House of Representatives

House contra-SONAs recap Duterte’s pandemic failures

Rambo Talabong
House contra-SONAs recap Duterte’s pandemic failures

SONA 2021. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his sixth and final State of the Nation Address at Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

RTVM screenshot

‘This country is in a very bad shape,’ says House Minority Leader Stephen Paduano.

Two “contra-SONAs” or speeches rebutting the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte were delivered on Wednesday, July 28, highlighting the pandemic fiascos of the administration.

House Minority Leader Stephen Paduano delivered his speech live on the House plenary floor.

“Whatever gains we have achieved cannot measure up to the pains we have endured. The loss of lives and livelihood, the economic collapse, and the hard climb to recovery tell us only a thing – this country is in a very bad shape,” Paduano said.

Paduano started from the pandemic’s beginning, pointing out that the Duterte government was too slow in declaring lockdowns to prevent the virus that was first detected in China.

“Undeniably, we failed to act promptly against the virus threat,” Paduano said.

Paduano pointed to the statistics to paint the consequences: Over 1.5 million total infections, and over 25,000 deaths. These are figures and observations that Duterte missed mentioning in his SONA, where he devoted much of his almost 3-hour speech for his failing promise of ending drugs and crime.

Paduano said the only way the country could rise again is through vaccinations, which, he stressed, is also in a sorry state. Out of 109 million Filipinos, only around 5.5 million have been fully vaccinated – one of the lowest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia.

Paduano acknowledged the Duterte government’s efforts for reducing drugs and crime, but he said justice must be pursued for families who cried police abuse. 

As for foreign policy, Paduano said it was not “independent,” but rather “inconsistent. He said the Duterte government must stop flip-flopping on its stand on the West Philippine Sea in relation to China, and the Visiting Forces Agreement in relation to the United States.

‘Acid test’ for Duterte

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman followed, delivering his speech through Zoom.

“The acid test to President Duterte’s leadership and ability to solve a serious national problem is the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic which has wreaked havoc on the people’s health and devastated the country’s economy until now,” he said.

He added: “President Duterte has failed the test and failed miserably.”

With the apparent failure of the administration, Lagman called for a probe on how billions of pandemic funds were spent.

Lagman also flagged the management of the country’s economy. He railed against the slowing down of the economy, the rise of unemployment, poverty, and hunger, as well as the rise of inflation and national debt.

“While the imperative to fund our Covid response largely explains the bloating of the national debt, we must realize that the country may be heading in the direction of another crisis – a debt crisis,” he said.

Lagman then criticized Duterte for failing to meet his campaign promise of ending drugs and crime.

The lawmaker said Duterte could no longer cram his commitments to his last year, especially when election excitement has colored Congress.

“Verily, President Duterte both has floundered in his centerpiece program of terminating the drug scrouge, and failed in competently, adequately, and speedily confronting the pandemic crisis, a failure which is compounded by his lack of a pandemic roadmap to revive the people’s health and restore the economy,” Lagman said.

Read the full speeches of the lawmakers below:


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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.