SONA 2023

Counter-SONA: House minority urges Marcos to leave DA

Dwight de Leon

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Counter-SONA: House minority urges Marcos to leave DA

MINORITY LEADER. 4Ps Representative Marcelino Libanan in September 2022.

House press and public affairs bureau

'The President's mind needs to be freed from the nitty-gritty of a department-level affair,' House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan says of President Marcos, who remains agriculture secretary

MANILA, Philippines – Keeping up with tradition, the minority in the House of Representatives responded to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), zeroing in on the urgency to appoint an agriculture chief.

House Minority Leader Marcelino “Nonoy” Libanan – speaking in behalf of lawmakers not allied with the majority – asked: if Marcos can appoint a qualified person like Gilberto Teodoro to head the Department of National Defense, why can’t he do the same to the Department of Agriculture (DA)?

A year since Marcos was sworn in as president, he remains the concurrent agriculture secretary.

“The President’s mind needs to be freed from the nitty-gritty of a department-level affair. The whole bureaucracy – nay, the whole country – needs his undivided attention at the helm of the ship of the state,” Libanan said in his speech in the House plenary on Wednesday, July 26.

Counter-SONA: House minority urges Marcos to leave DA
Marcos on agriculture

Here is a quick recap of what Marcos said about agriculture during his recent SONA:

  • He touted the government’s Kadiwa program, saying 1.8 million Filipinos benefited from cheaper agricultural commodities sold in thousands of stores across the country.
  • He promised to go after agricultural smugglers, whom he blamed for the rise in the prices of agricultural products.
  • He boasted about the passage of the Agrarian Emancipation Act, which erased P57 billion in debt by 600,000 farmers.
  • He said that in his first year in office, the administration handed out 50 million palay seeds, one million corn seeds, and 100,000 coconut seeds, among others.
  • He also mentioned the government’s distribution of fuel and fertilizer discount vouchers to aid farmers.
Counter-SONA: House minority urges Marcos to leave DA
What Makabayan says

The three members of Makabayan bloc also delivered their own privilege speeches on Wednesday, with ACT Teachers Representative France Castro criticizing Marcos’ efforts in improving the agriculture sector and the conditions of farmers.

Castro, who is deputy minority leader, said the Agrarian Emancipation Act only scratches the surface, because majority of farmers still do not have their own land.

The Kadiwa stores that the President touted also have limited reach, according to Castro.

“A Social Weather Stations Survey says 21.6 million Filipinos remain food poor and borderline poor. This band-aid solution should not be the only solution to the exploitation of farmers who are forced to sell their harvest at a cheap price,” Castro said.

“Farmers do not feel what Marcos said was the 2.2% growth rate in the agriculture sector,” she added.

Context on the House minority

The House minority is composed of members who did not vote for the winning House speaker. There are more or less two dozen of them in the chamber, but they are not necessarily the “opposition.”

In fact, only a few of them have a track record of voting against controversial measures, namely representatives Castro, Arlene Brosas, and Raoul Manuel of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc; and representatives Gabriel Bordado and Mujiv Hataman of Liberal Party.

Veteran lawmaker Edcel Lagman, who is president of Liberal Party, is not part of the House minority, arguing it is inauthentic and has been coopted by allies of the administration.

Lagman delivered his own “counter-SONA” on Wednesday, a written copy of which he sent to the media a day prior. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.