SONA 2020

Quick point-by-point summary of Duterte’s SONA 2020

Sofia Tomacruz

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Quick point-by-point summary of Duterte’s SONA 2020

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives Complex in Quezon City on July 27, 2020. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Malacanang Photo

Can’t watch or read the entire address? We’ve got you covered.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27, against the backdrop of a pandemic that has disrupted the lives of millions of Filipinos and which continues to spread across the Philippines. 

Duterte used most of his annual address, which lasted for nearly two hours, to threaten “oligarchs,” failing to go into detail on a pandemic recovery roadmap for the country which had been earlier promised by Malacañang. 

Unlike past speeches, the President’s second to the last SONA was delivered to a limited audience of 50 key Congress and Cabinet officials who have been crucial in delivering pet projects of the administration. The cap on attendees was put in place due to physical distancing restrictions.

The 2020 SONA was also among Duterte’s longest ones so far. It included the mention of 21 priority bills he wanted tackled in the remaining two years of his presidency.

Here’s a quick summary of all the important points mentioned: 

Coronavirus pandemic – After the usual introductions of top officials, Duterte opens his speech stressing the toll the pandemic has taken on the Philippines as the virus “snuffed” out dreams of prosperity and had the world living in a “troubled time.” He mentions hopes for a vaccine and thanks frontliners who risk their lives to respond to those most affected by the disease. 

ABS-CBN – Within 5 minutes, the pandemic is quickly sidelined and among the first things Duterte does is criticize ABS-CBN and the owners of the media network, calling them “oligarchs.” He claims being “victimized” by the Lopezes in the 2016 Presidential election which he won by a landslide. 

Senator Franklin Drilon – In lashing out at ABS-CBN, Duterte slams the opposition senator for defending the media giant and saying political dynasties must be banned to truly dismantle oligarchy. He again later places the spotlight on Drilon, accusing him of being among  the framers of the 1997 water concessionaires agreement with the government – a claim Drilon already denied. 

Senator Bong Go – On the other hand, Duterte’s longtime aide-turned-senator again receives praise from the Chief Executive as his pet bills filed in the Senate, including the Malasakit Act and postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are hailed among the administration’s achievements. 

Southeast Asian Games – It’s all praise for the 30th Southeast Asian Games as Duterte declares, “Indeed, we won as one,” referring to the sporting event’s slogan. However, the Philippines’ hosting of the regional sporting event was hounded by allegations of corruption and poor planning.

Economy – Duterte highlights the country’s positive credit ratings and says with a strong economic position, the Philippines is in a “better position to weather the crisis caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.” 

Infrastructure – He says significant infrastructure projects under the Build Build Build Program were completed and that a “comprehensive written report” detailing these will be released. He also pushes for more infrastructure projects to uplift the livelihoods of Filipinos. 

Drug war – As expected, Duterte dedicates time in his speech to his drug war. It was among the first topics he mentioned as he proposed to fight the pandemic with the “same fervor” seen in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign. 

Human rights – He took the language of human rights to justify his war on drugs and abuses seen under his administration, falsely suggesting some rights should be upheld at the expense of others. Duterte vowed to uphold human rights and later threatened to kill drug users. 

Overseas Filipino workers – Duterte orders various agencies to help OFWs who have lost their jobs and returned home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He again calls for the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipinos. 

Lapses in pandemic response – The President admits the government saw “difficulties” in ramping up testing capacity, a key area the country continues to catch up on over 6 months since the crisis started. He also says the distribution of emergency aid during lockdown measures “was not perfect.” Duterte vows “we will not stop until we get things right and better for you.” 

Bayanihan 2 – He calls on Congress to swiftly pass the  Bayanihan to Recover as One Act intended to provide funds for low-interest loans to small businesses, more aid to displaced workers and poor families, online learning, and COVID-19 testing.

Tax reform – Duterte asks lawmakers to pass the Create Act as part of the country’s recovery from the pandemic. The measure seeks to lower corporate income tax and rationalizes financial incentives for investors. 

Small and medium businesses – He asks the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to allow loan payment extensions for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) without incurring penalties and charges. 

Tourism – Duterte calls on Filipinos to travel locally in an effort to boost the economy “once the necessary systems are in place.”

China – The President veers from his speech and says he pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines in providing an effective vaccine should a Chinese company produce one. 

Education – He reiterates face-to-face classes will not be allowed until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. All public schools, he vows, will be equipped for online learning before he steps down. Duterte also says TV frequencies reverted back to the government will be used to deliver learning – a call ABS-CBN immediately accepted after Congress shut down the network.

Government monopoly on utilities – Duterte says the government should be given “first option” to utilize public utilities. In particular, he warns telecommunication giants to improve their services by December or government will be forced to make “drastic steps” and expropriate their businesses. 

Health – He lists plans to increase the number of health workers deployed to barangay health stations, rural health units, and other healthcare facilities next year. He also calls on Congress to pass the Nursing Education Act, a law instituting the Medical Reserve Corps, and another measure creating a National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to respond to future outbreaks. 

Ending insurgency – Duterte does not mention the communist insurgency by name but says the government needs to implement the Barangay Development Program, citing the deaths of soldiers in skirmishes as reason for its urgency. The program, he says, will see the Armed Forces “play a vital role in the one-nation approach.”

Martial law in Mindanao – The President says that after 3 extensions, martial law in Mindanao “ended without abuses.” Human rights group Karapatan said it documented some 800,000 victims of rights violations in the two-and-a-half years of military rule.

Death penalty – For the third time, he asks Congress to bring back the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and jokes that lawmakers seem uninterested, going by their lukewarm reception. The Batasan plenary hall is filled with applause after. 

Strengthen law enforcement – He pushes for the passage of the Unified Military and Uniformed Personnel Separation, Retirement, and Pension Bill and calls for the modernization of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Immigration. 

Land use planning – For the 4th time, Duterte asks Congress to pass the National Land Use Act, which will develop lands in the countryside. This will encourage sustainable economic growth in the provinces. 

Boracay rehabilitation – He asks lawmakers to pass a law creating the Boracay Island [Development] Authority to sustain results seen from rehabilitation efforts in the tourist island.

Farmers and fishers – Duterte calls for the passage of a law establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund and a P66-billion agricultural stimulus package through the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act. 

United States – The President rejects a proposed plan for the Americans to return to Subic Bay through a commercial deal.

West Philippine Sea – Duterte repeats that he cannot assert the Philippines’ rights over the West Philippine Sea as this may spark war with China. However, experts have repeatedly debunked this as one part of a “false option” and a “hollow attempt” to scare Filipinos into submission.

Message to criminals – He circles his speech with a warning that he will be the enemy of criminals who harm the public, saying “bodies will pile up” if they “return to their ways.”

No opening up – Duterte says reopening the economy to pre-COVID-19 levels is not an option now as gains will be quickly wasted. He cites as “proof” the recent increase in infections after quarantine restrictions were eased. 

Test for the nation – The President asks Filipinos to trust the government as “worse times loom ahead.” He calls on Filipinos to take care of one another and vows the country will overcome the pandemic. 

Oligarchs, again – After slamming Drilon once more, Duterte doubles down on his warning against “oligarchs” who have controlled public utilities since the Spanish occupation. He asserts the government will get the first transmission lines and utilities “before anybody else” as this “belongs to government.” (READ: Duterte’s 2020 SONA: Pandemic plan overtaken by obsession with ‘oligarchs’–

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.