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Duterte promises help for displaced OFWs, attacks critic in SONA

27 July 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

President Duterte delivering his 5th SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to “retool” overseas Filipino workers displaced by the coronavirus so they can find jobs at home, in his fifth State of the Nation address before select guests at the Batasang Pambansa today, Jul 27.

In his speech that lasted an hour and half, the President said that he has asked relevant government agencies like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to come up with projects that will help displaced OFWs.

He also urged Congress to pass a law establishing a Department of Overseas Filipinos.


Minutes into his speech, Duterte attacked Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for reportedly dragging his daughter and son into the issue of oligarchy while defending the Lopez family after Congress voted to cancel the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN.

Duterte said Drilon’s statement that oligarchs need not be rich was an insinuation that the Lopezes, who own the giant TV network, are not oligarchs.

He renewed his attack at the end of his speech, saying the control of water and electricity businesses was Spanish-era oligarchy that Drilon achieved for the Lopezes when he acted as their lawyer in its water and power franchise deals with the government.

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Reacting to the tirade, Drilon said he was not defending the Lopezes but was against the rejection of the network’s franchise bid, seeing it as a violation of press freedom in the country.

Another opposition senator, Risa Hontiveros, also slammed Duterte, saying he dismantled the lives of ordinary workers in ABS-CBN, not the oligarchs.

The cancellation of the network franchise was among the issues raised by about 1,000 anti-government protesters who gathered inside the University of the Philippines’ campus in Diliman.

The Anti-Terrorism Law which Duterte signed earlier this month, was also a rallying cry for the protesters.

Police made no attempt to stop the protest, but arrested five members of the jeepney drivers’ group, Piston, as they made their way to the UP campus.
Press freedom was one of the rallying cries at the pre-SONA protest at UP 
Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas said the arrest was made as the protesters were aboard a jeepney, which is still not allowed on Metro Manila's streets.

In his penultimate SONA, Duterte said that while the nation is grappling with Covid-19, several groups have been using the crisis to gain ground, including drug lords, profiteers and corrupt felons. He warned they cannot outrun the long arm of the law.

He also threatened telecoms Smart and Globe, expressed apprehension in asserting the country’s victory against China over the West Philippine Sea, and claimed that martial law in Mindanao ended without abuses by the police and military.

But he disappointed business groups by not detailing what he intends to do help the economy recover after the world’s longest lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, he called on Congress to approve a list of measures, including the second part of the Bayanihan (to Recover as One Act), which supplements funds and extends the sweeping powers given him to respond to the pandemic.

In his SONA speech, Duterte also said:

  • That he will not allow traditional face-to-face classes to resume unless all risks of exposure Covid-19 is eliminated with the introduction of a vaccine. He said he appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping four days ago to make the Philippines one of the first recipients of a vaccine, and grant credit for its purchase

  • He is not in a hurry to reopen businesses in the country because he does not want to see the third wave of Covid-19 contamination that the US and China are now experiencing.

  • The death penalty by lethal injection must be revived for drug-related offences

  • That he opposes either American or Chinese bases in on the South China Sea, because in a conflict between the two superpowers, Manila would suffer. But he reiterated he cannot expel China from the disputed islands because of the country’s inferior firepower

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