Opposition gives assessment ahead of Duterte's SONA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) — Opposition lawmakers on Sunday gave a mostly critical assessment of the Duterte administration's first year in office, barely a week before President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.

Leading opposition lawmakers, mostly from minority Liberal Party, gathered at the University of the Philippines, Diliman for a forum dubbed "So Ano Na?" where they delivered their so-called "Real State of the Nation Address" in front of hundreds of supporters.

Before the program began, the lawmakers said they would be objective in assessing the President's performance in the past year.

But while at the start of the program, Sen. Bam Aquino said economic indicators are "generally positive" in the country, other assessments proved less favorable for the President.

The lawmakers, who held separate presentations on topics including poverty, foreign relations, human rights, and women, were highly critical of the President's war on drugs, which police statistics show has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

Duterte's Presidential campaign ran on an anti-illegal drugs platform, which has received extensive criticisms from the opposition and human rights groups due to the alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers in the campaign's first year.

Facing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in May, the Philippine delegation co-headed by then Senator and now Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano denied the existence of state-sponsored or extrajudicial killings of drug traffickers and criminals.

Cayetano said critics of the Duterte administration had changed the definition of EJKs to "deceive" the public and foreign media into believing there was a wave of state-sponsored EJKs in the country.

READ: PH delegation defends drug war at UN in Geneva

To prove their points, lawmakers at the forum presented data from the government and showed images of victims of  alleged extrajudicial killings as proof of how "dismal" the drug campaign has been.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the anti-drug war killed mostly the poor while Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano criticized the President for making it the focal point of his first year.

"Naging abala si President Duterte sa kanyang War on Drugs na halos dito lang umiikot ang kanyang mundo," Alejano said.

[Translation: Duterte has been so focused on his war on drugs that it's as if his world revolves around it.]

On March 16, Alejano filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte. The complaint was later dismissed by the House of Representatives, citing its lack of substance despite sufficiency in form.

READ: Duterte immune to impeachment for 1 year

At the forum, Alejano also criticized how the president has been dealing with terrorist threats amid the nearly two-month long clash between government troops and the terror Maute group in Marawi.

Baguilat, meanwhile, was also critical of the President's "failure" to end contractualization and provide housing for the poor.

During the presidential campaign, then candidate Duterte promised to end contractualization within a week. However, on July 4, The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) admitted it failed to end contractualization within President Rodrigo Duterte's first year in office, saying they lack manpower to do so.

READ: DOLE admits failure to end contractualization

At the forum, Senator Risa Hontiveros called on the opposition to further unite against what they called a "rising authoritarian rule."

"We cannot allow this to continue unchallenged," Hontiveros said, adding there was a need to fight for a "bagong demokrasya" or "new democracy" in the country.

However, in the end, the minority lawmakers insisted being critical of the President does not mean destabilizing his administration.

"Nawa'y maintindihan ng lahat na walang hangad na masama ang pagiging kritikal sa polisiya ng administrasyon. Ang mga kritisismo ay hindi destabilisasyon. Ang aming pagtutol ay hindi lamang basta tumututol. Ito ay pagganap ng tungkulin bilang mamamayan ng bansa na siguraduhing interes ng nakararami ang mananaig," Alejano said.

[Translation: We hope everyone understands that we have no bad intentions in being critical of the administration's policies. These criticisms aren't destabilization. We do not oppose for the sake of opposing. This is in fulfillment of our duties as citizens to champion the interest of the people.]

CNN Philippines tried to get a statement from Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella but he has yet to respond to our call.