Outspoken Duterte silent on 2 key policies in his 4th SONA
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his state of the nation address, as Senate President Vicente Sotto the III (top L) and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (top R) look on at Congress in Manila on July 22, 2019.
AFP/Noel Celis

Outspoken Duterte silent on 2 key policies in his 4th SONA

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - July 22, 2019 - 9:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — While President Rodrigo Duterte's fourth State of the Nation Address lasted for an hour and 34 minutes, it was surprisingly silent on at least two of his campaign promises.  

The president did not mention the security of tenure bill, which seeks to strengthen workers' rights and the shift to federalism, which he said is key to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao 

Duterte said he is still studying the measure, which has been transmitted to his desk for his signature. 

"I had to confer with a lot of people affected. You know...this is a two to tango. So it would affect the employers and of course it would also greatly favor the workers. It’s a catch 22 for me," the president said in a press briefing after his fourth SONA.

Asked if he would veto some provisions of the bill, Duterte did not give a categorical answer. 

"Maybe it could go both...Yeah. I can veto it or I can sign it or allow it to lapse into law," he said. 

The bill seeks to remove ambiguities in existing laws that have allowed employers to skirt the prohibition against labor only contracting. 

Under the bill, labor only contracting exists when the job contractor only supplies, recruits, and places workers to a contractee, workers supplied to a contractee do tasks listed by the industry to be directly related to the contractee's core business, and the contractee has direct control and supervision of the workers supplied by the contractor. Business groups have urged Duterte to veto the measure, saying it would go against the businesses' constitutional right to contract labor as part of management prerogative. 

With regard to federalism, Duterte said the SONA is not the proper time to discuss the matter. 

"It’s better left in conferences that are not allowed to be open to the public," the president said. 

"Magulo eh (It would be chaotic). One provision draws a lot of complaints. A lot of pros and cons. You will get dizzy. So better, you just talk it among yourselves and present it to the public once there is a package, it has been completed," he added. 

Pressed if he is still pushing for federalism, Duterte replied: "Yes, but I said there are things which I cannot mention now. Federalism is good but there are certain things that you have to be very clear."

Duterte noted that federalism devolves a lot of authority to the local governments. He said the federal system has to have a strong president to put together the country.

"With regard to federal, it’s a very loose structure. One has a lot of power locally. So the president will have to have to (devise) it until such time that we have perfected it, there has to be a strong president with the same powers now," he said. 

"As for me, I’m out of it because I think that it will pass beyond my time." 

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