LAST UPDATE: 03:00 P.M. | JULY 27, 2022



10:00 a.m.




Marcos’ education agenda adjusts to pandemic. Its success will rely on teachers


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 zoomed in on his administration’s health and education agenda through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic, but there was a stark difference on how he unpacked steps to address the needs of the two sectors. 

Improving healthcare went “beyond the issues that the pandemic has brought” to building a stronger system post-Covid. His education priorities on the other hand started with reopening schools for face-to-face classes to technology-driven programs such as “refresher courses and re-trainings” for teachers and provision of devices to students. 

He did not elaborate on measures the government would take to address the education sector’s long standing problems such as keeping children in school and improving the welfare of teachers.

“The Department of Education (DepEd), led by our highly able Vice President Sara Duterte, is now preparing for its implementation in the upcoming school year, with utmost consideration for the safety of students, as we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Marcos said.

To ensure the safety of classrooms, Marcos directed the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to conduct another rollout of Covid-19 booster shots. He also directed the Department of Public Works and Highways and local government units to improve the condition of classrooms.

Apart from providing training for teachers, the president also sought to end the poor quality of educational materials and supplies provided in public schools. He said children need devices to allow them to participate fully in the digital community. 

In an interview before the SONA, E-Net Philippines President Olie Lucas identified three key areas that should be among the new administration’s priorities in addressing problems in the education sector.

Lucas first explains a key premise: The education problem is not a concern of people working in the education sector only.

“It will take the whole of government. Education does not exist in limbo… I think we have to move away from that -- that the education problem is only a problem of the education sector. It isn’t. Those problems arise and are linked to problems in a lot of other areas," she said.

Established in 1999, E-Net Philippines or the Civil Society Network for Education Reforms is a network of 90 organizations working together to advance the right to education of Filipinos. The network seeks to strengthen public participation in pushing for education reforms and developing alternative learning systems especially for the marginalized, excluded and vulnerable groups.

Having the president himself as agriculture secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte as head of the Education department serve as good indicators that education is being prioritized, she said.

Seeing agriculture as a priority is crucial because hunger is one of the biggest problems of Filipino children, Lucas said.

In September 2020, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 30.7% of FIlipinos or 7.6 million families experienced hunger. This was the highest level recorded in 22 years. The numbers have gone down since. According to the latest SWS survey, a total of 12.2% of Filipinos or some 3.1 million families experienced hunger in the first quarter of 2022.

Still, these figures mean that millions of children are going to school hungry.

“We know that it is very difficult to learn, even absorb what you are being taught, when you are hungry, Lucas said.

While exclusive breastfeeding rates have continuously gone up in the last 10 years, there is still room for improvement especially when confusion over the Milk Code has crippled local government response for infants. The indiscriminate distribution and use of breastmilk substitutes, especially during emergencies, can likewise change feeding practices. According to data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, exclusive breastfeeding reached 57.9%in 2019.

“So you have children attending kindergarten who are hungry… (or whose) brain development may not have caught up with their age,” she added.

To address education problems is to address food insecurity, among others.

“The hunger issue especially in the case of children has to be addressed because that impacts brain development, physical development, and their readiness to go to school,” Lucas said.

According to the DepEd’s Basic Education Development Plan 2030, the shift to distance learning and the uncertainty of the pandemic led to a decline in total basic education enrollment. Enrollment fell by 4% across all grade levels, including the Alternative Learning System (ALS), data show. 

While public-school enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year surpassed that of the 2019-2020 school year, private school enrollment fell by 22%. 

In November 2020, DepEd reported that 398,981 students had transferred from private schools to public schools. Given that total enrollment in public schools was only slightly less than the year before, this meant that private-school students had taken up the seats of public-school enrollees that had dropped out of the system or did not enroll this school year, according to the BEDP.

Issued in May 2022, the BEDP is the DepEd’s medium-term plan from kindergarten to senior high school, including ALS.

Moreover, Lucas said the network would like to see a better articulation of how the government is going to achieve and improve the level of competency among students. From the civil society standpoint, a great deal of attention should be placed on teachers – on their development and compensation, she added.

“There’s a lot of discussion now about the curriculum, right? You have to improve it. You have to manage it. But at the end of the day, you have to realize that the curriculum is only as good as the people who will deliver what has to be taught,” she said. 

In April 2022, Duterte signed into law the Excellence in Teacher Education Act, which seeks to strengthen teacher education in the Philippines. The measure mandates the creation of Teacher Education Centers of Excellence and a scholarship program for aspiring teachers.

“We call them heroes but we have to make them feel that they are truly heroes, not just notional heroes because they do all these nice things. They have to be treated a lot more fairly; and treating them fairly and treating them well actually will be (for) the benefit of the students that they teach,” Lucas said.

Job insecurity also impacts education because when families do not have the ability to support their children, the result is dropout.

According to the BEDP, data show that dropouts are highest in Grade 7 and Grade 8.

“Transition is also affected by the learners’ backgrounds and situations. The guidance and support skills of schools and teachers to help Grade 7 and Grade 8 learners adjust to their new situation will also facilitate the bridging process,” the BEDP reads.

The BEDB also noted that learners in Junior High School are in the adolescent years and are undergoing physical, social, and mental changes. “Creating a conducive social school environment improves retention and may help improve the mental health of learners,” it said.

To make this all work, Lucas said budget issues will need to be addressed given talks about how the government is not collecting enough revenues.

She said the budget allotted for other agencies like the Department of Agriculture could also help address education problems such as hunger or the feeding of schoolchildren in need.

“We would also like to see improvement in the handling of the Schools Based Management Program… We believe it has not been implemented in a way that is truly satisfactory… It is the School Investment Program that will drive… the prioritization of expenditures for the school coming from the Special Education Fund."

The Special Education Fund (SEF), she added, can also be used for anti-poverty programs in the local government, anti-hunger programs, and transportation system for children.

The SEF comes from the local government’s collection of an additional one-percent tax on real property. The fund is intended to support the supplementary needs of public schools in the locality, such as maintenance of schools, construction and repair of school buildings and facilities, educational research, purchase of books, and sports development.


Karol Ilagan


11:30 a.m.




‘No to Endo precarious jobs’: Labor group says jobs creation should be high on Marcos' agenda


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s continuation of the former administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program will mean more skyway, bridge, and airport projects that will provide jobs to many Filipinos. 

But most of these projects offer “endo” precarious jobs, not sustainable and decent jobs.

“Endo,” short for end-of-contract, is an employment practice where workers are terminated short of their regularization as a way for employers to skirt the issuance of government-mandated benefits.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Vice President Louie Corral urged Marcos to put sustainable and decent jobs high on his labor agenda, citing the country’s unemployment rate.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country’s unemployment rate rose to six percent in May, the highest in three months. This meant that nearly 3 million Filipinos were jobless.

Underemployment in May also rose to 14.5 percent, or some 6.67 million Filipinos.

Corral said TUCP is hoping for the creation of four million jobs in the next two years through infrastructure projects and linked regional agri-industrial hubs with road developments to outlying areas.

“Once in place, the infrastructures would bring down the cost of doing business, incentivizing the entry of locators, expansion of existing businesses, addressing job security, and creating decent well-paying jobs,” he said.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma earlier said that the agency is looking to review the decades-old Labor Code due to supposedly conflicting provisions that cause friction between employees and employers.

But, to Corral, “that is really Nero fiddling while Rome burns, because the reality is you have millions unemployed and underemployed, and an informal sector that’s growing.”

“The reality is that those numbers are really disguised by the definition of the PSA of who is employed. If you work one hour a day, you’re considered employed. How can you survive and feed a family of five at one hour a day?” he said.

Instead of waiting for legislation to end contractualization, Corral said the President “can actually direct his alter ego, utilizing Article 106 (in the Labor Code) to immediately address the problem of widespread ‘endo’. 

Article 106 in the Labor Code reads: “The Secretary of Labor and Employment may, by appropriate regulations, restrict or prohibit the contracting-out of labor to protect the rights of workers established under this Code.”

As the country continues to reel from the economic impact of the pandemic, labor issues remain among the top concerns of Filipinos.

In a Pulse Asia survey which asked respondents to list up to three issues they believe needed to be addressed, three out of the 10 most urgent concerns were related to jobs and employment: increasing workers’ pay (45 percent), creating more jobs (29 percent), and providing assistance or subsidies to those who lost their livelihood because of the pandemic (14 percent).


Cherry Salazar

10:30 a.m.




From 3 months to 3 weeks? Caution urged as Marcos promises to cut red tape in processing OFW papers


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. vowed to simplify deployment processes for Filipino migrant workers, promising to cut the red tape in processing their documents from three months to three weeks. 

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, the president called on the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to make this a top priority.

“We shall automate the verification of contracts and issue secure overseas employment certifications that you can keep on your smartphones,” Marcos said. 

University of the Philippines professor Jean Encinas-Franco urged caution in implementing the president's policy directive, however, especially because Marcos failed to provide concrete details on how he wanted to implement the ambitious initiative.

While everybody wants to reduce red tape, the vetting process might be sacrificed, she cautioned.

Encinas-Franco is doing research on migration policies.

Policymakers should always be conscious of the fact that migrant workers do not have the same circumstances, she said. As the government promotes digital systems, for example, Encinas-Franco said it is important to understand that some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) do not have access to their phones or are not internet-savvy. 

Hindi naman monolithic ang OFWs… Maaaring ‘yung iba kaya na three weeks lang, pero ‘yung iba ay kailangan ng mas mahaba (OFWs are not monolithic. There may be some who can do it in three weeks, but others will need more time),” she said. 

Halimbawa, ‘yung iba kailangan ng language lessons o kailangan ng mas mahabang vetting kasi may reports on human trafficking or abuses ‘yung bansa, so dapat may precautions (For example, there may be some who will need language lessons while others will need a longer vetting process because of reports of human trafficking incidents or abuses in the destination countries. There should be precautions).”

Marcos also directed the Department of Foreign Affairs to work with the DMW to ensure the re-deployment of migrant workers who lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. The involves bilateral talks with Saudi Arabia, one of the Middle East countries with the most number of Filipino migrant workers, to lift the deployment ban.

Kaya natin at gagawin natin ang makipagnegosasyon nang mabigyan ang ating maga kababayan doon ng tamang pasahod at mapangalagaan ang kanilang karapatan at kapakanan (We can and we will negotiate so that our citizens would be provided their due salaries and that their rights and welfare would be protected),” Marcos said.

In 2021, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) suspended the verification of Saudi Arabia employment contracts due to issues concerning abusive employers. This affected many OFWs who were set to leave the country.

“The only way to protect migrant workers is to engage with the host states and (improve) bilateral relations,” Encinas-Franco said. “But don’t just stop with Saudi.”

More than 800,000 pandemic-hit OFWs were displaced and repatriated, according to the November 2021 data from DOLE.

But despite a general push for the deployment of migrant workers, Marcos was mum on the government policy that puts a cap on the annual deployment of newly hired healthcare workers to 7,000.

This policy must be reviewed, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Vice President Louie Corral told PCIJ in an interview.

“It doesn’t make sense, really, to limit the choice of healthcare workers on where and when to work if their meal, transportation, and risk allowances are not being answered,” Corral said.

But Corral admitted that allowing healthcare workers to migrate would “compromise the health care capacity of the country, so there has to be a gentle, balancing act.”

TUCP proposed that graduates of private institutions be allowed to leave the country because they paid for their tuition.

“But if you graduated from a state college or university, because taxpayers’ money is involved, you have to serve your country for three years. That’s the way to do it, so we can moderate the deployment,” he said.

Bans are also not guarantees that prospective migrant workers will not leave the country, said Encinas-Franco. 

“Research would show that people know there is a demand so they do everything to go abroad, even at the cost sometimes of being trafficked or further down-skilling,” she said.

To address safety and security issues of OFWs, the DMW launched the One Repatriation Command Center, which is aimed to be a one-stop center for distressed OFWs.

Meanwhile, Marcos said the government would offer learning opportunities to children of migrant workers on financial literacy, mental wellness, sports, arts, and culture.

Marcos and his runningmate, now Vice President Sara Duterte, received massive support from overseas voters in the May 2022 elections. Marcos especially received a high number of votes in Filipino vote-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and China, which included Hong Kong’s votes. 


Cherry Salazar


09:00 a.m.




In transport sector, Marcos’ SONA focuses on infrastructure over reforms


When the country reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, commuters were met with long queues in bus stations. And that was if they were lucky. In the worst cases, there were no options for mass land transportation. Today, two years later, the land transportation crisis persists. 

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. put forward a slew of railway projects for the country capital and other parts of the Philippines but commuter advocacy group Alt Mobility PH said the President “missed the fundamental needs” of Filipinos commutters.

“We feel that the President’s directive to the Department of Transportation misses the fundamental needs of Filipinos — prioritizing basic infrastructure like sidewalks and bike lanes to provide additional means of transportation, as well as overdue reforms to the public transportation system,” Alt Mobility director Ira Cruz said in an email to PCIJ after the SONA. 

The North-South Commuter Railway System, the Metro Manila Subway Project, the LRT-1 Cavite Extension, and the MRT-7, are slated to continue to be built, said the President. He also mentioned the implementation of railway projects in Cebu, Panay, and Mindanao. 

The President also said he will “improve roads and transportation systems” through the development of bus rapid transit systems, in Cebu and Davao, and the establishment of transport terminals in Ilocos Norte and El Nido, in Palawan. 

The planned funding for the Mindanao Railway Project, and Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System had already been “withdrawn,” meaning the projects are either postponed or scrapped. Earlier this month, a transport official said the Chinese government failed to act on funding requests by the Duterte government for the Mindanao railway project. Meanwhile, the World Bank decided to cancel the full undisbursed loan allotted for the Cebu BRT, as the Transport department failed to make any progress on the project. 

The President made no mention of where the funding for these transport projects would be sourced in the SONA. 

“The focus on infrastructure over operations signals lack of grasp of issues facing the public transport sector: Commuters trapped in long lines, drivers buried in debt, and even motorists stuck in congested roads,” Cruz of Alt Mobility PH added. 

On top of funding, however, former president of the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines Rene Santiago warned that the existing and upcoming railway projects must also be properly equipped with manpower, to be maximized. 

“We’re building so many railways, but we have not prepared the institutions operating them… Pag nagbukas ‘yang [Metro Manila] subway, sinong magpapatakbo niyan?” he said. “You cannot have a good transport system just because you have money. A good transport system is a product of generous application of know-how and technical capacity.”


Elyssa Lopez


09:00 a.m.




Marcos quiet on media attacks, disinformation in SONA speech



Up to the very last week of the Duterte administration, a journalist was killed. Marcos was already president when a court upheld the libel conviction of Rappler journalists Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos and when the National Telecommunications Commission blocked the web sites of alternative media organizations.

Marcos was quiet on these issues during this first State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 25. 

Jonathan de Santos, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said the president should issue a clear policy to protect journalists and uphold freedom of the press. 

“Wala pa  kasing outright policy na sinabi ang Palasyo o Office of the Press Secretary on how they’re dealing with the media,” de Santos said.

There are reasons to be worried, De Santos said. He also cited instances when reporters were ignored by administration officials during press conferences. 

De Santos said he is also waiting for the implementing guidelines for the accreditation of vloggers and bloggers who want to cover government events, concerned that they would be given preferential treatment over journalists. 

He said he’s hopeful that the Marcos administration would be more open to the media, even if “we haven’t seen indications of it being that way or it being stricter than the Duterte administration yet.”




Studies show that Marcos was the main beneficiary of false or misleading content on social media during the elections. 

The previous 18th Congress held hearings to understand the problem, but University of the Philippines associate professor Fatima Gaw is concerned that disinformation will not be addressed properly under the new administration.

It's unlikely for the Marcos administration to address it, she said, because disinformation has become a “political strategy” that has served the president and many politicians. 

“If they do push for the interventions to actually identify accountabilities, who should be charged or who shouldn’t be, then the risk is that they’re going to politicize it, use it as a political apparatus for them just to ward dissent,” Gaw said.

The Philippines ranked 147th out of 180 countries for press freedom, down nine spots from 2021, in a 2022 index of the Reporters Without Borders.


Cherry Salazar 


12:00 a.m. July 27



Marcos, chair of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, silent on Cha-cha during first SONA


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was silent on proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, even as moves were made in both houses of Congress to push it.

Neophyte senator and former actor Robin Padilla, who topped the May 2022 senatorial race with 26.6 million votes, has made a public campaign for the country to shift to a federal system. He said this should happen in stages, starting with Congress turning itself first into a unicameral parliamentary system.

Marcos is the chairman of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas. He was quoted during the campaign saying that a federal system fits the Philippines but Charter change would be difficult to push “because the public believes that lawmakers are merely pushing to extend their terms.”

The 1987 Constitution was drafted in the wake of the 1986 People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos’ father and namesake, the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and installed democracy icon Corazon Aquino as revolutionary president. 

Attempts to amend the so-called “Cory Constitution” began as early as the next administration of Fidel Ramos. All presidents, including Cory’s son Benigno Aquino III, contemplated amending it.

However, political science professor Edmund Tayao said Charter change moves were always “hijacked” by proposals to extend the term limits of politicians. He was a member of the consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution during the Duterte administration.

Imbes na pakinggan ng tao, masisira ‘yung appetite (Instead of listening, people immediately lose their appetite to consider it) because the first message that is sent is that [lawmakers] are doing it for [themselves], which is not right,” said Tayao. 

And yet a proposal to adjust the term limit of elected officials was one of the first bills filed in the House of Representatives.

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 to change the current six-year term limit of the president and vice president to five years with a possible reelection.

He also proposed tandem voting for the positions of the president and vice president.

For local officials and members of the House of Representatives, Gonzales proposed a term of five years with one possible reelection. Local elected officials currently serve three-year terms with two possible reelections.

A day after the SONA, Padilla was appointed chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments. 


Cherry Salazar



02:00 p.m.




Marcos promises financial aid and land distribution to revive agri sector


Wearing his agriculture secretary hat on, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. paid special attention to the agriculture sector in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25. Plans for the sector took up a tenth of the entire SONA. But unlike his economic policies, the president did not present hard targets, just promises and plans to address the short- and long-term problems hounding the industry.

First, Marcos pledged financial and equipment aid for farmers and fishermen to address their immediate needs. While he did not share specifics on how much of the country's budget would be allotted for the program, the president said it would be a key policy of his administration. For context, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has already issued several aid packages for agricultural workers before and after the pandemic. The COA found that the DA failed to spend some of its allotted funds in 2021.

To start the ball rolling on this assistance, the president said he will pass an Executive Order that will impose a one-year moratorium on the payment of land amortization and interest payments of farmers. 

The president also sought Congress to pass a law that will “emancipate the agrarian reform beneficiaries from agrarian reform debt burden.” He also signaled the implementation of Executive Order No. 75, Series of 2019, which requires government agencies to distribute unused agricultural lands of the government to landless veterans, retirees and their spouses and orphans, and agriculture graduates, as mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. 

Such plans are reminiscent of one of the first policies that Marcos Sr. passed during Martial Law. In October 1972, a month after the country was placed under Martial rule, the dictator signed Presidential Decree No. 27, which seeks the “emancipation of tenants from the bondage of the soil.” This was supposed to help farmers own the land they till. But a New York Times article published in 1975 reported the policy left a lot to be desired, as its implementation became fragmented. After the publication of the Decree, Marcos Sr. announced various amendments, saying the reform should be “gradual” and “piecemeal.” The president gave way for exemptions, resulting in some landowners to “parcel out their holdings illegally to relatives,” the New York Times found.

For President Marcos Jr., the move to distribute land could bring in fresh blood into the agriculture sector, which had been facing a lack of new, young workers. Former Agriculture Sec. William Dar had previously reported that the country is set to face a "critical" shortage of farmers in the next decade.
The industry had been consistently unattractive to young Filipinos as wages remain some of the lowest in the country. 

According to the University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agri Business, alleviating poverty incidence in the agricultural sector should be a priority of the Marcos administration. Based on the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, farm workers get an average of P331.1 for a day of work, which is below the average minimum wage range of P374 to P408 across all regions. 

“Poverty remains to be mainly an agricultural phenomenon in the country with farmers and fisherfolks among the poorest of the poor. The low farmers' income needs to be addressed and increased beyond the poverty threshold,” the Center told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in an email interview before the SONA.

Low productivity of farmers due to lack of access to equipment, credit, and diversified crops is what affects their income, according to the Center. 


Elyssa Lopez



11:00 a.m. July 26




No more pandemic lockdowns as Marcos lays down health agenda in first SONA


Cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines are increasing again but President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. promised the public that the strict lockdowns that hit the livelihood of many poor and marginalized Filipinos are a thing of the past. 

“Sa ating sitwasyon ng pangkalusugan, nariyan pa rin ang banta ng Covid-19. Lalo’t may mga nadidiskrubeng mga bagong variant ng coronavirus. Pero hindi na natin kakayanin ang isa pang lockdown (In our health situation, the threat of Covid-19 remains. New variants are being discovered. But we cannot suffer through one more lockdown),” Marcos said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.

Wala na tayong gagawing lockdown (There will be no more lockdowns),” Marcos said.

This is a departure from the prolonged lockdowns, which became Rodrigo Duterte’s default solution to curb the spread of the virus especially during the first two years of the pandemic. The poor and marginalized, who mostly rely on mobility to make a living, were hardest hit by the quarantines.

Marcos said the government needs to strike a balance between addressing the health and safety of citizens vis-a-vis economic needs.

Dapat nating balansehin nang maayos ang kalusugan at kapakanan ng mga ating mga mamamayan sa isang banda at ang ekonomiya naman sa kabilang banda (We need to a delicate balance between our people’s health and the economy),” the president said.

The pandemic alert level system will remain. But its classification will be adapted to how the virus evolves over time, Marcos said. This will be implemented alongside measures to help ensure the capacity of the healthcare system, such as: the continued rollout of booster vaccines, monitoring of admission in health facilities, working with the private sector, dissemination of accurate information, building new health centers and hospitals as well as the the creation of a Center for Disease Control  and Prevention and a vaccine institute. 

Through these, Marcos hoped that the country would soon get used to the virus but it would no longer be seen as a serious life threat.

In an e-mail interview with PCIJ before the SONA, former Health Sec. Manuel Dayrit said that the pandemic has indeed exposed how the Philippine health system was ill-equipped to deal with it. 

He said that the health system needs to be modernized from the bottom up, from the primary to tertiary level. Sustained investments have to be made over many years, while issues of human resources have to be addressed.

“Government has to inspire and mobilize partnerships with the private sector. Work has to move across various sectors, as all sectors have a role to keep people healthy.”

As of July 24, 2022, more than 3.7 million Filipinos were infected of Covid-19. More than 60,683 died, health data show.

The Department of Health has administered at least 156,466,108 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of July 25. Assuming every person needs two doses to be considered fully vaccinated, the figure is enough to have vaccinated about 71% of the country’s population.

The National Capital Region and neighboring Calabarzon and Central Luzon, regions all in Luzon Island, continue to get a bigger share of the vaccine supply.

“But beyond the issues that the pandemic has brought, the need for a stronger healthcare system is self-evident,” Marcos said, noting that the government “must bring health/medical services to people and not wait for them to come to our hospitals and healthcare centers.”

Marcos said services from specialty hospitals like the Lung Center of the Philippines, Children’s Hospital, National Kidney and Transplant Institute and the Philippine Heart Center would need to be accessible across the country and not limited to city centers. 

Marcos focused more on Covid-19 response in his SONA, but also pledged to improve the welfare of doctors, nurses and medical frontliners as well as ensure supply of affordable medicine.

Former Health Secretary Dayrit outlined four key areas that are considered usual targets for the health sector. These include:

  1. Improve access, quality, affordability of health services – innovative systems for access to medicines, diagnostics, consultations;
  2. Address malnutrition in children;
  3. Decrease maternal mortality rate; and
  4. Address adolescent pregnancy


When asked about the major challenges that this administration will need to address  to implement policies and solutions, Dayrit said that “inefficient and ineffective government processes which work at cross-purposes” and “poor budget management – which result in high percentage of budget unspent” are among the hurdles. He also mentioned corruption as well as “a pervasive demoralization among health workers leading to high outmigration.”

As for priority bills that need to be passed for health reform, Dayrit says the “big buckets” include measures on (1) disease control and prevention programs, (2) self-care and health literacy, and (3) modernization of health services for better access, quality, customer satisfaction.

For Dayrit, better governance of the public sector is needed to improve services. Collaboration with the private sector is needed to spur modernization. Health literacy would also need to be increased. 

“This means formal education as well as ongoing education and health promotion in society,” he said.

Marcos has yet to name a Department of Health chief. Currently, Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire has been designated as officer-in-charge. 


Karol Ilagan



09:30 p.m.




In SONA speech, Marcos family’s unpaid estate taxes is the elephant in the room


President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos discussed at length his fiscal policy during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, calling for proper tax administration to raise revenues for the government’s coffers.

His family’s unpaid estate taxes was the elephant in the room, however.

“That is a challenge for the government on how to address that particular issue… It’s not easy [that] you have a President who is going to be involved in that particular matter,” former NEDA Sec. Ernesto Pernia previously said to PCIJ.

The government aims to raise government revenues through proper tax administration and new tax reforms. Political Science Professor Maria Ela Atienza believes the President’s unpaid tax issue will remain a sore point. “People would definitely ask: Presidente lang di pwedeng magbayad?”, she said.

Since the campaign season, Marcos had shied away from answering questions about his family’s unpaid estate taxes. In 1997, the Supreme Court ordered the Marcos heirs to pay P23 billion in estate tax. Experts say that amount is now worth P203 billion after penalties and interests are accounted for. Marcos has not made any statement about the issue. Marcos has shied away from discussing his family’s pending corruption cases, too.

Even in his first SONA, which lasted at least 70 minutes, the President did not mention the word “corruption”. There was also no mention of seeking transparency or accountability from government offices previously hounded with corruption issues such as the Bureau of Customs. Marcos just said the office will “promote streamlined processes” through “information and communications technology”.

For Ateneo School of Government Dean Randy Tuaño, the President’s SONA “ticked a lot of boxes,” but he had hoped strategies for greater citizen participation were also addressed. “It would have been good… if he could also have addressed efforts that would strengthen transparency and accountability in governance and strengthen anti-corruption efforts and strengthen competition efforts,” he said in an email to PCIJ.

The President’s choice not to mention corruption is telling, as the Marcos Jr.’s family legacy is hounded by one of the worst corruption cases ever recorded in history. The family plundered billions of dollars in public funds. The Presidential Commission on Good Government, the agency mandated to recover all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by the president’s father, his family and associates, in the Philippines or abroad, has yet to retrieve all such assets.

Atienza previously said the President’s continuous refusal to speak about any of their family’s corruption cases or his father’s wrongdoings, is “worrying”.

“It’s worrying that the Marcos family is vocal that they are for the restoration of the Marcos name. And there are now people in government who are not champions of transparency and accountability. You have people [in government] who are identified with the Martial Law; you have people who were with President Duterte that practiced red-tagging, and had a history in not giving critics their due,” she said. “It’s now up to people, to organizations, to media, to fact-checkers, to continue demanding accountability, and making sure that whatever space we still have, we still use them,” she added.


Elyssa Lopez



09:00 p.m.




Disappointment as Marcos keeps mum on drug war, media attacks and disinformation


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not set any policy to undo his predecessor’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25. 

He was also mum on other major issues that reform advocates wanted him to address during his first SONA— attacks on press freedom, red-tagging and killings of journalists and activists, and disinformation.

It wasn’t surprising that Marcos did not discuss human rights issues, said Human Rights Watch senior Philippines researcher Carlos Conde, but “it doesn’t make it less disappointing.”

“This was a chance for him to address the one singular issue that has dogged him and his family, and he chose instead to ignore it. He squandered an opportunity to do right by the Filipino people — to take the first step towards national healing and true unity,” Conde said. 

Conde is concerned that the impunity will continue. “A president who chooses to disregard human rights issues in his most impt policy speech is more likely to violate the human rights of his people,” he said. 

“This also means accountability for past abuses is not going to happen. By not even acknowledging these Hr issues, Mr Marcos not only wishes them away — he is less likely to hold abusers accountable. His silence about human rights is loud and clear: abusers will not be punished and it will be business as usual.

Jonathan de Santos, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said Marcos should have addressed attacks against the media. 

Up to the very last week of the Duterte administration, a journalist was killed. Marcos was already president when a court upheld the libel conviction of Rappler journalists Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos and when the National Telecommunications Commission blocked the web sites of alternative media organizations.

“Wala pa naman kasing outright policy na sinabi ang Palasyo o Office of the Press Secretary on how they’re dealing with the media,” de Santos said.

There are reasons to be concerned, De Santos said, because of instances when reporters were ignored by administration officials during press conferences. 

De Santos said he is also waiting for the implementing guidelines for the accreditation of vloggers and bloggers who want to cover government events, concerned that they would be given preferential treatment over journalists. 

He said he’s hopeful that the Marcos administration would be more open to the media, even if “we haven’t seen indications of it being that way or it being stricter than the Duterte administration yet.”

Meanwhile, University of the Philippines associate professor Fatima Gaw said it will be unlikely for the Marcos administration to address disinformation because it has become a “political strategy” that serves some officials.

The previous 18th Congress held hearings to understand the problem of disinformation. 

“If they do push for the interventions to actually identify accountabilities, who should be charged or who shouldn’t be, then the risk is that they’re going to politicize it, use it as a political apparatus for them just to ward dissent,” Gaw said.

Duterte’s war on drugs killed innocent victims including children, leaving their families devastated emotionally and oftentimes financially.

The government reported at least 6,252 deaths at the hands of police during anti-illegal drug operations between July 2016 and May 31, 2022. But human-rights groups believe that the actual number could reach as high as 30,000 including victims of vigilante-style killings. 

(READ: The Desaparecidos of Duterte’s Drug War and Drug war victims are exhumed and cremated as grave leases expire. One mother wants another way)

The Philippines ranked 147th out of 180 countries for press freedom, down nine spots from 2021, in a 2022 index of the Reporters Without Borders.

Marcos was called to empower the Commission on Human Rights. He has not appointed a chairman, however.

He was also urged to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) and resume engagements with the European Union, the United States Government, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He did not mention these organizations during his SONA speech. 


Carmela Fonbuena and Cherry Salazar



08:25 p.m.




Marcos sets ambitious economic targets, new taxes in SONA speech


The new president did not waste time. A minute into his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. elaborated on his economic policy to provide details that analysts and critics have long demanded. Former Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia said his economic goals are “too ambitious,” however, given the country’s high inflation, and government debt restricting spending and investments. In all, it’s a policy reminiscent of his predecessors.’

With the country’s growing debt, the Marcos administration seeks to raise revenues by strengthening the country’s tax administration practices, digitizing bureaucracy, and taking advantage of the tax reform and economic liberalization laws passed during the previous Duterte administration.

Marcos said his administration will implement “productivity-enhancing investments” and will support ecozones. In May 2022, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so the latter may identify public lands that may be transformed into mineral and agro-forestry processing economic zones, oil depots, refinery ecozones, and eco-tourism zones.

Similar to previous presidents, Marcos also called on Congress to pass a National Land Use Act, which he said would help in “rational and holistic land use development.” Infrastructure spending remains a priority. Marcos said he is not keen on slowing down building infrastructure projects despite the country’s growing debt. “Infrastructure is the backbone of the economy,” Marcos said. It can support employment and revive the tourism industry battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said. Airports and transport hubs will be built, he said, with the help of Public-Private Partnerships, a scheme maximized by the former Aquino administration.

The president also said the recently amended Public Service Act, which allows 100% ownership of utilities, can attract the investments needed in digital services and telecommunications.

Despite accelerating inflation, the Marcos administration also plans to impose taxes on digital transactions, which he claimed will earn the government P11.7 billion by 2023 alone. It’s the one policy that he bared during his SONA speech that would have an immediate impact on many Filipinos.

Even government offices were not spared. Marcos called on Congress to pass measures to rightsize the government and modernize the budget system.

These policies echoed earlier pronouncements by his economic team. Finance Sec. Benjamin Diokno previously announced that the economic team’s hard target is to grow the economy from 6.5% to 7.5% in 2022; and from 6.5% to 8.5% from 2023 to 2028. Diokno said achieving these goals will cause poverty incidence to drop to 9% by the end of Marcos’ term, with the country reaching “upper-middle income status” by 2024. Both goals were repeated by the president in his SONA.

These are lofty targets. As of the first half of 2021, poverty incidence was at 23.7 percent. That is equivalent to around 26 million poor Filipinos. According to the World Bank’s standards, upper-middle economies must record gross national income (GNI) per capita between $3,996 and $12,375. The latest data from the financial institution show the country’s GNI was at $3,830, and that was in 2018, before the pandemic battered the country’s economy.

Pernia said the economic goals are “too ambitious” given the country’s high inflation, and government debt restricting spending and investments. “The higher end of the [their GDP targets] are too ambitious… We are hounded by many challenges, high inflation will already dampen economic growth, exports are trumped by imports… We have a huge debt to tackle – it’s 63% of GDP – these are all huge challenges,” Pernia said. “It’s not going to be a smooth ride.”

Pernia instead believes that human development programs, especially the ones tackling family planning, should be prioritized by the Marcos administration, for long-term economic development. “The economy has not been able to expand as fast as the population has grown… there is no balance. When you have a big population, your problems are multiplied. So I think population management is one issue that the administration should also address,” he said.


Elyssa Lopez



08:00 p.m.




'A friend to all, an enemy to none’ does not apply to West Philippine Sea dispute


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. proclaimed an independent foreign policy during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.

“The Philippines is a friend to all, enemy to none,” he said during his speech, a statement that echoed his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamations. 

Marcos’ new administration inherits the West Philippine Sea dispute with China and the challenges that come with the great power competition between the U.S. and China. 

Former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a close observer of the country’s maritime dispute with Beijing, said the policy only applies “if all our neighbors are friendly.”

“The question is: How do we respond to a country that is seizing our island territories and maritime zones? This is the issue that we have to address.,” Carpio told the PCIJ. 

In a statement that prompted one of the longest applause inside the Batasang Pambansa, Marcos said he “will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power.”

He added: “We will be a good neighbor – always looking for ways to collaborate and cooperate with the end goal of mutually beneficial outcomes. If we agree, we will cooperate and we will work together.  And if we differ, let us talk some more until  we develop a consensus.”

Carpio wanted Marcos to uphold the country’s claim in the West Philippine Sea during his SONA speech. “The West Philippine Sea is the most important policy issue of the Philippines. He must declare that he will assert the arbitral award,” he said. 

Julio Amador, former Foreign Service Institute Deputy Director-General, said Marcos did not need to discuss the dispute, however. But he wanted Marcos to discuss his maritime security policy “in general.”

“I’d rather that he talks about a maritime security policy in general and make concrete goals for improving maritime law enforcement, adopt a maritime zones law, and intensify the fight against IUUF (Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated Fishing).”

Duterte warmed ties with China despite the military superpower’s aggressions in the West Philippine Sea. He initiated but later canceled the abrogation of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. As he was about to end his term, the U.S. and Philippine militaries held their biggest war games yet.

In his final days in office, Duterte also decided to scrap joint oil and gas exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea. This allows Marcos a clean slate in managing the sea dispute.

Observers said Marcos should learn from Duterte’s administration.

Despite Duterte’s so-called pivot to China during his administration, Beijing continued to harass the Philippine Navy ships and civilian fishing ships in the West Philippine Sea, prompting the Department of Foreign Affairs to file hundreds of diplomatic protests. 

Duterte betted on an Asean Code of Conduct, hoping China would cooperate in drafting it, but it “went nowhere.” 


Carmela Fonbuena



07:30 p.m.




FOI not included in Marcos' priority bills


The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was not among the priority measures that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr enumerated during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25. 

“What do we expect from a Marcos? This president has a lot of secrets. We have lower expectations from him,” said University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela Atienza.

“The people will have to demand for freedom of information,” she said. 

Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) co-convenor Eirene Aguila said they will continue to push the FOI bill in the 19th Congress.  “It does not mean it will not happen,” she said.

R2KRN is a network of advocates pushing for the passage of FOI Law and promoting the practice of transparency, accountability and citizen participation in the government.

Aguila said they intend to engage the executive branch of the government and work with Cabinet members to solicit support for the measure. 

In the absence of a law, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 02 to institutionalize FOI in the executive department. 

Duterte’s FOI policy was a mixed bag, however. The Office of the Ombudsman restricted public access to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), for example. (READ: Duterte’s freedom of information is not so free

In one of his first acts as president, Marcos placed the FOI program under the direct supervision of the Office of the President.

“It is interesting to reorganize in order to remove bureaucracy, I hope it will streamline information,” she said.

“I’m not totally closing the door. We are still waiting for dialogue to ensure that we go further. I hope we get more attention in this administration,” she said. 


Martha Teodoro



06:00 p.m.




Not a priority? Marcos still mum on Bangsamoro peace process


Four weeks into his presidency, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to make public pronouncements about the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), raising concerns that it is not a priority issue for the new government. 

Gus Miclat of the Initiative for International Dialogue (IID) hoped that Marcos would use his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to declare his commitment to the peace process. “I would like him to continue what is already good [and] what is working,” he told the PCIJ. 

Miclat said Marcos’ silence on the peace process appears to be “a signal that he is not concerned or it’s the least of his priority.”

Benedicto Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance said it’s important for Marcos to articulate his policy on the peace process, especially because he did not define it during the campaign.”

“It is not enough to say that he supports the peace process,” he said. 

Marcos Jr inherited the task of completing the peace process with the dominant Muslim rebel group including the appointment of 80 new members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). 

The BTA will complete the codes of the now three-years old Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Bacani said the appointment of the BTA is an “immediate and critical decision” that Marcos has to make. 

Bacani said Marcos will also need to define the following:

  • “How he will exercise the President’s power of general supervision on the BARMM to promote inclusive peace and efficient delivery of services.”
  • “Will there be greater emphasis on rule of law and the constitution or will the policy of accommodation of the rebel fronts under President Duterte continue.”


Miclat said Marcos should recognize and respect the ascendancy first of the MILF as the majority members of the parliament — until at least the transition period ends in 2025. “That is the essence of the law,” he said.

There are groups that assert a different interpretation, but Miclat disagreed. “From our perspective, he cannot [appoint a parliament that will not be dominated by the MILF].” he said.

Miclat is concerned that a different interpretation would “open up a lot of problems” such as the “potential rekindling of conflict and reopening of old wounds.”

Mindanao observers are keen to see if Marcos will give the peace process the same commitment that President Rodrigo Duterte showed during his term, ushering in a period of relative peace in the region. Continued delays, it is feared, would push combatants to join other armed groups, which is plenty in the region.

The decommissioning of 40,000 MILF combatants has yet to be completed, too. As of May 2022, the government said less than 20,000 had been decommissioned.

The process continued to face delays due to various issues such as funding gaps to fulfill development commitments to MILF communities, confusion over the coverage of benefits to be received by the combatants, and disagreements over the number of firearms the MILF is expected to decommission.

Duterte, the country’s first president from Mindanao, spent a lot of his political will on the peace process. His support was instrumental in the success of the January 2019 plebiscite vote, which led to the creation of the BARMM. Last year, he also succeeded in persuading Congress to postpone BARMM’s first regular elections, effectively extending the MILF-led transition period for another three years.

In the May 2022 elections, the MILF endorsed his closest rival, former Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. Bacani said this has contributed to the “air of uncertainty.”

Bacani said it remains to be seen if Marcos will “rise above politics in policy decisions on the peace process.”


Carmela Fonbuena



3:30 p.m.




Protests vs ‘party boy’ Marcos push through despite initial permit denial


Despite heavy rains that poured past noon, around 5,000 protesters on Monday, July 25, took to Commonwealth Avenue near the Batasang Pambansa Complex where President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) later in the afternoon.

With streamers and effigies in tow, they called on Marcos to cite concrete plans in resolving the country’s economic and health crisis in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In a theatrical form of political protest, a 12-foot tall effigy showed Marcos Jr. seated on a throne wearing a party hat, a red bow, and two horns that showed the portraits of his parents — the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his mother Imelda Marcos.

In front of Marcos Jr’s image, a plate showing the Philippine map and a set of utensils were laid on a table covered with the flags of the Philippines and China. In an ABS-CBN report, Bayan visual artist Max Santiago said he sees the president as a “party boy,” a comment reminiscent of the lavish parties he threw in Malacañang just days after he was sworn in on June 30.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also called the caricature “Mad in Malacañang,” a play on the soon-to-be-released movie produced by presidential sister Sen. Imee Marcos, “Maid in Malacañang.” The Marcoses intended the film to show how the family fled Malacañang on Feb. 25, 1986 amid the People Power Revolution.

For Bayan, the effigy showed how detached the “party-boy” president had been from the reality of millions of Filipinos facing multiple crises. The protesters destroyed the effigy at the end of their program. Bayan and Kilusang Mayo Uno were among the civil society organizations that led the “People’s SONA.” The group presented a “9-point People’s Agenda for Change” including tax relief for consumers, revival of the agricultural sector, adoption of land reform, and the government’s commitment to human rights and environmental protection.



Last week, Bayan was denied by the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety a permit to hold a protest along Batasan Road. The local government office argued that the location was “not a freedom park” and expressed concerns that the rallies would affect the normal flow of traffic along the thoroughfare. The Philippine National Police earlier said rallies on the day of the SONA would only be allowed in freedom parks. Critics said the decision was “unconstitutional”.

On Friday, July 22, the Quezon City government backtracked and released a statement allowing the activities of progressive and pro-administrations groups along Commonwealth Avenue. Along IBP road, also near the Batasang Pambansa, a concert led by groups supportive of the Marcos was scheduled from 2pm to 6pm.

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) also gathered in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office to “serenade” the new Secretary, Antonia “Toni” Yulo Loyzaga. ATM said it is open to working with the new environment chief who earlier pledged that her leadership will be “democratic”.

Read PCIJ’s story “Climate activists 'cautiously optimistic' of new environment, energy secretaries.”


Elyssa Lopez



2:00 p.m.




Marcos’ cousin is House Speaker


Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, first cousin of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., was installed as House Speaker early afternoon on Monday, July 25, as the Marcos political dynasty dominates national politics.

The 19th Congress opened its first regular session ahead of Marcos’ first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Romualdez received votes from 89.8% or 283 of the 315 members of the House of Representatives.

Presidential son and Ilocos Norte First District Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos III took the podium to nominate his uncle as House Speaker, describing him as a “consensus builder, regarded with great affection and respect by most, if not all, members of the institution no matter where they are in the political spectrum.”

Apart from Romualdez and Sandro, two other House members are related by blood or marriage to the president. Ilocos Norte Second District Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba is the president’s cousin while Tingog Sinarangan Party-List Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez is married to the Speaker.

In the Senate, presidential sister Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos is poised to head the most number of committees. These are the committees on foreign relations, social justice, cooperatives, and election reforms and people’s participation. 



Lakas-CMD president


In his speech, Romualdez echoed the president’s call for unity and urged fellow lawmakers to work together for the swift passage of bills and development across all sectors.

“We are confident that with the unity the president espoused, we can overcome the crippling effects of the pandemic and the political differences that occurred in the elections and global impacts, such as the Ukrainian war,” he said.

Romualdez also vowed a “fair and equitable distribution of resources in our regions regardless of political affiliations.”

Romualdez is president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party. He was one of the campaign managers of Vice President Sara Duterte, who chairs Lakas-CMD.

He ran unopposed in Leyte’s first district in the recent polls. This is his fifth term as district representative.

Under the Constitution, the House Speaker is third in line of presidential succession, following the Vice President and Senate President.

His nomination for House Speaker was seconded by representatives Ralph Recto of Batangas, Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Roberto Puno of Antipolo City, Camille Villar of Las Piñas City, Kristine Singson-Meehan of Ilocos Sur, Raymond Democrito Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines party-list, and Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales of Pampanga.




The House of Representatives will again have a “supermajority.”

“This will be a problem because legislation is a numbers game,” ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). “Dipende sa kung ano ang dami ninyo kung mananalo o hindi ang iyong panukalang batas (It depends on how many you are whether your proposed law will be passed or not).”

The incumbent president having relatives in both chambers of Congress would also exacerbate the challenges already posed by having a very small opposition, said Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel.

“It is likely that our reform policies that don’t serve vested interests — such as legislation on political dynasties and collection of (the Marcoses’) unpaid taxes and ill-gotten wealth — will be blocked,” Manuel told PCIJ.


Business interests


Romualdez’s family owns the national broadsheet Manila Standard, the Journal Group of Publications (which publishes tabloids People’s Journal and People’s Tonight, among others), and broadcast company Philippine Collective Media Corp.

His brother, Benjamin Philip, was the president and chief executive officer of mining firm Benguet Corp. and is married to Alexandra “Sandy” Prieto, chief executive officer of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Cherry Salazar



01:00 p.m.




Marcos ally Zubiri installed as Senate President ahead of SONA


Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri was installed on Monday morning, July 25, as Senate President of the 19th Congress.

He leads a legislative chamber dominated by pro-administration senators. Twenty senators are part of the majority bloc while four are in the minority.

Zubiri ran under the senatorial ticket of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the May 2022 elections. He was initially slated as a “guest candidate” of the opposition ticket, but former Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo dropped him from the list after he endorsed Marcos.


Independent Senate?


Questions have been raised about its independence despite Zubiri’s promise that the legislative chamber will be independent. 

"Senate’s independence is a lynchpin of its two other hallmarks – industry and innovation,” Zubiri said during his first speech as Senate President. 

"This upper chamber will never be an echo chamber," he added. 


Fate of important bills

Maria Ela Atienza, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, has doubts about the ability of the Senate to pass important bills, however.

“You cannot be assured. There will be claims to be the supermajority and like the last Congress, still not all bills were passed,” Atienza said.

For instance, bills such as the Death Penalty Bill, National Housing Development Bill and National Land Use Bill remained in legislative limbo despite being part of former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s list of pet bills.

Because a true political party system does not exist in the Philippines, lawmakers do not play their prescribed role. Instead they make promises during the campaign and ultimately vote towards the bills they think are strong, the political science professor said.

“As in the neo-liberal policies, there will be no laws on political dynasties. Laws will focus on the current economic setup – to address the pandemic concerns and to build more infrastructure. Let us all remember that we have two Villars in the Senate,” Atienza said.

Longtime Sen. Cynthia A. Villar and her son, newcomer Sen. Mark A. Villar, are current members of the Senate. The Villar family owns one of the leading property developers and the largest homebuilders in the country.

“The senators will be voting on bills that will protect their personal, business and family interests,” Atienza added.


Other Senate positions


Reports that Zubiri was poised to become Senate President came out as early as May 30. He met with Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez following the proclamation of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on May 25.

Romualdez is Marcos’ first cousin and was also installed as Speaker on Monday.

Sen. Lorna Regina “Loren” Legarda was elected as Senate president pro tempore, while Sen. Joel Villanueva was recognized as the majority floor leader. 

The four senators who did not vote for Zubiri are Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros Baraquel, and siblings Pia and Alan Cayetano.

Pimentel was named minority leader while the Cayetano siblings said they will be independent. 

In his first SONA to be delivered on Monday afternoon, Marcos is expected to list down his priority bills for Congress to pass. 

The senators themselves have publicized their own priority bills, including bills to review the K-12 program (Pimentel), upgrade the salary of health workers (Ejercito) and end illegal contractualization (Hontiveros and Villanueva).

Zubiri’s priority bills include measures to increase the salary of teachers and to establish specialty hospitals in the regions.


Martha Teodoro




12:00 a.m.




What should President Marcos include in his #SONA2022 speech?



What should President Marcos include in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA)?

PCIJ staff interviewed experts in the fields of health, education, climate adaptation and mitigation, and peace and security. Here's what they told us:

Former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said he wants to hear about his health priorities, citing the country’s shortcomings during the pandemic.

“The health system has to be modernized from the bottom up. Sustained investments have to be made. Issues of human resources have to be addressed," he said. 

“Government has to inspire and mobilize partnerships with the private sector. Work has to move across various sectors, as all sectors have a role to keep people healthy," Dayrit added.

E-Net Philippines President Olie Lucas said he wants Marcos to discuss plans to address problems in education. "I think we have to move away from [notion] that [it] is only a problem of the education sector. It isn’t. Those problems arise and are linked to problems in other areas," he said.



Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Executive Director Gerry Arances said he wants to hear more about the Philippines' role in climate action. “Climate justice should be centered on people’s rights, more so for the vulnerable communities who unfairly suffer the brunt of climate emergencies.” he said. 

“Our demand for climate justice from the international community must go hand in hand with our efforts to deliver clean, affordable electricity on our own shores," Arances added.

Former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Marcos should talk about the West Philippine Sea dispute: “The West Philippine Sea is the most important policy issue of the Philippines. He must declare that he will assert the arbitral award," he said. 

Gus Miclat of the Initiative for International Dialogue said he wants Marcos to uphold the Bangsamoro peace process. “I would like him to continue what is working, like recognizing and respecting the ascendancy first of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as the majority members of the parliament — until at least the transition period ends in 2025. Anyway, that is the essence of the law," he said. 


Carmela Fonbuena, Karol Ilagan, and Elyssa Lopez



The following contributed to this live blog: Carmela Fonbuena, Karol Ilagan, Elyssa Lopez, Cherry Salazar, and Martha Teodoro

Illustration by Luigi Almuena

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