Lopezes, death penalty, China: Filipinos note top three topics tackled by Duterte in 5th SONA

July 27, 2020 - 7:21 PM
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Rodrigo Duterte during SONA 202
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his State of the Nation Address at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines July 27, 2020. (Presidential Photos/via Reuters)

Filipinos on social media took note of some of the topics that President Rodrigo Duterte had discussed in his penultimate State of the Nation Address delivered at the Batasang Pambansa Complex on Monday afternoon.

The chief executive started his speech on time despite reports of some personnel and Rep. Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur, Second District) testing positive for COVID-19 upon the mandated testing prior to the event.

Lopezes, ABS-CBN and Drilon 

Duterte started his speech by hitting the Lopezes of ABS-CBN and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon despite expectations to primarily talk about the government’s recovery plan in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He accused the lawmaker of supposedly defending the Lopez family who he claimed were “oligarchs” despite them not appearing on the list of the country’s top 20 richest individuals.

“While government focuses its attention on the coronavirus, there are those who take advantage of the preoccupied government,” Duterte said, as quoted by reports.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned among others that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy, and the topic was my daughter and son… Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes, that they are not oligarchs,” he continued.

Duterte previously claimed that he successfully “dismantled the oligarchy” in a speech delivered to soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.

An unedited version of his video showed that he mentioned ABS-CBN, the embattled Lopez-owned company which he has vocally threatened to close several times before despite the Palace saying he was “neutral.”

Some Filipinos previously criticized Duterte’s remarks on the oligarchy and noted that it was inconsistent with his family’s long-held political power and offices.

Meanwhile, following his comments on the Lopezes at the beginning of his SONA, the words “Lopez” and “Drilon” briefly trended on local Twitter, where some social media users hit him for prioritizing a non-coronavirus-related topic.

“P**angina you start with oligarchs?! WE’RE IN A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS #SONA2020,” screenwriter Anj Pessumal wrote

Parody account Malacañang Events and Catering Services similarly tweeted an “expectation vs. reality” comparison.

Death penalty

Duterte also renewed his calls to bring back the capital punishment through lethal injection in drug-related crimes punishable under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Last year, he also mentioned the similar topic in his SONA and said that he would like plunder to be included in crimes punishable by death penalty as well.

The chief executive on his latest address called on the Congress to swiftly pass a law reviving capital punishment, consistent with his hardline policies against narcotics.

This prompted the keyword “Death Penalty” to enter local Twitter’s top trending list, where some Filipinos noted how Duterte had initially called out the lawmakers in the plenary hall for staying silent on the matter.

It was only after he mentioned their supposed disapproval that the plenary hall suddenly became noisy with applause.

He really asked Congress to clap for his plans to bring back Death Penalty #SONA2020,” a Twitter user wrote. 

Others took note of how contradictory his remarks were in accordance with his previous comment about supposedly prioritizing human lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Philippine Sea

In his SONA speech, Duterte also said that he “cannot do anything” about China’s military aggression in the West Philippine Sea and reasoned that it has more military resources compared to the Philippines.

“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it so it’s simple as that. They are in possession of the property… So what can we do? We have to go to war, and I cannot afford it. Maybe some other President can, but I cannot,” he said.

The chief executive added that the Philippines should just pursue “diplomatic relations” instead.

His remarks were not met well by some members of the local online community, including former solicitor general Florin Hilbay who reminded the public that the Philippines have a “legal title” to the West Philippine Sea.

Hilbay was a member of the legal team who defended the country’s claims over parts of the disputed waters at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

This prompted the keyword “China” to land on local Twitter’s top trending list wherein Filipinos urged Duterte “to stop being weak” amid the continuous encroachment of the Asian giant.

“We all know that China is powerful than the Philippines but as the country’s president and a leader, why maintain and let other countries belittle us? Why not make a change? Stop being weak and saying to the nation that you can’t do anything about it,” another Twitter user wrote.

The Philippines in July 2016 had won a landmark ruling in the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that recognizes its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, a portion of the disputed South China Sea which is claimed by the Philippines.

The ruling likewise said that the following activities blatantly infringed on Manila’s sovereign rights.

These include “China’s island construction projects, installation of facilities in the seven features of Spratly Islands such as Mischief Reef, illegal prevention of Filipinos from conducting fishing activities in the surrounding area, and interference with oil and gas exploration at the Reed Bank.”