By CRIS EUGENE T. GIANAN
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday was delayed for an hour by the unprecedented ouster of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unseated Alvarez, necessitating two separate sit-downs between Duterte and the two solons before his speech.
A manifesto calling for Alvarez’ resignation gained 161 signatures and was passed early afternoon, but his ouster was only formalized after the president’s speech after 184 congressmen voted him out.
Meanwhile, Duterte, who is known for sidetracking and cussing in his speeches, stuck to his script. His SONA at the Batasang Pambansa lasted 48 minutes.
Duterte pledged to bolster his infamous anti-illegal drugs campaign, which has led to over 23,000 killings since he took office according to the Philippine National Police.
“The illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he said.
The president told human rights groups that their protests cannot dissuade him. “Your concern is human rights; mine is human lives.”
Duterte also said the administration will “continue to assert and pursue an independent foreign policy” despite a recent survey showing Filipinos are critical of the government’s inaction on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute.
“Our long-term national development and national security goals come first. We shall continue to reach out to all nations regardless of their prevailing political persuasions or proximity to or distance from our shores so long as these nations wish us well,” he said.
The Duterte administration has not upheld the country’s sovereignty over areas in the WPS even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines.
On BBL and other laws
Duterte also pledged to sign the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which Congress failed to ratify hours before his speech.
“Give me 48 hours to sign it and ratify the law. Babasahin ko pa bago ko pipirmahan. Baka may isiningit kayo diyan na hindi maganda,” he said.
The president defended the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law and urged Congress to pass the rest of the tax packages, saying it is incorrect to blame the tax reform for the price increase of basic commodities.
“We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino left behind. TRAIN is already helping poor families and senior citizens cope up with rising prices,” he said.
Duterte also urged Congress to pass, among others, a universal health care bill, a national land use act, and a bill establishing funding for coconut farmers. F