|President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO|
Quezon City, The Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte spelled out last Monday, 22 July, a number of legislations he wants Congress to prioritize to realize his vision for the country before stepping down in 2022.
President Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa, called on lawmakers to reinstate the capital punishment or death penalty for heinous crimes particularly drug-related offenses and plunder.
“I am aware that we still have a long way to go in our fight against this social menace. Let the reason why I advocate the imposition of the death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs,” President Duterte said.
The Chief Executive also implored Congress to immediately pass the Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program or the TRABAHO Bill, which will gradually lower the corporate income tax as well as rationalize and improve fiscal incentives.
He expects the legislation to energize the country’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and encourage them to expand their businesses and hopefully generate 1.4 million jobs in the coming years. MSMEs, he noted, hold the promise of improving the lives of Filipinos.
Congress must also approve a new version of the Salary Standardization Law, which is intended to increase the salaries of national government workers, including teachers and nurses, he said.
“To the teachers, alam mo dito who toil and work tirelessly to educate our young. Kasali na po dito ‘yung hinihingi ninyo. Hindi naman masyadong malaki, pero it will tide you over during this hard time. A little bit bigger than before,” President Duterte said.
There will be additional benefits for solo parents, more health workers in the barangays, and expansion of the Malasakit Centers in the country as envisioned by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
He also asked Congress to pass the remaining packages of the administration’s Tax Reform Program as well as legislations that would further raise excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
At the same time, the President wants a Davao City policy to be adopted nationally in the sale of liquor especially in bars and other establishments.
“Itong ngayon, at 12, everything closes down. Nobody works. I think that we should adopt it. Most of the states, in many states, in many countries, ganun man. Alas dose, sarado na talaga,” he said.
To fight red tape in government, President Duterte urged Congress to review and pass the Government Rightsizing Bill, reconfiguring the existing Metro Manila-centric bureaucracy. Government systems must be streamlined, he said, in order to quickly deliver services to the public.
And for the government to focus on threats posed by natural hazards and climate change, he urged Congress to fast-track the passage of the administration’s version of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).
“These reforms would be for naught if we cannot avert of a ‘new poor’ every time a disaster strikes. The Philippine experience has shown that natural disasters— are poverty creators,” he said.
He then called on legislators to pass a law mandating a Fire Protection Modernization Program, which will equip the Bureau of Fire Protection with tools to respond to challenges.
To encourage the entry of more investors, the President asked Congress to urgently pass the National Land Use Act or NALUA within this year. The proposal is a science-based national land use plan that will serve as basis for the LGUs in crafting respective development plans and help disperse economic activities to the countryside.
“Paki lang po. So that we can proceed with the new… We can meet the demands of the new investors coming in. Ang lupa natin ang problema eh,” he stressed.
“The dispersion of economic and business activities to Visayas and Mindanao is not just a campaign promise. It is an economic imperative and a key to our country’s sustainable and equitable development. We will encourage investments that would develop the rural areas and Metro Manila and other mega urban areas,” he added.
The President also renewed his commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers in the country through the quick utilization of the multibillion coconut levy fund.
“I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a more responsive version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund to ensure the accelerated utilization of coco levy funds for the well-being and empowerment of the coconut farmers,” the President said.
“We recognize the urgent need to ensure the sustainability and availability of resources and the development of alternative ones. In this regard, I trust that Secretary [Alfonso] Cusi shall fast-track also the development of renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on the traditional energy sources such as coal,” the President said in connection with the country’s energy needs.
Before concluding his address, President Duterte underscored the importance of sustaining the gains of a credible national security posture capable of defending the country from external and internal security threats.
“Defense Secretary Lorenzana, together with the gallant men and women of the armed forces, is at the forefront of this fight,” President Duterte said.
“We expect support for legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening defense-related systems such as the proposed National Defense Act, the Unified Military and Uniformed Personnel Separation, Retirement, and Pension Bill, and the revival of the mandatory ROTC in Grades 11 and 12.”
The President also called on Congress to study the postponement of the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2022 to rectify the truncated terms of sitting barangays and also provide them with the ample time to finish programs and projects. Also, he suggested for the enactment of the Magna Carta for Barangays.
Dismayed by rampant graft and corruption in the government, the President said, “We are our own tormentors—addressing the Filipino people—we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak, and the voiceless.”
“We find corruption everywhere in government with every malefactor watching his cohort’s back in blatant disregard of his oath when he assumed public office.”
Corruption, he said, exasperates and frustrates. “It is also exasperating that there are times when I think that perhaps it is blood that we need to cleanse and rinse away the dirt and the muck that stick to the flesh like leeches.”
Members of Congress are free to investigate cases of corruption and if there is anything wrong in the executive department, legislators have a free hand to open an inquiry anytime, he noted.