War on drugs, mining clampdown, death penalty pushed in SONA 2017

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte defended his war on drugs and his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, as he vowed to tax mining companies destroying the environment, and pushed for the passage of the death penalty and tax reform in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

The President recounted achievements of his first year in office, which included the establishment of a 911 hotline, an executive order banning smoking in public places, the installation of Wi-Fi services in over 400 public spaces, and the test broadcast of state-funded Muslim broadcast network Salaam TV.

Duterte discussed measures that had yet to be passed, such as tax reform and death penalty. He also implored legislators to pass procurement and rightsizing laws, which are expected to reduce  government bureaucracy.

He also went on to defend more controversial stances, including the war on drugs, the extension of martial law in Mindanao, and death penalty.

At the end of the speech, Duterte and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno presented the 2018 national budget proposal, which amounts to P3.8 trillion.

"Whether or not my first year was a year of change or a year of setbacks... I defer to the people's judgment," Duterte said.

The address, themed "a comfortable life for all," lasted two hours.​ ​His​ ​first​ ​SONA​ ​on July​ ​25,​ ​2016​ ​lasted​ ​one​ ​hour​ ​and​ ​33​ ​minutes. It​ ​also​ ​comes​ ​two​ ​days​ ​after​ ​Congress​ ​voted​ ​to​ ​extend​ ​martial​ ​law​ ​in​ ​Mindanao​ ​until​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the year.

Here are some of the highlights of Duterte's speech:

Gov't to heavily tax mining for damage to environment

Duterte vowed to go after the multi-billion mining industry, even as he admitted some officials in the mining companies were his friends.

"You have to come up with a substitute, either spend to restore the virginity of their source or I will tax you to death," said Duterte.

"Declare your correct income, pay your correct taxes. Your failure to do so will be your undoing," he added, to applause.

Duterte: 'Don't raise human rights in war vs. drugs'

The President also defended the war on drugs anew, calling out his critics again and saying that raising the issue of human rights and due process "trivialized" crimes.

"If you are human rights and due process, you stink and your mouth smells. If you want to criticize, criticize and stop there. But do not give the excuse or do not make it trivial by saying 'human rights.' Yun ang pinaka-bugok [That is the stupidest]... stick [to] one topic," said Duterte.

"Do not talk about it on the same time when there is carnage," he added, referring to deaths that have been reported which were attributed to crimes committed due to illegal drug abuse.

Duterte also said that he was not afraid to spend his life in prison in fulfilling his mandate of serving Filipinos.

"Ang importante sa akin, ginawa ko ang gusto ko [What's important is that I did what I want]," he said. Duterte continues to enjoy high trust and popularity ratings in recent surveys.

Pass death penalty

Duterte called on the passage of the death penalty, one of his campaign promises, at the Senate level.

"Capital punishment is not only about deterrence. It is also about retribution. Make no mistake about that," said Duterte.

The controversial measure, which was watered down to cover only drug-related crimes, passed the House of Representatives and is expected to face stronger opposition in the upper house. Senate President Koko Pimentel previously said that capital punishment was not a priority bill for the Senate.

Pass tax reform

Duterte thanked the House of Representatives for passing the tax reform package, another controversial measure that reduces income tax and increases taxes on new cars, fuel, and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Contrary to critics of the bill, Duterte said that "the poor and the vulnerable are at the heart of my tax reform."

"I call on the Senate to support my tax reform in full and to pass it without haste," he added.

Duterte also said that the Department of Finance (DOF) and Bureau of Internal Revenue were "running after tax evaders."

Penalties paid by big-time tax evaders will be of huge help to funding government projects. He cited local tobacco company Mighty Corporation. The company offered to settle its tax obligations of P25 billion after it allegedly failed to pay excise taxes and used fake stamps on its cigarettes.

The President anticipated that the tax settlements will be a big help to efforts to rehabilite Marawi City after the fighting there, and Ormoc and its neighboring towns in Leyte, which were recently hit by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake.

Duterte criticizes communists

In a reversal from his first SONA, where Duterte extended an olive branch and a unilateral ceasefire with the New People's Army (NPA), Duterte this time denounced the left.

"Kayong mga [Those on the] left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?" he said.

Peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) have been suspended, and even backchannel negotiations to bring them back on course were stopped after the NPA and the Presidential Security Group clashed in Arakan, North Cotabato on July 19 and two marines were killed in Roxas, Palawan, both on July 19.

Duterte said he was friends with the rebels, but now that he is President, the NDF even called him a "bully."

"Talagang bully ako, especially to the enemies of the state," said Duterte.

Addressing the protesters, Duterte said that Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was "sick with colon cancer."

"Kayong mga naiwan diyan sa kalsada, buti pa umuwi na kayo [Those left on the streets, it's better if you go home]," said Duterte, referring to the militant groups protesting the President's move to extend the implementation of military rule in Mindanao.

"Do you think that if ISIS prevails in this country, you will have a place in their country?  You must be totally stupid. Wala kayong makuha. Lahat tayo damay [You won't get anything. We'll all be affected]," he said.

Martial law was implemented on May 23 when the ISIS-linked Maute group laid siege to Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. A special joint session of congress on July 22 extended miitary rule until the end of the year, on request of the President.

Prepare for "The Big One"

Duterte referred to the threats from climate change, and an expected yet overdue 7.5 magnitude earthquake to hit Metro Manila called "The Big One."

He ordered "all agencies in food production" to look into the effect of global warming, particularly in Mindanao. He also urged Congress to pass the Land Use Act.

"We are in trouble, because we live in troubled and uncertain times. Things might get worse before they become better," he said.

He urged the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management "to immediately work hand in hand with the concerned LGUs, the private sector and the affected communities themselves, in undertaking disaster [resiliency] measures, antidotes."

Cutting red tape

Duterte also urged legislators to pass measures to reduce bureaucracy in government and streamline government spending.

"We want to ensure that our people receive the quality services they deserve, minus the delay of red tape," said Duterte. "Let us trim the excess fat and add more muscle and add expedience to the act of rightsizing the national government," he added.

A cause of shoddy government projects and corruption he said, was the "lowest-bid policy" of the government.

Moving forward with the Reproductive Health Law

Duterte called out the Supreme Court for the temporary restraining orders (TROs) they issued on government's implementation of a law. He labeled the TRO as "the bane of our efficiency."

"I am not for abortion, I am not for birth control, but certainly I am for the giving of the freedom of each Filipino family to decide. How many children will they be able to support and send to school?" said Duterte. The Reproductive Health law was ratified in 2012 but its implementation was stymied over a TRO issued on the basis of a petition of pro-life groups which claimed that contraceptives were abortifacients.

He added that 400,000 contraceptive implants acquired by the Department of Health, but which they were prohibited from distributing, were set to expire next month. Duterte said he asked Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial to look into countries where the contraceptives could be donated so these do not go to waste.

Increased assistance for OFWs

Duterte also ordered the increase of assistance to overseas Filipino workers from 400 million to more than P1 billion.

Duterte to U.S.: Give back Balangiga bells

In another tirade against the West, particularly on the U.S. and its criticism of his war on drugs, Duterte demanded that the church bells of Balangiga, Samar be returned. The bells were seized by U.S. troops when Filipinos were killed in retaliation for the deaths of American soldiers by guerrillas.

Duterte said the bells were "reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears."

"Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage," said Duterte. One of the three bells was returned in 2016.

With additional reporting by Lara Parpan