MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte may have delivered the second longest State of the Nation Address (SONA) in history, but several lawmakers still found his over two-hour report to the nation lacking on several substantial issues.
For one, minority Sen. Bam Aquino pointed out that the President did not mention the proposed free college tuition policy.
“Hindi ko narinig ang panukala nating gawing libre ang tuition fee sa ating State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). I was really waiting for that, akala ko babanggitin niya pero hanggang K to 12 lang ang nabanggit,” Aquino said in a statement.
Earlier passed by Congress, the free tuition bill is awaiting the President's signature.
“I am still hoping na mapipirmahan ito within the next couple of weeks... baka may pag-uusap sila sa Gabinete,” he added.
Duterte said in his speech that his administration is fully committed to the full implementation of the K to 12 program, an education reform program initiated by the Aquino administration that added two years to the basic education cycle.
“We have sustained investments in higher education and committed to the full implementation of the K to 12 basic foundation program,” Duterte said in his second SONA.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said he was expecting to hear about the President’s plan to end labor contractualization, one of his campaign promises.
“We were expecting... to hear more about his accomplishments and future plans to end 'endo'. We believe that there is an immediate need to strengthen our labor law compliance system to ensure that companies will truly adhere with our labor laws,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee.
“We have to clearly delineate 'endo' from legitimate job contracting. We are hoping that we can have our 'End Endo' bill passed before the year ends,” added the lawmaker, who has chaired several committee hearings on the proposal.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said Duterte missed the opportunity to revert to the path towards fundamental reforms for the benefit of marginalized sectors.
“He avoided the issue of genuine agrarian reform, especially free distribution of land to farmers, essentially patronizing his audience belonging to the haciendero and comprador classes," he said.
“His promise of ending contractualization of labor has been totally omitted, as well as fulfilling the legitimate call of the urban poor for a service-oriented mass housing program," he added.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte’s second SONA lacked “[statements on] achievements for the bold promises he made.”
“It's akin to a bad open mic performance. Same old material. Bloody war on drugs, martial law, death penalty and wanton disregard for democracy and human rights,” Hontiveros, a minority senator, said in a statement.
“Whatever good the President said on his SONA was lost due to the sheer weight of his disdain for democratic governance,” she added.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin echoed Hontivero's sentiments and in a statement said, “It's classic Duterte showtime! Rambling, shouting, warning, and bullying his 'enemies.' He knows what issues click, what emojis to use. To be populist than being right. Again no mention of ENDO, coconut farmers trust fund, other social legislation. Frustrating!”
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said this year's SONA was "a long and winding one."
"Despite the duration, the President was still not able to give a significant report on the promises that he made in the last year’s SONA. He was in fact making more promises," he said.
ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio pointed out the President did not mention agrarian reform in his speech.
“Wala siyang binanggit sa agararian reform. Kung gusto natin mawala ang rebelde, dapat i-address 'yun. Karamihan sa mga nagrerebelde sa Pilipinas ay maralitang magsasaka na walang lupa,” he said.
Tinio added that it is “absurd” to connect everything to the illegal drug problem in the country.
“Absurd na to (connect lahat sa droga) ang kawalan ng trabaho, kakapusan ng serbisyong panlipunan, kakapusan ng sweldo. Hindi mo yan mare-reduce sa droga. Ang problema ko sa simula palang ng speech niya, ang ugat ng lahat ng problema sa lipunan ay dahil pa rin sa droga,” he said.
Duterte reiterated his "unrelenting" war against illegal drugs because it is "the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering."
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat was also critical of Duterte's war on drugs, his stance on human rights violations, his anti-US policy, his unclear position on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the non-mention of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.
“Ako kasi medyo ambivalent, okay ako sa ibang punto [pero] 'di rin ako sumasang ayon sa iba," he said.
Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao stressed that the popularity and political capital of the Duterte Administration gives it the capacity to implement essential reforms. However, she said the administration's focus on a single issue, the war against drugs, has turned into a war against the poor.
“We need policies that are effective not because they are based on fear, but on facts. We need comprehensive solutions that are anchored on our fundamental values, not simplistic, single-issue responses that are based on a hunger for violence," he said.
Bag-ao said she hopes the administration would spend its political capital on "reforms that are not only innovative, but based on the rights and dignity of the people. There are more things that we can do together, with government and the people hand in hand, to make the change we want and need to finally happen.”
--With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News