Robredo: Duterte's Sona showed key points gov't failed in pandemic response
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (Sona) may have been almost three hours long, but there were still key issues that he failed to emphasize, Vice President Leni Robredo said Tuesday.
“Tapos na ang SONA ng Pangulo. Nakarinig tayo ng talaan ng mga numero at mga proyekto. Sa kabila nito, may inasahan sana tayong madiinan na hindi nadiinan,” Robredo said in her report aired through her Facebook account on Tuesday.
(The President’s SONA is over. We heard lists of numbers and projects. And yet there were things we had hoped would be given emphasis but were not.)
“Bukod sa paglatag ng mga polisiya, alam din nating may isa pang napakahalagang tungkulin ang gobyerno: ang itutok tayo sa iisang direksyon. Ang ipaalala sa atin na anuman ang di pagkakasundo, iisang bayan tayo. Tungkulin ng gobyerno lalo na sa panahon ng krisis na magpunla ng pagkakaisa,” she added.
The Vice President then vowed to publish several recommendations made by her office and experts that only the national government can implement — suggestions that the administration could start implementing if they have not yet done so.
“Hindi tumigil ang pagkausap namin sa maraming mga eksperto, at mayroon silang mga rekomendasyon — mga bagay na pambansang gobyerno lang ang makakapagpatupad, at iminumungkahi nating gawin nang agaran,” Robredo said.
(Our consultations with experts yielded recommendations— things implementable only by the national government, and that we ask to be acted upon as soon as possible.)
“Sa mga susunod na araw, masusubaybayan sa ating Facebook page ang detalye ng mga policy recommendations na ito; marami po dito, iminungkahi na rin ng iba’t ibang eksperto at sektor. Ang sa atin lang: Kung hindi pa nagagawa, simulan na; kung nasimulan na, paigtingin pa. Dahil walang debate sa katotohanan na marami pang dapat gawin upang tumugon at maibangon tayo mula sa pandemya,” she added.
(In the next few days details of these policy recommendations will be posted on our Facebook page, many of which were already proposed by other experts and sectors. Our point: If it hasn’t been done yet, begin; if it’s already being done, intensify. There is no debate as regards the reality: Much is left to do to address, and lift ourselves up from, this pandemic.)
Among the things Robredo suggested are the following:
- faster integrated system for testing, tracing, and treatment of COVID-19 patients and the creation of a solid database;
- direct delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to communities;
- review of funds obtained through sin tax collections, to be allocated for pandemic needs;
- PhilHealth’s payment of dues to hospitals, to ensure continuous operation;
- proper implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law;
- passage of the proposed Bayanihan 3 law to aid poor families;
- lending money to small businesses;
- assistance and training for unemployed workers; and,
- providing more funds to improve education quality
The problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic must be the focus of the government now, Robredo said, adding that tarpaulins being set up should contain reminders on how to avoid COVID-19 and not political messages.
“Kaya nga patuloy ang pagdidiin natin: Walang ibang dapat tutukan sa mga panahong ito kundi ang pandemya at ang kanyang mga epekto. All hands on deck, laser like focus ang kailangan. Ito dapat ang isalamin ng budget, ng agenda ng bawat meeting ng pamahalaan, ng bawat memo na ibababa sa buong burukrasya,” she explained.
(Which is why we have persistently reiterated our message: There should be no other priority but the pandemic and its effects. We need all hands on deck and laser-like focus. This should be mirrored in our budgets, in the agenda of every meeting within government, in every memo cascaded down the bureaucracy.)
“Kung magkakabit ng billboard at tarp, sana tungkol sa kung paanong makakaiwas sa sakit. Kung may ipapagawa sa isang batalyong graphic artist, sana ang layunin, para dumami pa ang magpapabakuna. Kung magpapasa ng mga bagong batas, unahin sana ang pondo at pagpapatibay ng mga sistema laban sa pandemya,” she added.
(If we need to put up billboards and tarps, let it be about staying safe from illness. If we need the services of a battalion of graphic artists, let it be for a vaccination drive. When passing new laws, let it be for funds and a stronger system to combat the pandemic.)
The Vice President’s observations about Duterte’s Sona was shared by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, who noted that it took a while for Duterte to discuss the pandemic response, considering that it is the most pressing concern at present.
Reyes also stressed that there is nothing that Duterte can be proud of in the government’s COVID-19 response, as testing remains at around 50,000 despite the need for it to go over 100,000 due to a high positivity rate.
As of Monday, the Philippines has tallied 1,555,396 confirmed COVID-19 cases, one of the highest case counts in the Southeast Asian region. Of this number, 55,140 or 3.5 percent are active infections, 1,473,009 are recoveries, while deaths amount to 27,247.
Economically speaking, the country also suffered in 2020 the since World War II, as the gross domestic product contracted by 9.5 percent on a year-on-year basis.