Here are the highlights of President Duterte's two-hour SONA speech
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President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address on July 24. In his two-hour speech at the Batasang Pambansa, Duterte reviewed his administration over the past year and presented its priorities for the year ahead.
Among the issues he mentioned includes the continued fight against illegal drugs despite “international and local pressure.” President Duterte reiterated that the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs will continue and that he does not intend to loosen the leash in the campaign or lose the fight against illegal drugs. The President, however stressed that he also values human life despite the deaths that have been linked to illegal drugs.
Duterte also explained that he was compelled to declare martial law in Mindanao, believing that it is the "fastest way" to suppress hostile acts in the southern Philippines. Duterte said the martial law would enable the military to arrest, detain, and question sympathizers of rebellion in the besieged region. In line with this, The President assured the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of his solid support for the two organizations. "I am reiterating my unwavering support and commitment to the armed forces and members of the police force. Those who are on the ground and the battlefield risking their lives for our country and democracy, I have your backs," he added.
Furthermore, the President said he had no plans to talk to them again, especially after communist rebels shot at the convoy of the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato last week. However, he gave assurances he will pursue the peace process with the Moro rebels under the blueprint of the Bangsamoro government before his term ends, as this is a key to peace in Mindanao.
Duterte also demanded the U.S. government to return the historic Balangiga bells seized by the U.S. from a church in Samar during the Philippine-American war. "Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit 'yun sa amin (Please give them back. It's painful for us)," Duterte added.
One church bell is in the possession of the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud, South Korea. The two others are on a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenee, Wyo.
Another highlight of his speech was his emphasis on responsible mining, warning mining companies to protect the environment or taxes will be raised. He said he would impose a “non-negotiable” policy against mining operators who would continue to destroy the environment.
As for legislative matters, Duterte urged the Senate to pass the tax reform bill, which if approved, would help the government collect the budget needed for infrastructure projects. He commended the House of Representatives (HOR) for passing the comprehensive tax reform package, and said its fate now lies Senate's hands. "The fate of the tax reform is now in the hands of the Senate," President Duterte said, noting that the HOR has passed its version of the measure, voting 246-9-1.
He also urged Congress to push for the restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines, noting that capital punishment is about “retribution”, not just deterrence. He pointed out the country's criminal system uses a revised penal code centered on the essence of retribution.
The President also called on the Supreme Court (SC) to look into the matter of the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) so as not to delay on government projects and programs. “TRO has become the bane of our (government) projects,” Duterte said.
Lastly, Duterte submitted the 2018 national budget to congress. The 3.8 trillion pesos proposed budget will prioritize education, infrastructure, and health care.