Poe says unemployment, health care and education missing in Duterte's final SONA

Published July 26, 2021, 8:00 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe was apparently not satisfed with President Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA), saying it failed to specifically spell out plans to help pandemic-hit families and workers, health frontliners, as well as children who endure challenges in learning amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines/MANILA BULLETIN File photo)

Poe, in a statement, said on Monday, July 26, that she expected from Duterte an “assurance that there will be jobs in the near future and food on the table.”

“Our people are tired and hungry. What I believe we needed to hear was the plan moving forward. What’s the plan to restore the dignity of our people and provide opportunities for their future?” Poe said after Duterte’s SONA, which lasted for almost three hours.

For the senator, Filipinos are looking forward to hearing whether or not the government will have the funds to finance another round of cash assistance.

“The assistance that was given before was merely enough to help some Filipino families through two months but this pandemic has gone on for over a year,” she said, referring to the rounds of the social amelioration aid under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1.

“If no new economic opportunities will present themselves, we need to know whether or not we’ll be able to provide a third round of cash assistance, and how we’ll go about sourcing the funds for our people,” she added.

Poe also asked Duterte for updates on the government’s efforts to “settle [its] debts to medical community”.

While he thanked medical frontliners for their sacrifices in fighting the health crisis, Duterte failed to mention that many of them have yet to receive their special allowances and other benefits. Health workers have been staging protests about their unpaid compensation from the government.

“Our medical frontliners who have dedicated themselves to serving our people deserve to be compensated. And if we expect our hospitals to deliver medically, then we should also deliver financially,” Poe said.

Duterte, she noted, also missed to mention in his speech the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and “when he plans to reimburse the medical community.”

Poe also said she wished the Duterte specified how he plans to go about the reopening of the school year in September.

“For many of us, this is the first step back to normalcy. For our children, this is their chance to catch up on the learning and experiences they’ve missed out on with friends and teachers. But are we ready? Are the teachers vaccinated? Are the protocols in place? Will our children be safe?” she asked.

“Of course not everyone will be able to physically go back to school. What happens to them? We were hoping to hear about how the internet situation would be improved, or whether or not teachers and students would be compensated for the load they need to connect to class. Even in the midst of a pandemic, it’s important that educationally, no one gets left behind,” she pointed out.

Duterte, Poe said, “should not only have focused on what he has accomplished but rather what he still wishes to accomplish to safeguard the future of our country in terms of jobs, education, and healthcare.”

“That in my opinion would leave a message of hope and a better legacy for our people,” she said.