Senators expect to hear concrete recovery efforts in Duterte’s 5th SONA

Published July 26, 2020, 10:39 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators in the majority bloc are expecting that programs responding to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts will take the spotlight in President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.


Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he hopes to hear from Duterte the “exact state of our nation” months after the novel coronavirus pandemic entered the Philippines.

Sotto also said he hopes the report will include verified figures on the COVID-19 situation in the country, as well as how his administration spent the funds Congress allocated for programs responding to the health crisis.

The Senate leader said he wants to know “what would be the (President’s) proposal for the next few months even with the pandemic.”

‘Have our lives gotten better?’

His deputy, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, said the SONA should aim to answer the question of Filipinos: “Have our lives gotten better?”

For him, the President’s address should dwell more on what must be done to help the country and its citizens win and recover from the pandemic.

PH’s financial position after pandemic Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, said he wants Duterte to report out the “true” state of the country and the country’s financial position following the pandemic.

“We must know the problem before we find the solution,” Zubiri said in a
recent radio interview.

Zubiri said he also wants to hear the President’s plans for his last two years as the Philippines’ chief executive.

Programs to generate jobs Senate labor committee chairman Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said he hopes the SONA will tackle programs to generate jobs for the millions of workers who were displaced by the pandemic.

“It’s important to discuss how the government intends to address the problem in unemployment. While there is still no vaccine against COVID-19, we should be able to continue with our lives and everyone should be ready to adjust to the new normal,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva added the government should also ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs abroad are provided “enough assistance” to start anew.

Gov’t response efforts

He also reiterated the need to beef up the government’s COVID-19 response efforts, saying that business confidence is “directly tied to the government’s ability to manage the pandemic well.”

“We need to boost the confidence of our businesses to resume their operations and of our workers to come back to work, that is why our government has to step up in preventing the disease from spreading,” he said.

Prioritize education

The education of children should also be prioritized, said Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chair of the Senate committee on youth.

The new normal

“As we open up from various stages of quarantine, I would like to hear more on the new normal or next normal in terms of our children’s education.

With over 20 million of our children in schools,” Angara said in a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin.

He also mentioned that he wants to know “if we have improved, or plan to improve, our health systems to have better testing, contact tracing, and quarantine facilities nationwide.”

Like Villanueva, Angara also said he would like to hear the President’s plans to further help families in the informal sector and workers in hard-hit businesses and poorer regions: “Bold steps would go a long way in restoring hope and optimism going forward.”

Solutions to high prices Sen. Imee Marcos said she looks forward to hearing solutions to unemployment as well as the high prices of commodities and public utilities amid the pandemic.

“In a time of desperation and limited means, the poor are the usual victims. The government should take a more aggressive stance against profiteers, who should be charged and punished,” Marcos said in a separate statement.

“A transparent accounting of the various aid packages of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must be made, as well as the announcement
of more job programs to catch up with growing unemployment,” Marcos also said.

This year’s SONA, she said, would be crucial in easing the people’s fears and preventing discontent amid the ongoing health and economic crises.

“How does the government plan to engage the private sector to sustain employment, if not make more jobs available?” she added.

‘Most important SONA’

On the part of the Senate minority bloc, this year’s SONA, is the most important state of the nation addresses that Filipinos should witness.

“For the first time in our history, we have a pandemic in our midst: 70,764 Filipinos were infected as of yesterday, deaths running to 1,837. That’s on the health side,” Drilon said in a televised interview.

Comprehensive plan

“Therefore, I would like to hear the President lay out a comprehensive plan
that the people would be looking for and would be guided by, including us in the legislature,” he said.

“We are waiting for a comprehensive plan. Today as I’ve said, we are still grappling (with the COVID-19),” the Senate minority leader said.

Drilon further assured that even though they are part of the opposition, they are willing to help the government in its fight against the COVID-19 and in striving to revive the economy.

He said the opposition could only hope that the administration would also take the time to listen to what they say.

“Being in the opposition is not easy, especially with the troll farms all over
the place. We are willing to cooperate and provide to the best of our abilities policies that we believe can help our country get out of this difficulty. But we hope that we are listened to also,” Drilon said.

Ease public anxiety

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who is joining the Mass for Justice and Peace at the Manila Cathedral together with socio-economic groups on the day of the SONA itself, said she still hopes she can hear some positive words coming from the President.

“In the upcoming SONA, we expect the President will say something that can ease public anxiety and at the same time show that the government can come up with programs and solutions to our current problems with wisdom and knowledge,” Hontiveros said in a recent Zoom meeting.

At the same time, Hontiveros said she also hope that Duterte will find time to address the abuses that were carried out during the time of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.

“We want to hear the President speak with respect and treat the lives of Filipinos with dignity,” she stressed.