HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez has made an appeal to the public to unite in the remaining year of the Duterte administration to beat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We heard the President’s message loud and clear. Now is not the time for divisive politics. We have to work as a team— and act fast— to save precious human lives and to bounce back from the economic ravages brought by the global pandemic,” said Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, in response to Monday’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte.
On Monday night, Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), gave a positive review of President Duterte’s SONA wherein the Chief Executive spelled out his majo achievements in the last five years of his administration.
Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) or the oldest and most respectable association of legal luminaries in the country, lauded the Duterte administration for working very hard to pass the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, the Universal Health Care Law, the Free Irrigation Act, among others
important laws for the benefit of the Filipino people.
Romualdez said the approval of these measures as major legacies of his administration were only made possible under President Duterte’s leadership that were unthinkable for many generations in the past.
SUPPORT FOR MARAWI REHABILITATION LAUDED
Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said: “I am glad that for his last SONA, the President recognized the plight of thousands of families still languishing and displaced from their beloved Marawi.”
“Sana lang po ay kumilos na rin ang TFBM (Task Force Bangon Marawi) nang ayon sa tagubilin ng Pangulo sa kanyang huling SONA. I believe that the only way to make things move fast is for the President to certify the Marawi Compensation Bill as urgent. Kailangan po ng tulong ng ating mga kababayan sa Marawi sa kanilang pagbangon, lalo na sa pagpapagawa ng kanilang mga nasirang tahanan. Ito na sana ang isa sa maiwang legacy ni Pangulong Duterte sa mga kapwa nya taga-Mindanao,” Hataman said.
“We also appreciate the efforts of President Duterte’s administration in ending the armed conflict in Mindanao that led to the creation of BARMM under his presidency. Although I was hoping also for a policy statement on BARMM, kung siya ay pabor sa extension ng BARMM transition o hindi. I sincerely hope the President can communicate his position to Congress about this issue, so we may proceed with dispatch on the legislative side,” Hataman added.
“My heart leaped with gladness when the President ordered to fast-track all the rehabilitation efforts to Marawi. I am one with the Maranaos who have been ardently praying for their return home. We have been waiting for its realization for the past four years. The people have waited long enough. With the President’s pronouncements yesterday during his final SONA, we are hopeful that Task Force Bangon Marawi will be doubling its efforts to heed PRRD’s directives to race against time and finish the necessary work to rehabilitate and rebuild Marawi from the ground up,” Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan said.
“We are hoping that Congress would also consider the Marawi Compensation Bill as a priority legislation even without the President’s pronouncements,” Sangcopan added.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers congratulated President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte for the successful SONA.
“I support all his requests to Congress in passing several important bills, critical to our economic survival and upliftment of the lives of our countrymen particularly the men in uniform, and other pending bills on free education, and OFW (overseas Filipino workers) concerns.
His address clearly erased all doubts on this administration’s capability and seriousness in tackling the problems of the nation that he inherited in 2016. Measures to improve the plight of our OFWs including the creation of a Department for their concerns and the successful ending of the KAFALA system in the Middle East in favor of our OFWs deserve our gratitude. His categorical statement and acknowledgment that the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea issue is part of international law and expresses support to it as he declared before the ASEAN and UN fora, is a recognition of that victory and is by far the most important and far reaching statement made in this SONA,” Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs.
“The accomplishments in the war against drugs are obvious as the drug trade in the streets have become a thing of the past and our streets are now safer than before. The war is not over yet and we have to be vigilant to preserve our gains. It is unfortunate that the economic momentum that we have gained from 2016 to 2019 was suddenly suppressed by the pandemic. Nonetheless, if we continue to do our part, I am confident that we can still salvage our economy and our country and bring it back on its feet amidst this challenging times and under the new normal setting,” Barbers added.
Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda said: “it is a very tough time to be the President as we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic yet PRRD was able to deliver on many of his promises. He managed to institute long-needed reforms, put up important infrastructure projects, and brought the government closer to the people through programs such as free college education and universal healthcare.”
“I am strongly behind him in his quest to create the Department of Migrant Workers, the Philippine Virology Institute and our own Center for Disease Control. The Employment Recovery Strategy that he is rolling out to create one million jobs with the help of the private sector, and the rehabilitation of our economy that was badly hit by the global health crisis have our full backing. Indeed, we will rise as one. Our courage, resilience and strong faith in God will get us back on track again,” Baronda said.
NO CHARTER CHANGE
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said President Duterte’s decision to endorse anew in his last SONA three investment-friendly bills in lieu of Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) No. 2 indicates that “Malacañang does not consider Charter Change (Cha-Cha) as the silver bullet that would address the country’s relatively modest FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows despite its pre-pandemic status as one of the fastest-growing economies that boasts a two-decade streak of uninterrupted growth.”
For Villafuerte, the amendatory bills to the Public Service Act (PSA), Foreign Investments Act (FIA) and Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA) will “complement the Duterte administration’s earlier stimulus measures that will help reinvigorate the economy and return it to its pre-pandemic growth trajectory.”
“These three priority bills will further liberalize the economy that would attract more FDIs and create more jobs—hence helping the country pull through the pandemic damage—in lieu of Cha-Cha that appears dead in the water anyway as senators seem to be in no mood to consider RHB 2 that is being pursued by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte at the same lobbied the 18th Congress to legislate in its third and last session to pass a troika of initiatives to further accelerate the Philippines’ digital switch, as President Duterte endorsed in his SONA the passage of one of these three measures that he had authored, namely, the E-Governance Act.
He said that that the E-Governance Act endorsed by the President, along with two other digitalization measures he had authored—the Bangko sa Baryo Act and the digital education act—would help the Philippines keep up with the expected strong rebound of many of its regional neighbors from the COVID-driven economic malaise.
Villafuerte said the President was correct in wanting the digitalization of government systems to be on the front burner of the Legislature because it is “crucial for the country to keep up with the expected strong bounceback of other economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc.”
“We call on our colleagues in both chambers of the 18th Congress to give top priority to these three measures that aim to close the digital divide by transforming the way we transact and do business at the grassroots level, provide fast and reliable services to our people, and educate our children with minimal or no physical or face-to-face interactions amid the lingering pandemic,” Villafuerte said.
He said the congressional passage of these pro-investment and pro-digitalization bills will help President Duterte get closer to his ultimate goal, as mentioned in his SONA, to “improve the life of every Filipino.”
LAUDED THE ACHIVEMENTS OF PRESIDENT DUTERTE
“Understandably, the President’s last SONA was long on his accomplishments, like those in the areas of the fight against drugs, criminality and local insurgency. We laud the efforts of the President in the areas of peace, through the BARMM Law; higher education, through the Tertiary Education Act providing free tuition to state universities; and health, through the Universal Healthcare Act and the Malasakit centers,” Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
“While the President has been consistent with his prime advocacy on the anti-drug war, much of its impact has fallen on the poor and marginalized. We have yet to see prosecution on big time importers of illegal drugs and the big distributors in the country,” Rodriguez added.
HOUSE READY TO PASS THE REMAINING PRIORITY BILLS OF THE PRESIDENT
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said: “the House of Representatives is ready to help and cooperate with President Duterte in pushing for pieces of legislation that will help navigate the country and the economy amid the ongoing pandemic.”
“This is a must and we must heed the call of the President in order to bring back normalcy in the lives of our countrymen and help our economy recover and flourish again following a severe beating from the global health crisis. We must not only ensure that our economy is ready to reopen, but more importantly we must prepare our people for this reopening. We must help our people feel confident that they will have jobs and livelihood opportunities, and assured that cure and proper health care will always be available when they need it,” Velasco said.
“We commend the President for his humility in acknowledging that there are things that his administration needs to accomplish in the next 12 months despite his remarkable achievements in the last five years—from free college education to universal health care, free irrigation, trust fund for coconut farmers, ease of doing business, among others. In the final stretch of the Duterte presidency, the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress is committed to pursue the remaining measures in the President’s legislative agenda, with focus on strengthening the country’s health care system and restoring jobs lost to the pandemic,” Velasco stressed.
“Sabi nga ng mahal nating Pangulo, marami pa siyang dapat gawin at gustong tapusin. Sinisiguro namin dito sa Kongreso na handa kaming tumulong at hindi bibitiw hanggang sa huling araw ng kanyang panunungkulan upang matapos ang mga dapat pang gawin para sa sambayanang Pilipino,” Velasco added.
Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said President Duterte’s SONA did not disappoint the Filipino people.
“He just delivered an inspiring speech enough to move us all to work toward a “better normal” and better quality of life despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. PRRD was able to clearly lay down in his final SONA the measures necessary to help the country recover from the health crisis, and Congress always got his back,” Herrera said.
“Whatever happens in the remainder of his term, PRRD had already cemented his legacy as a leader with tapang and malasakit and his promise of real change has been fulfilled and felt by Filipinos,” Herrera added.