Summary of Duterte’s 5th COVID-19 address and what he failed to mention

March 31, 2020 - 5:28 PM
President Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his fifth national address during the novel coronavirus pandemic (PCOO/King Rodriguez)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth nation address on Monday was not a report on the government’s spending plan for anti-COVID-19 efforts.

Filipinos earlier expected Duterte to provide a concrete breakdown of the hefty P275 billion budget for COVID-19 efforts in his Monday nation address as it also came nearly a week after he signed Bayanihan We Heal as One Act (RA 11469) into law.

The public funds were supposed to be provided for the novel coronavirus response efforts as part of the Bayanihan Act, which granted Duterte special powers to allocate it.

The new law also placed the country under a state of emergency effective for three months unless extended.

Benefits stated in the law’s provisions include proper compensation and other benefits for the health workers, financial aid to the urban poor affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine and procurement of medical necessities.

To monitor how the special authority was utilized, Duterte was required to submit to Congress a weekly report of the actions he took after the law was passed.

“The President, during Monday of every week, shall submit a weekly report to Congress of all acts performed pursuant to this Act during the immediately preceding week. The report shall likewise include the amount and corresponding utilization of the funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated and realigned pursuant to this act,” the law’s section 5 read.

Duterte managed to accomplish this.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that the president was able to submit a full report to the Senate at 12:40 am on Tuesday.

Asked if he was satisfied, Sotto said: “It’s quite precise and concise to the spirit of what we expect. Although some provisions are still in process, most are being executed already.”

‘Duterte standard time’

Duterte’s nation address was initially scheduled at 4 p.m. on Monday but its taped version aired before midnight.

Panelo said Duterte’s address was moved since he was still in a meeting with concerned agencies and was currently coordinating with them relative to the response measures being undertaken by the government to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Others then coined the phrase “Duterte standard time” to refer to the president’s own preferred schedule compared to the one announced to the public.

P200 billion or P275 billion budget?

In his address, Duterte announced that P200 billion was allocated to aid the informal sector or daily wage earners who were severely affected by the large-scale quarantine. This was granted to him by the Congress.

The budget is part of the social protection program that the national government just launched, which he described as the largest in history, to make up for the economic losses in the country.

“The government is now launching the largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history…pinakamalaki itong tulong na ibibigay ng gobyerno sa mamamayan sa history natin, eh ngayon lang tayo nagkaroon ng problemang ganito…to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to the quarantine measures in place for COVID-19,” he said in his speech.

In view of this, some Filipinos questioned that the previous reported budget was P275 billion.

Award-winning author Lualhati Bautista expressed her ire on the discrepancy on the amount of COVID-19 budget.

“Di ba usapan, 275 billion, bakit 200 billion na lang ang narinig ko? Largest and widest social support? Kaya pala puro sardinas na LIgo ang nababalitaan ko, di man lang 555 spanish sardines. Maka-200billion ka diyan. Nasa’n na?” she said on Facebook.

Duterte cited that quick response measures for the farmers and fisher folk were employed to ensure their “food productivity, availability, and sufficiency” during the duration of the pandemic.

Food packs and non-essential food items were also distributed to local government units in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon.

“Gagawin ko lahat para walang magutom,” he promised.

Resources from the big businesses in the private sector

Aside from vows, Duterte also expressed gratitude to several organizations, rich entrepreneurs, and the Chinese and Singapore governments for the support and donations they gave to the country.

Jack Ma (co-founder of Alibaba group), Manny Pangilinan, Lucio and Michael Tan, Ramon Ang (vice president of San Miguel Corporation) and Dennis Uy were among the big names he mentioned in his list.

Names of organizations the president he also acknowledged in his speech include the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, the Unilab Foundation and the Global Fund.

With their help, the national government was able to acquire about one million medical items, including personal protective equipment, to help the health sector and other front line responders.

Duterte also appealed to other members of the private sector to help their employees in dealing with the national emergency.

“I also appeal to the private sector to contribute, in any way you can, in dealing with this national emergency. We implore employers to do their part in protecting the welfare of the millions of Filipino households that belong to the formal sector and depend on their employers for continuous livelihood,” he said.

Twitter user @werqishaxfierce criticized Duterte’s call for private sector’s, saying that the government should have enough money to provide for workers of private businesses.

“Shouldn’t it be enough to handle the pandemic? There will be donor fatigue and if the 276B is misused, it will be the end for us,” the user wrote.