From the Newsrooms: Maharlika signed in time for SONA; ICC proceeds with probe 

A rundown of key events and issues covered by newsrooms from July 17 to 23, 2023.

IT WAS a busy week for President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. Obviously celebrating the signing into law of the Maharlika investment fund last July 18, BBM gathered Cabinet, Palace and other high officials of the administration in full ceremony for the signing, which was livestreamed. The full show made clear that this law has the utmost support of Marcos’ allies. 

But when the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on the same day its rejection of the Philippine government’s appeal to stop investigations into drug-related deaths, the president’s response was direct but brief, with little else to say about the matter. Statements picked up by the media from other officials did not reflect a coordinated response. 

Broadsheets and online reports picked up Marcos’ statement on July 21 that the Philippines “is done” talking with the ICC, insisting the court has no jurisdiction over the Philippines anymore as we revoked our membership in 2019. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla in another briefing on the same date said the country is still open to dialogues, citing a “principle of comity” among nations and the pending discussions of his agency concerning the entry of ICC representatives. 

Meanwhile, in a July 22 forum, Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez told reporters that ICC investigators may be allowed entry “subject to limitations.” But Vasquez raised the possibility of resorting to “outright confrontation,” considering Marcos’ decision not to engage with the ICC. Vasquez stressed that Marcos has the final say on this matter. Media did not cite any statement issued by the the Department of Foreign Affairs.

While the government fumbled its response, families and relatives of drug war victims were prompt in expressing their solidarity, welcoming ICC’s pursuit of investigation. Speaking on behalf of the surviving families, Amy Jane Lee of Rise UP was cited in a Philstar.com report: “The pain of our loss will not cease just because of the ICC decision. Only time, humility on the part of those who oppressed us and accountability of the perpetuators could make us heal.”

Groups, sectors on SONA

Media had not been remiss in reporting ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, noting the cancellation of classes in public schools and work in government offices in Metro Manila due to the three-day transport strike and the expected rainfall due to Typhoon Egay.

Reports featuring interviews of ordinary folk have noted that they would like to hear the president’s plans on addressing inflation and the high prices of goods, as well as the stagnant wages

Some sectors rated Marcos’ first year performance poorly. Media picked up evaluations of a “failing” grade from teachers, fisherfolk and health workers. Meanwhile, Dr. Temario Rivera of the Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance gave Marcos a “merely passing” rating of 5/10. Rivera noted in an ABS-CBN report that Marcos’ failure to address the more urgent public issues and his fixation on “rebranding” his family’s image, which was evident in Marcos’ revival of his father’s old projects such as the Masagana 99 and the Kadiwa stores.

State of health emergency over

News broke on July 22 that Marcos issued Proclamation 297, lifting state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 nationwide. It was the banner story of six Manila-based broadsheets on July 23.

The president justified the lifting of the emergency status with a “sufficient healthcare system capacity and low hospital bed utilization rates, even after the liberalization of COVID-19 health protocols.” Reports said the proclamation revoked all issuances and orders under the state of public emergency, including the mandatory mask policy in public transport and health and hospital facilities. Meanwhile, vaccines acquired under emergency use authorization can still be used up to one year after July 21.

A TV Patrol report featured two physicians, Dr. Rontgene Solante and Dr. Tony Leachon, who stressed the need to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and the importance of keeping up with the vaccination program, particularly for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals.