‘Short’ 4th SONA to educate critics

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
âShortâ 4th SONA to educate critics
Duterte’s SONA last year was the shortest so far, lasting about 48 minutes. Unlike his previous addresses, which contained spontaneous remarks, the President decided to stick to script.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is expected to deliver a short State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22 as agencies have already reported some of the gains of his administration to the public, Malacañang announced yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said there is no need for Duterte to repeat the accomplishments enumerated by his officials during pre-SONA forums. 

“I asked him about the SONA this morning. He said, ‘Oh, it will be short,’” Panelo said at a press briefing. 

“Ordinarily, the President will be discussing the achievements of his administration on a particular year, and since the pre-SONAs are already doing that, I don’t think he will have to repeat that,” Panelo noted.

Panelo was referring to the three pre-SONA forums on the government’s infrastructure, human development and security programs.

Asked how long the fourth SONA would last, Panelo said in jest, “Usually, if it’s short, it lasts for two hours.”

The President’s first address in 2016 lasted for about an hour and a half. His second lasted for more than two hours, his longest so far. After delivering the two-hour address, which contained a lot of ad libs, Duterte delivered another speech before protesters outside the Batasan complex and held a press conference. 

Duterte’s SONA last year was the shortest so far, lasting about 48 minutes. Unlike his previous addresses, which contained spontaneous remarks, the President decided to stick to script.

Known for lengthy and freewheeling speeches, Duterte previously said he would “educate” his critics who question his handling of the South China Sea row during his fourth SONA. 

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has expressed confidence that the priority bills to be discussed by Duterte would have greater chances of being passed now that the two legislative chambers are dominated by administration allies. 

Duterte is set to hold a rehearsal on Friday for his fourth SONA.

Sereno: Join SONA protests

Former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno yesterday urged the public to join protest actions during President Duterte’s SONA.

Sereno emphasized the need to call for an end to the “injustices” the country is experiencing under the Duterte administration.

“This year’s SONA is an important occasion to voice our issues and concerns. And more than that, it is an opportunity to reclaim our God-given power as the sovereign people,” she said in a press conference with leaders of cause-oriented groups in Quezon City.

Panelo said he sees nothing wrong with Sereno’s call for Filipinos to join protests during the President’s SONA, adding it does not border on possible sedition.

He said Sereno can express her sentiments against the government.

“In fact, I am willing to join her if her cause is focused on the preservation of democracy,” Panelo told reporters.

“But if she joins the critics and detractors of the administration, I think the opposition will welcome her while we will be amused watching her,” he added.

Panelo said the President respects and encourages people, even his critics, to express their grievances against the government.

Sereno, who was ousted as chief magistrate under Duterte, said she would join demonstrations during Duterte’s SONA.

“I will join those who fight for democracy. Maaaring hindi ako dati nakikita ngunit hindi ibig sabihin hindi ako magpapakita (I may not have been visible before but that doesn’t mean I won’t be seen),” she said.

Sereno appealed for unity to demand a better and more upright leadership in the country.

She also chided Duterte for his handling of the collision between a Chinese vessel and a Filipino fishing boat at Recto Bank.

“Saan ka nakakita na muntik ka na mamatay ikaw pa ang sinasabing may kasalanan,” she said, referring to the Filipino fishermen who were being blamed for the incident.

She lambasted Duterte for his war on drugs where thousands have been killed since July 2016.

Sereno said Duterte’s policies would leave a damaged country when he steps down from office in 2022.

Members of cause-oriented groups vowed to paint the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City blue during Duterte’s address to the nation.

The blue color, according to Bagong Alyasang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes, symbolizes their protest of the President’s soft stand against China’s agression in the West Philippine Sea.

“The issue this year is the country’s sovereign rights, which are being trampled by China,” he said.  –  With Edith Regalado, Christina Mendez, Emmanuel Tupas 

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