By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Progressives said that the fifth State of the Nation address of President Rodrigo Duterte was meant to distract the public from the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The whole SONA was meant to distract us from the mismanagement of the coronavirus health crisis,” Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said in a Facebook post.
In his one hour and 40 minute-address, Duterte hardly mentioned the Philippine government’s plan to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. He instead focused on the search for the vaccine, which community doctor Edelina dela Paz said is not around the corner, contrary to Duterte’s repeated claim during his address.
The Philippines has already surpassed the 80,000-mark of total COVID-19 cases, with the highest number of active cases in Southeast Asia.
Read: Duterte’s COVID-19 response, no sense of urgency
“How can you be a president when you do not have an objective way of looking at the reality? It is always in relation to himself, what he likes and does not like,” Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny said in its online webinar today.
President Duterte opened and closed his public address issuing tirades against Sen. Franklin Drilon, who recently said that dismantling oligarchy entails overhauling existing laws that allow oligarchy to persist.
In his radio interview, Drilon denied defending the Lopez family, and that he was instead fighting for press freedom.
In reaction to Duterte’s attacks on Drilon, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said, “This is still crony capitalism,” pointing out that Duterte favors other sections of the ruling class.
In his speech last week, Duterte said he wants “helpful friends” to get rich.
“If he is really against the oligarchs, why is he friends with the Marcoses? Aren’t they oligarchs?” Sr. Mananzan said.
No mention of terror law?
While there appears to be no mention of the controversial terror law, lawyer Kristina Conti of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties said the closest was his calling out of the military to implement peace and order.
Duterte, she added, appeared to be “flexing” that he is control of the bureaucracy to get what he wants.
Human rights group Karapatan said the deployment of military as part of the so-called development programs in the village leves as part of the “whole of nation” counterinsurgency approach “will only result in the further militarization of civilian bureacracy down to the barangay level—a tactic not very far from your campaign of mass murder under the drug war—and give way to more military and police abuses in line with their implementation.”
“We are not fools, especially now that the Anti-Terrorism Act is in place,” Karapatan said.
Committed to human rights?
Karapatan also frowned at Duterte’s assurance that he will not dodge on the government’s obligation to fight for human rights. If the administration does not wish to evade its rights obligations, the group asked why Duterte opted out of the Rome Statute and maligned the United Nations experts’ intent to visit the country and talk directly with victims.
“You spit on, trample upon, and deride the recognition of even the most basic of rights: the right to live, with dignity. It is ironic that as you declare that you will not dodge the government’s human rights obligations, you announced your intent to push for the reimposition of the death penalty through lethal injection in drug-related offenses—a move which is strongly discouraged by United Nations human rights bodies” the human rights group said in a statement.
President Duterte also claimed that no abuses were documented during the martial law imposition in Mindanao, following the Marawi siege. However, Karapatan documented at least 800,000 human rights violations which include 93 extrajudicial killings, 423,538 victims of forcible evacuations, and 348,081 victims for aerial bombings.
Read: 800,000 rights abuses recorded in 2 years of Martial Law in Mindanao — rights group
West Philippine sea row
In his address, Duterte said that the Philippines cannot afford to go to war against China in relation to the West Philippine Sea row.
Pamalakaya Chairman Fernando Hicap said fisherfolk are dismayed but not surprised, adding that “asserting what is rightfully ours does not mean declaring war with the aggressor.”
In an earlier Bulatlat report, critics noticed how the president suddenly became anti-war and an advocate of non-violence when it comes to confronting the conflict with China on our territorial waters.
Read: Duterte’s double treason
“Nobody wants to have a war with any country. What we demand is justice and for the rights of Filipino fishers to be respected in our own territorial waters. We can have all that sans armed confrontation, only political will from the government and devotion to advance the interest and welfare of the sovereignty and people,” Hicap said in a statement.