President Duterte’s “legacy” SONA may highlight security and anti-poverty efforts as well as the government’s infrastructure program, an endeavor that aims to become a “gold standard” for future leaders, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
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Duterte to deliver legacy SONA
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is expected to be both on legacy and lecture mode as he delivers today his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), where he is seen to cite the gains of his administration while responding to critics of his controversial policies.

Duterte’s “legacy” SONA may highlight security and anti-poverty efforts as well as the government’s infrastructure program, an endeavor that aims to become a “gold standard” for future leaders, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

“For the next three years, it’s all about Duterte legacy... Legacy is a very important word,” Andanar told radio station dzBB yesterday.

“(If the President leaves) hard legacy like subways, railway systems in Mindanao, bridges, highways... that will become the ‘gold standard,’ that will become the barometer, the bar that the next president will have to look at. They have to either match it or surpass it to improve the lives of every Filipino,” he added.

The administration is planning to spend P8 trillion for infrastructure until 2022 to improve the competitiveness of the Philippines, which has been a laggard in the region when it comes to public infrastructure. Officials have claimed that the ambitious Build Build Build program would usher in a “golden age” of infrastructure.

Andanar said the fourth SONA, which may last for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the speed of delivery, would be one of his most important speeches as it would contain plans for his last three years in office. Aside from infrastructure, two other themes that may be highlighted are poverty alleviation and peace and order.

“At the end of the day, what is important is that President Duterte sets the bar for public service and… for infrastructure-building, policymaking and poverty alleviation,” Andanar said in a recent interview.

Rody to ‘educate’ critics

While SONAs have always been about achievements, today’s address may also become a venue for Duterte to lash back at critics who question the legality of his decisions and policies, including his handling of the West Philippine Sea row.

Duterte has drawn flak for entering into a fishing agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a deal that granted the Chinese access to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. He had previously claimed the deal had made it possible for Filipino fishermen to enter Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a fishing ground off Zambales that is within the Philippine EEZ but has been under China’s control since 2012.

“Maybe during the SONA, I will educate people that what I did, I said you can fish, was right. It can’t be unconstitutional,” Duterte told reporters last July 8.

“To my countrymen, I do not have any sin to the Constitution, believe me,” he added.

Andanar said it is “highly possible” that Duterte would mention his stand on the West Philippine Sea.

“Whether he would lecture, meaning off the script, I do not know. That will be the prerogative of the President. That will depend on the mood of the President,” he said.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an outspoken critic of Duterte’s policies on China, has asked the Chief Executive not to mention the fishing deal in his SONA, saying it would make the agreement legally binding.

Andanar said law and order would also be mentioned in the fourth SONA but could not say whether the President would talk about the United Nations Human Rights Council seeking a comprehensive report on the Philippines’ war on illegal drugs.

“We do not accept that decision. We will not allow the investigators to come in. That’s the decision. Now perhaps, that decision has to be reviewed. (Whether) the President will mention it, we don’t know,” the presidential communications secretary added.

Priority measures

Duterte is also likely to enumerate his priority bills, which officials say have higher chances of being passed because the two legislative chambers are now dominated by his allies. Andanar said among the measures that may be mentioned are the proposed National Land Use Act, which calls for sustainable use, management and development of lands. The President also mentioned the bill in his third SONA.

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