Duterte delivers his first SONA

Duterte delivers his first SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte outlined his vision for the country as he delivered his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25.

One of the highlights of the President’s speech was the change in the form of government as he urged Congress to immediately work on the federal system he wants for the country. He called a purely parliamentary form of government dangerous and said the French model would be better for the country. He added that the president under the federal system could be given either ceremonial powers or even the authority to dissolve parliament.

The other highlights of Duterte’s SONA are his declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with leftist rebels as part of his bid to end Asia’s longest running Maoist insurgency. A unilateral ceasefire on the part of the government means the military will halt offensive operations against communist rebels. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), led by its founder Jose Maria Sison, earlier indicated that it was willing to stop offensive operations during the peace talks.

The other salient points in the SONA include increasing the capacity of the capital’s train systems and make them run faster to accommodate more commuters; strengthening laws against terrorism financing as well as the Philippines’ coordination with Indonesia and Malaysia to suppress kidnappings in east Asian waters; and lowering of income taxes.

Duterte also urged law enforcers and local officials to double their efforts against narcotics. He also reiterated his promise of providing full support for lawmen that fulfil their duty of battling drugs, as well as prioritizing the rehabilitation of drug dependents.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said this year’s Sona was generally peaceful and different from previous years as this was the first time that militants were allowed to get closer to Batasang Pambansa.