SONA 2020

Sotto expects Duterte to focus on economic recovery, law and order in SONA 2020

JC Gotinga
The Senate president says the chamber will approve its version of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill when Congress resumes session on July 27

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said senators expect President Rodrigo Duterte to focus on economic recovery, and law and order issues including terrorism, when he delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27.

“Firstly we expect him to concentrate and focus on the recovery program of the Philippines as far as the pandemic and the economic recovery program is concerned,” Sotto said in a CNN Philippines interview on Friday, July 24.

Among measures Sotto anticipates the President will push for are economic stimulus bills such as the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST), Government Financial Institution Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Financial Recovery (GUIDE), and Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE Philippines).

For his part, Sotto said the Senate will take its cue from the chief executive in deciding which measures to prioritize.

“We guarantee that we will be very cooperative as far as the economic recovery program of the government is concerned,” Sotto added.

We guarantee that we will be very cooperative as far as the economic recovery program of the government is concerned

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

The Senate will approve on third and final reading the Bayanihan to Recover as One or “Bayanihan 2” Act when it officially resumes session on Monday morning, hours ahead of the SONA.

Bayanihan 2 will extend the effectivity of the programs under its predecessor, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, until September 30.

Bayanihan 2 also allots P140 billion for the government’s response to the pandemic and assistance to certain industries and government financial institutions to help them weather the economic crisis.

Law and order, still

“But then lest we forget, I think he will also be bringing up the issue of law and order, and the issue of terrorism,” Sotto said of the President’s upcoming speech.

With 16 separate petitions questioning its constitutionality, the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 will likely be a hot item, which Duterte is expected to defend.

In his previous SONAs, Duterte touched on illegal drugs and criminality, and connected them to other issues such as the conflict in Marawi City, which remains in ruins 3 years since it was besieged by the ISIS-linked Maute terrorist group.

Reconcile amounts

Sotto and other senators foresee the immediate priority to be propping up the economy which has been hammered by the pandemic. One objective Sotto mentioned is to attract and encourage investments.

Another matter would be to get on the same page with the House of Representatives in terms of the stimulus packages they would legislate.

For Bayanihan 2, for instance, Sotto is looking at the bicameral conference following the Senate’s approval, to decide on the amount of the standby fund – the House’s version allots P162 billion.

The ARISE Philippines measure allocates P1.3 trillion for various recovery and stimulus programs over a period of 4 years.

With the country’s financial managers still unable to commit funding for larger recovery and stimulus packages, Sotto said these will have to wait a little longer.

“We understand that proposal. As a matter of fact, we need that. But I don’t think we can accommodate it in Bayanihan 2. What I think we can do is incorporate it right away in the next pieces of legislation,” Sotto added. –

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.