President introduces 12 new priority bills . . .
On Monday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) before his term ends in May 2022. As he laid out his vision for the year ahead, his ambitions remain overshadowed by the pandemic’s catastrophic socio-economic impacts on his country. Only four days before his address, the new and highly contagious Delta variant was detected in the Philippines. With COVID-19 recovery top of mind for many Filipinos, Duterte announced 12 new priority bills he wants Congress to pass before his term ends, including the creation of a Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfulfilled promises . . .
While Duterte tries to cement his legacy with the 12 new bills, Rappler reported that Congress has yet to pass the 17 priority bills introduced in Duterte’s previous SONA in 2020. Although Duterte has large majorities in both the House and the Senate, he has had fewer such bills passed than previous presidents. In addition, unfulfilled campaign promises include Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ and peace in the Mindanao region. He has also been criticized internally for failing to protect Philippine interests vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea and allowing the U.S.-Philippines military alliance to deteriorate.
Keeping the presidential door open . . .
Duterte is constitutionally limited to one term as president, but two items mentioned during the SONA may raise some eyebrows: possible constitutional amendments and the next vice president. Duterte abruptly endorsed Senate President Vince Sotto as a future vice president – a confusing twist after noting recently that he was seriously considering running as VP alongside his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who is considered a top contender for president. In his speech, Duterte also proposed several reforms to economic provisions of the Constitution (i.e. the Foreign Investments Act, the Public Service Act, and the Retail and Trade Liberalization Act) as “urgent issues.” While he denies that he is seeking to extend his presidential term, critics argue that opening the door for amendments through a Constituent Assembly would make it easier to change other parts of the Constitution – including limits on presidential terms.