebellion

Last year, President Duterte talked about ending communist violence through localized peace talks and assigning Cabinet members to various regions to oversee efforts to end communist insurgency there.

However, last month, President Duterte said that communists and terrorism remain to be the number one threat in the Philippines despite COVID-19 claiming the lives of almost 2,000 people.

Reed Bank allision

Last year, President Duterte described the Reed Bank allision as a mere maritime incident.

Despite this, the President raised the issue to President Xi Jinping during his
visit to Beijing in August last year.

The latter recognized and confirmed the responsibility of the Chinese fishing crew in the incident.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said the owner of the Chinese vessel that rammed and abandoned the fishing boat carrying 22 Filipino fishermen apologized for the incident.

However, he said this did not excuse them from failing to rescue the boat’s distressed passengers.

However, a year after the incident, the owner of the sunken vessel said that the 22 fishermen were yet to receive compensation from the Chinese.

Justice Secretary Menardo

Guevarra has ordered prosecutors to determine any compensation for the victims of the allision.

Salary increase

In his 2019 national address, Duterte urged Congress to approve a new version of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) that would increase the salaries of government workers including teachers and nurses.

In January this year, President Duterte signed the Salary Standardization Law of 2019 which raised the salary of government workers in four tranches starting January 2020.

Duterte signed the bill into law less than a month after he certified the measure as urgent on December 13 last year.

Tax Reform

President Duterte likewise asked Congress to pass the remaining packages of his administration’s Tax Reform Program however, the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA) bill is still pending at the Senate.

Disaster response

President Duterte urged Congress to hasten the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) that will focus on natural hazards.

The House of Representatives passed their version of the bill in November last year while the Senate promised to prioritize the passage of the bill early this year.

Liquor ban

President Duterte said he wanted a law ordering all drinking establishments to close at midnight like in Davao City. While Congress is yet to act on this, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted local governments to impose liquor bans to prevent the spread of the disease. Manila, in particular, only lifted three three-month liquor ban last month.