Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte blew his chance in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 27, to unite Filipinos in the midst of the coronavirus health crisis.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said the pandemic could have been the “silver lining” for the government to press for a whole-society response toward solidarity.
“But pride, prejudice and power prevailed over better judgment and people welfare,” said the prelate, national director of Caritas Philippines, the Church’s social action arm.
“The president has lost his chance to rally and unite the Filipino people when it is most needed,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
He described the president’s address as nothing but a “divisive” speech that is full of “rhetoric.”
The bishop said Duterte’s State of the Nation Address this year was just a reiteration of the same rhetoric on drugs, that “widely resulted in extrajudicial killings, and corruption, which shielded his cronies.”
He said the president only exposed an administration that has “no clear roadmap” of governance with a “troubled executive leadership” in terms of managing state affairs.
“He was so enraged with past disappointments (that) all he can think of is revenge, which at the end of his speech, just divided further an already broken nation,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
The bishop said that despite repeated mentions about the government’s response to the pandemic, Duterte failed to mention the government’s roadmap to fight the disease as cases continue to rise.
“The president failed to concretely present his plans on how to improve the healthcare system in the country and the delivery of public service to the vulnerable sectors,” he said.
Other Catholic church leaders earlier expressed their disappointment over the president’s fifth State of the Nation Address.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, described the speech as “full of motherhood statements.”
“In general, it has no track record to show that he is trustworthy. It is punctuated with bad language, too,” said the prelate.
In the first five minutes of his speech, Duterte slammed an opposition senator and the Lopez family, owners of ABS-CBN, the broadcast network that Congress recently denied a franchise.
“Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who use it in their battle with political figures,” he said.
The president also slammed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon for supposedly “defending” the Lopezes.
Duterte was referring to Drilon’s statement that political dynasties must be banned to truly dismantle oligarchy in the country.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon, said most of the achievements that the president mentioned in his speech were “negated by his many dire actions.”
The prelate said Duterte has an “endless list” of failures and bad decisions including his approval of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the attacks on press freedom.
Bishop Bastes lambasted Duterte’s “apparent treachery to our territorial integrity” for “his subservience and cowardly attitude toward China.”
In his speech, Duterte said he “cannot afford” to go to war to assert the country’s rights over parts of the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
“We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. I’m useless when it comes to that. Really, I’m useless to that. I can’t do anything,” said Duterte.
“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it’s as simple as that. They are in possession of the property, so what can we do?” he added.
The president’s speech, which lasted one hour and 46 minutes, was delivered before a limited audience at the House of Representatives due to health restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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