Pandemic recovery, human rights in Sona

PANDEMIC recovery, education, food security, government partnership with private sector, campaign against illegal drugs and criminality, as well as infrastructure development and human rights are some of the subjects that lawmakers and a non-government group expect President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to discuss during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday, July 25, 2022.Meanwhile, in Cebu, police units have been ordered to follow the security plan for the Sona. Police Lt. Col. Janette Rafter, Cebu City Police Office deputy director for operations, said they will deploy personnel on Monday, as they expect progressive groups to launch protest rallies during the Sona.Sen. Loren Legarda said she expects Marcos to inform the country about his administration’s specific measures in attaining the “better normal” following the effects of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. She hopes these plans are “aligned and attuned to the climate path.”Legarda said she is also “eager” to hear the President speak about his priority programs and policy reforms on health and education, food security, agriculture and sustainability programs, economic and fiscal policies, human rights and social justice, unemployment and underemployment, legislative agenda, the critical role of the local governments, foreign policy and other pressing issues related to the economy, such as inflation and the series of oil price hikes.Marcos should also provide his plans to strengthen the country’s education system, which was badly hit by the pandemic, as well as to address the Philippines’ debt, which was at P12.495 trillion as of May 2022, she added.Sen. Sonny Angara wants to know what the administration will do to spur the economy, especially Marcos’ plan to work closely with the private groups and to address the issues on the resumption of pre-pandemic activities.“How the government can improve health services and education, job creation, these are what our countrymen want to hear in President BBM’s Sona,” he said.Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said he hopes that Marcos would say that he will continue the programs of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly against illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism.Sen. Christopher Go hopes Marcos will commit to the continuous strengthening of the country’s healthcare system, food security, disaster response measures, and the “Build, Build, Build” program, which may also result in more jobs for the Filipino people.Sen. Grace Poe hopes Marcos will have a “concrete, comprehensive and effective” solution to the pressing issues in the country, particularly in poverty, food supply, unemployment and transportation and education system, as well as the enhancement of government services.Free LeilaMeanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for Marcos to prioritize resolving human rights concerns and to acknowledge these during his Sona.“President Marcos has a golden opportunity to get the Philippines on the right track by setting out clear priorities and policies to improve human rights in the country,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.“After six years of Duterte’s disastrous ‘drug war’ that killed thousands of people, Marcos needs to make a clean break by showing he is serious about accountability for past human rights violations as well as preventing abuses in the future,” he added.HRW urged Marcos to work on the release of former senator Leila de Lima, who had been detained since 2017 due to alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, to stop the abusive and unlawful operations of the police in line with the drug war, to order the conduct of a probe into alleged extrajudicial killings, cooperate in the possible reopening of the drug war probe by the International Criminal Court, end red-tagging or linking persons or groups to the communist terrorist group, drop charges against Rappler, and to appoint members to the Commission on Human Rights who have proven track records for upholding human rights and reputations for independence and impartiality.Full alertIn Cebu City, Police Lt. Col. Rafter said the security plan for the Sona had already been passed to all units of the city and provincial police in Cebu to ensure full and strict implementation.The police personnel who will be deployed on Monday will serve as the civil disturbance management team (CDM), which is tasked to maintain peace and order.Some personnel will do roving in major areas in the city, while a team will also be deployed for intelligence monitoring.Rafter said that starting Sunday, July 24, the Philippine National Police will place the entire country under full alert status.This means all police personnel are mandated to stay in their respective stations. No one is allowed to take a leave of absence.She said they will observe maximum tolerance, allowing protesters to air their sentiments.As of July 22, police had not received threats that could disrupt Marcos’ Sona, Rafter said. (AYB / LMY)