President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, before some 1,300 people at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, marking the first time in two years a full in-person SONA was held by the Congress.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri greet and congratulate each other with a fist bump as President Marcos delivers his first SONA on Monday, July 25, 2022. (Photo from Romualdez’s office)

While his legislative priorities received applause from the joint members of the Upper and Lower Chambers, lawmakers saw it fit to give their reactions to the new Chief Executive’s pronouncements.

ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro and Gabriela Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas found Marcos’ SONA wanting.

Castro noted how he failed to mention plans to increase the salaries of teachers.

“Also the President’s silence on disinformation and fake news, human rights violations and impunity, and corruption especially those in which top officials including Duterte are implicated, is deafening,” she said in a statement.

Castro also criticized Marcos’ order to use English as the medium of instruction in schools, noting the importance for learners to master the native tongue and the lack of plans to improve public school buildings.

“We will continue to observe the new Marcos administration to see if it will fulfill its many promises and we will not back down if it push anti-people policies like the so-called rightsizing of government, mandatory ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and new taxes,” she said.
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Brosas, for her part, criticized the speech for addressing the problems related to big businesses and corporations but not ordinary Filipinos.

The lawmaker lamented that Marcos “made no mention of the scrapping of excise tax and VAT on oil, no wage increase, and not even a hint at ending contractualization” and lamented the mention of Aquino-era Public Private Partnership (PPP).

Although Marcos promised to strengthen programs for Violence Against Women and Children, Brosas shrugged it off, saying there were “no concrete plans to support such agenda.”

“Time and time again, the government only mentions women’s issues like some consolation prize – just all talk, no clear plans. What women need is a comprehensive plan that will address the sector’s basic issues like lack of jobs and livelihood and state-perpetrated violence against women,” Brosas said.

She also criticized the lack of a permanent Health secretary and the planned loans for farmers which she said will be an added burden.

Despite such ill feelings against Marcos’ SONA, most lawmakers were all praises for the Chief Executive’s legislative plans.

Deputy Speaker and Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab said that Congress is “ready and willing” to turn these plans into reality.

“With the leadership of Speaker Martin Romualdez, the House of Representatives is ready to help PBBM in pushing for the enactment of laws that will bring our nation to economic recovery and achieve the remarkable plans and programs he cited in his SONA,” he said in a statement.
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He gave a thumbs-up to Marcos’ mention of the Department of Finance’s Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, the government’s updated medium-term macroeconomic assumptions and fiscal program and growth targets for FY 2022 to 2028, and the plans for the agriculture sector and for the agrarian reform program.

The deputy speaker also noted the President’s plan to deliver social and healthcare services and quality education, as well as the resumption of the ROTC program, infrastructure development, and energy production.

“These are impressive, concrete plans, and we must all work together for these to be achieved,” Ungab said.

Senior Citizen Partylist Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes, chair of the Committee on Senior Citizens, also lauded Marcos’ SONA for mentioning his plans for the veterans, the continuous Covid-19 vaccine booster rollout, the cleanup of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) list, a better “ayuda (social aid)” system, and the establishment of new hospitals.

He also said that Marcos’ plans to lower the cost of medicines and make generic medicines more accessible will mean “more affordable drugs especially for seniors.”

Meanwhile, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, whose existing bills he had filed were mostly part of Marcos’ legislative agenda in his SONA, called the President a “technocrat-in-chief.”
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He plans on “taking up all the tax-related bills mentioned by PBBM as soon as we are constituted as a committee.”

“We will be on our feet on day one,” Salceda said.

Among the fiscal measures mentioned by the President are the National Government Rightsizing Program, the Budget Modernization Bill, Package 3 of the tax reform on real property valuation and assessment, and Package 4 of tax reform on passive income and financial intermediaries.

He also committed to tax administration reforms such as the Digital Economy VAT Law, the Ease of Paying Taxes Act, and reforms against possible undervaluation and misdeclaration of imported goods.

Batangas 6th District Rep. Ralph Recto commended Marcos for delivering a “data-driven SONA.”

“Others before him had used words to conjure the future. He painted it using numbers,” he said.

“May resibo ang mga pangako. Hindi (The promises have receipts. Not) motherhood statements, but calculable key result areas,” Recto added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (