HIGH HOPES AND GREAT EXPECTATIONS

File photo: An image of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is shown at an electronic screen as he delivers his speech during his 4th State of the Nation Address at the 18th Congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon city, Monday, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

While it’s hard to remain optimistic during this time of crisis, everyone is looking forward to hearing what the current administration has to say regarding the economic and health measures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines’ ties with China, the contentious Anti-Terrorism Law, and others.

The Filipinos need great leaders—now, more than ever—instead of charlatans and thieves garbed in well-tailored suits.

Between the 12-month gap from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s previous State of the Nation Address (SONA) to this day, the Filipinos seemed to be in an endless topsy-turvy situation, especially considering the on-going crusade against the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Such hindrances, however, have tested the efficiency and credibility of all elected and appointed public officials.

While it is true that a State is “an ideal person, invisible, intangible, immutable and existing only in contemplation of law”, the government, as its primary agent, is its perfect representative to actively pursue its mandate and promote the welfare of the people. 

Nonetheless, as discussed by former Associate Justice Isagani Cruz in his book, “whatever good is done by the government is attributed to the State but every harm inflicted on the people is imputed not to the State but to the government alone.” 

Clearly, this is an affirmation of how critical the government is when it comes to building a people-centric nation that will address its citizens’ needs while staying true to their constituent and ministrant functions. 

Duterte’s 5th SONA

Ever since Duterte took the office, he has been constantly bombarded with controversies and criticisms. It wouldn’t then be a surprise if his words at the Batasang Pambansa today will cause an uproar from both his avid supporters and critics.

Indeed, the State of the Nation Address is meant to keep the Filipinos abreast of the present economical, social, and political condition of the country, which the public has the right to know, but it is also an avenue for the president to inform the citizens of his long-term plans for the next 12 months and perhaps for the rest of his term. 

Given the present situation in the country, Duterte’s SONA will hopefully shed some light on some of the most important issues we are facing today and provide concrete schemes. 

While it’s hard to remain optimistic during such pressing time, everyone is looking forward to hearing what the current administration has to say regarding the economic and health measures amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines’ ties with China, the contentious Anti-Terrorism Law, and others.

Public Health and Safety

As the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, even after months of imposing community quarantine, Filipinos are still wary of their safety.

Realistically, the supposedly “strict” quarantine measures are now becoming more lenient, which may not be necessarily for the better. This can be traced back from the financial capabilities of most Filipinos, who are often mere wage earners.

Since many people cannot afford their daily sustenance without a job, many are risking their lives to ensure that they will have enough money to at least feed their families. Somehow, it seems like the government has realized this harsh reality but the question still remains: how long can the medical sector handle the pandemic?

People have high hopes that President Duterte have some answers for this and other pressing concerns in his coming SONA. 

Economy

Another critical topic that the president has to address is how the government is planning to stabilize the Philippine economy. 

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duterte will be presenting a roadmap that will help the country recover from the effects of the proliferation of COVID-19. However, Roque did not spill any more details about it. 

While it’s reassuring that Duterte has a plan prepared to help our country bounce back from the pandemic, it’s still hard to ignore the economic impact of this health crisis, which is creating a domino effect to both public and private sectors. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has also expressed his desire to hear clear-cut measures to revive the economy. He even asked how much the country needs to stimulate the economy, which equation should they stimulate, and where should they source the funds.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address as Senate President Vicente Sotto III, left, and House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano listen at the 18th Congress at the House of Representatives in Quezon city, Monday, July 22, 2019. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Philippine-China Relationship

Apart from the direct effect of the COVID-19 in the country, the president is also expected to discuss the current political ties of the Philippines to China, as well as the country’s stand on the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Even before the advent of the pandemic, Duterte has shown his interest in strengthening our relationship with the said country, even as such efforts are subjected to constant backlash from understandably skeptical sectors. True enough, the country has been left in the dark for too long regarding our international relationship with the “Sleeping Giant” and it’s probably the perfect time for the government to reveal the real score.

Anti-Terrorism Law

In the midst of our battle against the COVID-19, another issue has surfaced, which alarmed many human rights groups in the country. The controversial Anti-Terrorism Law is now under fire as petitions have piled up at the Supreme Court for its reversal, questioning its constitutionality. 

While the government says it needs the legislation to combat insurgencies, many people are doubting the timing of the passing of this law. Should the government really tackle terrorism during a pandemic when many people from all walks of life are in the brink of despair? 

It will be interesting to see if and how Duterte will tackle this issue in his SONA and whether his response will be more reassuring than concerning. 

Press Freedom

Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution is a constitutional safeguard against the infringement of the freedom of the press. Recently, however, the administration has been caught up in a storm over the franchise of ABS-CBN, an established media company in the country. 

While it has been asserted that Congress has the discretionary power to issue or renew a franchise since the subject is of political nature, some ABS-CBN sympathizers feel like such a move is a direct attack against press freedom. They assert that the president’s distaste against the company has influenced lawmakers to deny the franchise renewal. 

Although the ABS-CBN is a private entity, the removal of its franchise had caused many people from the media to lose their jobs during a pandemic.

Indeed, it would then be interesting to know how Duterte will talk about this issue during his SONA if he ever decides to include it on his agenda.

As we all anxiously wait for Duterte’s SONA, it’s important to keep our minds open about his plans for our country. We all hope and pray, however, that whatever these may be, the people’s welfare will be his main priority.

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