BY CARLA P. GOMEZ
Negros Occidental and Bacolod City officials welcomed the measures outlined by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address yesterday to address the health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the nation.
While Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon said he was disappointed by the president’s “divisive attacks” against individuals at the start and end of his SONA at a time when the nation needs healing, and aired his opposition to the push towards the reimposition of the death penalty by lethal injection.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the President’s SONA revealed the matters that are paramount to his administration, as reflected by the key legislations he has enjoined Congress to enact.
The request of the President for the swift passage of Bayanihan 2 is truly pivotal given the health and economic crisis we are facing now.
As a Chief Executive, he is hoping that such urgent legislation will be accorded priority by both houses, Lacson said.
Bayanihan 2 or “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” would earmark P140 billion for various socioeconomic and health programs as part of the government’s recovery plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the father of the Republic, the President’s call for solidarity, that we should take care of one another, and that this is the time to bring out the best in all of us should be heeded by every Filipino,” Lacson said.
Lacson said he also agrees with the President’s directives to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to retool overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and for the government financial institutions to assist our displaced OFWs, his appeal to lessors to be more considerate and compassionate with their tenants, and his request for Bangko Sentral to provide regulatory relief to MSMEs.
“We all need these interventions to prevent the collapse of the economy,” he said.
Lacson said he also agrees with the president’s call for telecom companies to improve their services given that technology and connectivity will be among the controlling and dominant elements under the new normal.
“Not to mention its crucial importance in the Alternative Learning System that includes Online Learning for our students this coming school year. The Philippines is among the lowest when it comes to mobile and fixed line internet speed. Fast and reliable internet connection should be the norm rather than an expensive option,” the governor said.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said the SONA was comprehensive.
“It was the first SONA delivered against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis. It gave us a picture of the challenges the government and the nation had to face and how our people were tested to balance health and the economy. And indeed we’ve passed the test of resiliency,” Leonardia said.
Leonardia also cited the president’s appeal to China for help in the fight versus COVID-19. “It provided some ray of hope that the vaccine can come sooner than later,” he said.
It was also informative and inspirational when he mentioned Bayanihan Act Part 2, increased testing capacity nationwide, the millions who availed of government assistance, Malasakit Centers to cater to the needy, the direction towards digitalization and elimination of physical queuing in government offices and many others, Leonardia said.
His serious intention to make telecoms improve their service was like a light at the end of the tunnel, the mayor added.
“We are appreciative that he made special mention of the efforts and solid contributions of the LGUs in the fight against COVID-19,“ Leonardia also said.
Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said Congress will work with the executive department in shepherding the priority legislations the president asked to improve the delivery of basic needs for our people, particularly as we try to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and build our resilience against future pandemics and economic shocks.
“Many of the needs for economic recovery are already in the ARISE stimulus package passed by the Lower House. In addition, I have also filed bills addressing the pressing issues the President raised in his SONA, such as promoting sustainable agriculture in urban and rural areas, accelerating digital transformation of our learning system and e-government processes, and greater investments for housing,” Benitez said.
Many of them are actually outlined in Negros Occidental’s own recovery plans already detailed by the governor, he added.
“The near future looks bleak economically and we will all need to work together in the shared burden of recovery,” Benitez added.
Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) said “I was expecting that the president will give us the game plan on how to attack COVID-19 pandemic”.
On the other hand, Cueva said he finds the president’s pronouncement about strengthening the economic processing zones in different provinces to spur economic growth significant.
“These economic processing zones will be of great help to our displaced workers in Metro Manila and are coming back to their respective provinces with the ‘Balik Probinsya” program of our government,” Cueva said.
On the call of the president for the reimposition of the death penalty by lethal injection, Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod) said he remains opposed to such move and will vote no.
“I reiterate the swift passage of the law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” Duterte said in his SONA.
This was a different kind of SONA, the president instead of outlining gains of his administration tackled core solutions to address the economic and health concerns of the nation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Paduano said.
Buzon said “I was hoping that the SONA would have been a powerful instrument to unify us as a people, because we are in a crisis situation and we all look to the leadership to be able to fight the pandemic and other social ills.”
“I was disappointed because he wasted the opportunity, instead of uniting he further divided us. He started an ended his SONA by attacking individuals and rendered the SONA petty and unpresidential,” he said.
The president started his SONA by attacking the Lopez family, owners of ABS-CBN, who he called oligarchs weeks after his allies in the Lower House voted to deny its bid for a new broadcast franchise.
“Great wealth enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage. Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who used their media outlets in their battles with political figures,” Duterte said.
“I am a casualty of the Lopezes during the 2016 elections,” he added.
Duterte also slammed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for challenging him to pass the anti-political dynasty law and for defending the Lopez family following the House’s denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement in response.
Definitely the Church will very strongly oppose the reimposition of the death penalty, we are very clear about our stand,” the bishop also said.
The bishop said the president should make real his statement that he values life above everything.
“Many more people died because of his Tokhang than from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the bishop added.
The bishop also said he hopes the president is serious in his commitment to save the environment.
He can prove that by stopping all the mining activities that are so destructive, and by promoting renewable energy and putting an end to coal-fired powered plants, the bishop added.*