‘Duterte SONA didn’t deliver on COVID-19 response,’ says Ateneo analyst

Published July 28, 2020, 3:51 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Amid the rising number of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country, President Duterte has been expected to address during his latest State of the Nation Adress (SONA) the government’s response to the pandemic.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives Complex in Quezon City on July 27, 2020. (PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I was hoping the President would announce a recalibration of his administration’s approach,” political analyst and Ateneo Policy Center senior research fellow Atty. Michael Henry Yusingco told the Bulletin on Tuesday, July 28.

“I am disappointed that this did not happen,” lamented the analyst who noted that SONA “did not come as advertised” by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar who called it an “appointment with destiny.”

The lawyer noted that the President presented nothing new during the SONA.

“Sadly, the SONA we heard last Monday did not come as advertised. It sounded really like the past SONAs, with boilerplate sounding text,” he said.

The lawyer observed that the SONA “essentially conveyed that we should just be patient with the status quo because anyway, the vaccine is ‘just around the corner’.” 

“The SONA is also asking us to just trust that the economic plan drawn up by the administration before the pandemic can still deliver the envisioned economic gains and that this will be enough to mitigate the impact of the economic catastrophe we are dealing with now,” Yusingco said. 

“I seriously doubt this can alleviate the current high level of public anxiety,” he pointed out. 

Yusingco believes that whatever plans Duterte laid out during his SONA for the last two years of his term won’t deliver his promise of “a comfortable life for all Filipinos.”

“I think they will improve the lives of some Filipinos. But for as long as we have a broken public health sector, a subpar public housing system and a struggling public education system, then that promise will remain unfulfilled,” he said.

The analyst also expressed alarm over the President’s stance concerning the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

During the SONA, Duterte upheld claims over the WPS but later on stated that China has possession of parts of disputed territories in the WPS and does not want the Philippines to go to war over the contested areas in Chinese control.

“I think the portion in the prepared speech dealing with this issue was on point. But then the President completely went off the rails with his adlib,” he noted.

“Alarmingly, this suggests to me that there could be a disconnect with his advisors on this particular matter,” the lawyer pointed out.

The analyst also observed that “his geopolitics is clearly outdated.”

“The current international dynamics involving China is no longer as clear cut as how the President perceives it. As what the portion he read asserts, before his bizarre ranting about war with China, coalition building in the region, which does not necessarily exclude China, should be the top priority,” he said.

The Ateneo professor also expressed opposition for the revival of the death penalty which Duterte promised to do during the SONA.

“Many studies have shown, including our own experience with the death penalty, that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent against criminal behaviour. Imposing it will not automatically bring down crime rates. This is not the solution we need to solve our criminality problems,” Yusingco stated.