Inter-agency body on illegal drugs to be formed

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said Monday his administration will create an inter-agency committee on illegal drugs that will integrate efforts and strengthen partnership of all stakeholders in the fight against the menace.

Duterte, in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), said reservists will be mobilized for information campaign against drug use and the dissemination of information regarding drug rehabilitation programs being offered by the government.

"Let us also strengthen our ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Course) Program to instill love of country and good citizenship," he said in a 90-minute Sona held at the House of Representatives.

The President said his administration will prioritize the rehabilitation of drug users.

He said that about 120,000 drug users, 70,000 of them drug pushers, have already surrendered to the police in different parts of the country.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines will facilitate the preparation for the use of military camps and facilities for drug rehabilitation.

"There can never be real, tangible and felt development without making our people feel secure and it is our duty to uplift the people's welfare," Duterte said.

He assured that rule of all will prevail at all times.

But he added that human rights must work to uplift the human dignity.

"Human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the county- your country and my country," he stressed.

Some human rights groups have been criticizing the administration for the recent killings of suspected drug personalities.

Duterte was unfazed by the criticisms, saying the government will not stop until drug lord has surrendered.

"We will not stop until the last drug lord, financier, pusher is put behind bars... or below the ground if they so wish," he said.

He called on the Philippine National Police that is in charge the government's all out war against drugs to do their job, even as he assured them of his "unwavering support".

Aside from drugs, Duterte for the first time since he assumed office on June 30 to declared an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

"Since our country continues to be confronted with the internal security threats aggravated by the existence and activities of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, the full force of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) will be applied to crush these criminals who operate under the guise of religious fervor," he said.

He also announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

In his speech, Duterte said he wanted a "permanent and lasting peace" before the end of his six-year term, which commenced on June 30.

"Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day," he said.

Duterte went off-speech when he discussed the issues regarding the country's maritime row with China, mining, transportation, fight against corruption, reducing bureaucracy and universal health care.

He also announced his plan to transform the state-owned PTV-4 into a self-sustaining independent network.

In the South China Sea issue, Duterte said the ruling of the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal is the country's contribution in pursuing peaceful resolution in the disputed waters.

Duterte said his administration respects the decision of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which decided in favor of the Philippines declaring China's nine-dash line as invalid.

"With regard to the West Philippine Sea otherwise known as [South] China Sea, we strongly affirm and respect the outcome of the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue the peaceful resolution and management of our disputes," he said in his first Sona, which was also attended by Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhang Jianhua.

The President has asked former President Fidel Ramos to be his special envoy to China to discuss the issue following the PCA ruling.

Duterte's Sona first Sona is "different" from those of his predecessors. Guests were told to wear business attires, they were not treated to a red carpet treatment and the food served was simple.

'Full of common sense'

In a chance interview, Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos said the President's Sona "was very enlightening and at the same time, full of common sense."

The widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos lauded the President for his accomplishments in just a short span of time and said that she would pray for his success in six years of serving the country.

"I think, it's (his fight against criminality is) working and I congratulate him. And this is only the few days that he's the President and you'll see that so much has been done. I salute him and I congratulate him. And I pray for his good health and safety and sucess," she said.

Senator Richard Gordon said he was impressed that the President had provided "bold" solutions to end the problem in Mindanao and resolve the disputes on the West Philippine Sea.

"Perhaps, some have seen it different but for me, who became a mayor, that was a mayor's speech. That's a speech of a mayor who tries to reach the public so they will know how he feels. That's more important," Gordon told reporters.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said Duterte's Sona was "very comprehensive" as he was able to cover many issues in a limited time.

"It's authentic. It's the issues, programs that we are looking for and it's authentic because he said that he cannot do it alone. The question now is: Are we willing, are we capable of giving him what he's aking for?" he said in an interview.

In a statement, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the President's Sona "was full of common sense solutions beneficial to every Filipino."

Angara said he was hopeful that the bureaucracy will follow Duterte's lead and have a "responsive and better" government.

Iloilo City Representative Jerry Treñas said Duterte's call for all insurgency groups to embrace peace and his commitment to bring peace in the country before his term ends "is every Filipino's dream no matter which side you're with."

Treñas said Duterte’s address encapsulates the people's wish and dreams being the "last hope to make it happen."

Davao City Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles said Duterte's pronouncement of a unilateral ceasefire against the communist insurgents will definitely boost the country's economy.

"(That means) peace in our economy with faster processes and ease in doing business, more jobs, better infrastructure," said Nograles.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago said Duterte's first Sona "offers hope and challenges" to the Filipino youth.

Elago said that Duterte was able to deliver a "meaningful and comprehensive" statement overall "which touched on basic issues that the youth and the people are clamoring for."

Batangas Representative Vilma Santos-Recto said that Duterte's statement is sign he is looking forward for the future and not the failure of the past administrations

"It's moving on at least no… hindi backward (thinking). He's very determine sa peace and order and law enforcement. Palagay ko, lahat naman ng programa, diyaan maguumpisa," said Santos.

1PACMAN Party-list Representative Mikee Romero said never before in country's history has marginalized Filipinos been emboldened to overcome decades of apathy and indifference by the national government.

Romero lauded Duterte who enumerated plans that would guarantee the best deal for Filipinos whose rights under the law have been overstepped and whose welfare government chose to overlook.

"The chief executive has set the bar of public service at a higher level. He inspires us to do the same," said Romero.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said the President's address "is very heartfelt, straightforward and very down to earth."

Zarate said Duterte's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels is most welcome and the subsequent release of political prisoners would be a great confidence building measure to jumpstart the formal peace negotiations to finally address the root causes of the armed conflict.

'Peaceful' Sona rally

For the first time, militant were able to get nearer the venue were the President delivered his speech at the Batasan Complex.

"Binabati namin ang mga pulis na hindi naka full battle gear. Kung dati ang meaning ng PNP ay 'palo nang palo' ngayon Philippine National Police na," a member of the militant groups said.

The groups said Monday's event, which was participated by 14,000 militants, was "the most peaceful Sona rally" in the country's history.

The militants peacefully stage protest 600 meters away from the venue.

The demonstrators came from as far as Mindanao, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and Northern Luzon.

"This is indeed a historic day. Duterte is the first Mindanaoan to deliver Sona. The first to sign FOI (Freedom of Information). The first President to do away with the overkill security measures which were the norm during the past regimes," Reyes said.

Reyes attributed their peaceful demonstration to Duterte and the PNP.

He lauded PNP chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa's effort to speak with the militants.

Before the program started, Dela Rosa went on stage to speak with the militants.

Addressing the activists, Dela Rosa said: "Wag kayo matakot sa mga pulis, katulad niyo rin kami, iisa lang po tayo. Pare-parehas lang tayong Pilipino, pare-pareho tayong mahiirap."

The PNP chief then appealed to the rallyist: "Magtutulungan tayo. Sana matapos itong Sona na peaceful tayo."

"Natutuwa kami sa gesture ng PNP, natutuwa kami kasi sa wakas may pangulo na hindi takot sa mamamayan. Hindi nagtatago sa likod ng pulis at kinikilala at nirerespeto yung karapatan natin magpahayag...Tinototo nya yung sinabi nya nung inauguration," said Reyes.

Musician Aiza Siguerra expressed her gratitude to Duterte for the peaceful rally.

"Thank you dahil kinikilala mo ang karapatan ng bawat sector. Nandito kami nakasuporta sa mga programa mong progresibo," Seguerra said.

Activist Mae Paner, also known as "Juana Change," thanked the Mindanaoan President and the PNP for the peaceful Sona rally.

"Thank you, umabot kami sa halos dikit na sa Batasan. First time to, dati ginugulpi kami andun pa lang kami sa mga malayong malayo. May mga bumbero, may mga pulis. Pero ngayon, wow," she said.

Rallies were also held in other parts of the country, while Duterte's constituents in Davao City have organized a public viewing of his Sona.


Among the issues the progressive groups raised to the Duterte administration during their whole-day protest are poverty, landlessness, employment, contractualization, human rights violation, and privatization of services.

Various groups, including Reyes' expressed their hope that Duterte will be able to address the said issues in the future.

"Sana ma-adress niya yung maraming kahilingan ng mamamayan. Yung mga issues gaya ng kahirapan, kagutuman, kawalan ng trabaho, kawalan ng lupa, and peace process na matagal na natin pinapanawagan na ipagpatuloy niya," he said.

"We hope that he would be true to his promise of change," Reyes added.

The crowd also expressed hope that the Duterte administration will be able to hear their personal cries.

Jil Jael, 23, from Quezon province hopes that the new administration address issues in education, specifically the termination of K to 12, and end to future tuition fee hikes.

"Yung K-12 malaking epekto ito sa mga kabataan, hindi dapat isulong ang K-12 dahil lalo natin inuudyok ang mga estudyante na pumunta sa abroad, hindi din nararapat yung pagtaas ng tuition fee."

Marvin Ramos, a factory worker who carries 10,000 sacks of feeds a day, asked Duterte to end contractualization.

"Tulungan niyo po kami na maregular kami sa trabaho at matigil ang kontraktualisasyon. 10,000 sako ng feeds, 50 kilos araw binubuhat namin. Kami ay may mga pamilya din gusto pa mag-aral ng aming mga anak," said Ramos.

Marcelo Karkulan, a Mangyan from Tribong Iraya in Mindoro, wanted Duterte to push for peace talks and give them the right to decide for their lands.

"Nais namin ipaabot sa pangulo na [ituloy ang] usapang kapayapaan. Ang mga katutubong mangyan may pangamba sa kanilang buhay. Nais namin ipaabot na yung mga batas sa mining na naipasa ay ibasura at yung IPRA (Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act) law, dahil walang ginawa ang batas na yan kundi ipasok ang mga dayuhna korporasyon sa lupa ng aming mga ninuno," Karkulan said.

"Nais din namin mabigyan ng sapat ng serbisyong panglipunan. Kabahayan, edukasyon, kalusugan, karapatan sa pagpapasya at pamamahala sa aming mga lupain," he added.

Jonel Delos Santos, 10, who fears that the family's house in a slum area in Manila will soon be demolished, said: "Sana po itigil na yung pag-de-demmolish kasi marami pong nagaaway sa paged-demolish." (Sunnex)
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