This Week in Media (July 18 to 22, 2022)

Media track pre-SONA concerns

PRESIDENT MARCOS is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25. Media have reported the preparations for the event, including security measures in the House of Representatives where the event is held each year, police management of the usual protest actions, and safety protocols for those attending.

Reports said that over 20,000 policemen will be deployed; and, departing from past practice, rallies will be prohibited anywhere on Commonwealth Avenue. Citing militant groups and academics, Rappler pointed to the irony of a president elected by a majority of 31 million worrying  about public dissent. 

Senators and representatives speaking to the media had different issues and concerns they would like to hear the President discuss — from the pandemic crisis, to food insecurity and his campaign call for unity. 

Media coverage also took up issues raised by different sectors. The president is clearly facing a variety of challenges and media need to check what Marcos will prioritize in his address. 

So far, no journalist has received advance information about the President’s preparations and who are helping write his first address after his inauguration.

Health 

Both COVID-19 and dengue cases are on the rise according to the Department of Health (DOH). Media reported that the President said there was no need for a law to make COVID vaccination mandatory, as he emphasized the proven benefits of vaccines particularly in preventing severe cases. He was vaccinated himself but tested positive for the infection, with mild symptoms. News accounts noted the Health Department’s call on the public to avail of booster shots. The agency asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow wider coverage of second boosters, amid the near-expiration of vaccines held by the private sector. 

Media reported that a recent Social Weather Stations Survey found 83 percent of Filipinos hopeful the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is over, an expectation that challenges the government both in its policy action and messages in the conduct of its pandemic response. Reports on these, however, did not say anything about the still vacant post of Health Secretary. 

Agriculture

Marcos as Agriculture Secretary met with department officials to discuss increasing overall food production. Journalists reported other directives from Marcos including the construction of more farm-to-market roads and looking into government-to-government transactions for cheaper fertilizer. But there was no talk of the announced revival of Marcos’ pet project, the tomato processing plant in Ilocos Norte which he started in 1984. CMFR cheered VERA Files’ review of the failed economic project for his province, which somehow other media organizations missed.

Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista told ANC on Thursday, July 21 that Marcos is eyeing a “Masagana 150” project, essentially a revival of his father’s Masagana 99 program which sought to address the rice crisis at the time. Some online reports that picked up this information correctly added that Marcos Sr.’s program failed and only left farmers in debt. 

Transportation

Reporters noted developments concerning the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB): the fast-tracking of payments to drivers and operators of the free Edsa Bus Carousel service, which suffered backlogs in the previous administration, and the proposed reopening of old public transport routes including those bound for the University Belt in Manila. 24 Oras reported the concern of the consortium of transport groups in Mega Manila that pointed to the lack of transport units, as many of these were displaced or ceased operations when routes were changed during the first year of the pandemic.      

Education

Marcos approved a blended mode of learning beyond October 31 for some areas to be identified by the Department of Education (DepEd). The DepEd initially announced that all schools must hold face-to-face classes by November. Some teachers’ groups quoted by the media welcomed the development, emphasizing that the level of preparedness differs across schools due to many factors. The Inquirer’s editorial correctly noted that the pandemic is not yet over, and decisions concerning young learners involves a “delicate balancing act.”

Education has retained media attention, perhaps because of the appointment of a non-educator and former local politician to the post. Concerns are justified as reflected in CMFR’s cheer of TV5 which discussed the importance of mother tongue-based multilingual education. 

Justice, human rights and national security

With his appointment as Solicitor General, former Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the media his present office will look into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) in investigating the Duterte “drug war.” On July 14, the ICC sent anew a communication to the Philippine government asking for its cooperation. 

Meanwhile, media reported that DND officer-in-charge, Ret. Gen. Jose Faustino, Jr., expressed concerns about the presence of Chinese militia in Philippine waters and pledged to protect the country’s sovereign rights. Speaking at a July 21 press briefing, he noted that Phase 3 of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines would require “big ticket items” such as fighter planes and ships, all of which would beef up the protection of the country’s territory. 

Reports said Faustino has sought congressional review of this significantly important phase of the program and its implementation, including its funding.