The challenges ahead » Manila Bulletin News



By Hector R. R. Villanueva

Hector R. R. Villanueva

“My country, right or wrong: if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.” — Carl Schurz

The Second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has set the direction and priorities for the forthcoming year.

Although some of the topics have been cited in the first SONA, they have been reiterated with a heavy dosage of frustration, and impatience which should be taken to heart if we care to obviate the extension of martial law nationwide.

While the direction is clear which “inclusive growth” is, a clean government, and “comfortable life for all,” the problems and priorities are complex, seemingly intractable, long-term, and volatile.

Thus, apart from raising revenues for infrastructure, operations, and war effort, the priorities for us should be the following.

First, confront and eradicate the scattered and fragmented communist insurgency that mainly extorts and harasses villages and towns.

As for the ageing hierarchy in the Netherlands, let them wither on the vine.

Second, like climate change, the population issue is not taken seriously. Pres. Duterte pointedly asked the Supreme Court to lift the TRO on the Reproductive Health Law and get on with our population program and policy.

Compared to Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia with their large contiguous land masses, the Philippines’ burgeoning population is too large for the archipelagic landscape.

Third, though Pres. Duterte’s war against drug trafficking will be “unremitting and relentless,” it should take a lower priority to job generation, education, and constitutional reforms.

While the war on drugs may be a heroic, patriotic, and noble crusade, it could be a frustrating and no-win situation.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth, President Duterte must ask Congress not only to expedite the 2018 General Appropriations Act but also to fast-track the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.

Owing to the deteriorating criminality and lawlessness, it is imperative to revive and enact the death penalty against heinous crimes and drug trafficking as well as act on its corollary impact on our congested jails and penitentiaries.

Though equally urgent, the resolution of the centuries-old Moro problem will somewhat be mitigated with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will not, however, totally solve the Muslim insurgency.

The SONA of Pres. Digong Duterte has set the direction, priorities, and marching orders for the next five years.

The ball is now with Congress, the bureaucracy, and the Judiciary.

You be the judge.

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