Senator Win Gatchalian is hoping that President Rodrigo Duterte will present a clear-cut poverty alleviation roadmap focused on expanding the reach and quality of essential social services for the most marginalized sectors during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.
“One of the biggest shortcomings of the PNoy administration was its inability to translate robust macroeconomic growth into tangible improvements in the lives of poor Filipinos. Hopefully, President Duterte will succeed where PNoy failed,” said Gatchalian, a former three-term mayor and two-term congressman in Valenzuela City.
Gatchalian explained that Duterte, who rode a formidable anti-crime and corruption campaign to a landslide victory in last May’s elections, must expand his presidential policy agenda beyond the narrow focus of his campaign message in order to fully address the diverse issues facing Philippine society.
“Illegal drugs, crime, and corruption are not the only important issues to be solved by the government. Genuine change can only be achieved if we mount a strong campaign targeted at narrowing the massive poverty gap,” said Gatchalian.
A long-time advocate of using education as a means to combat poverty, Gatchalian urged Duterte to prioritize bills aimed at expanding access to quality education at all levels.
The Senator said he remained hopeful that the President would throw his full support behind Senate Bill No. 198, or the “Free Higher Education Act,” a measure which would provide tuition-free education for approximately 1.5 million students enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
Turning to the basic education sector, Gatchalian called on Duterte to support legislation expanding the reach of Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System and establishing a nationwide feeding program for public school students; as well as bills increasing teachers’ salaries and providing mandatory continuing education for public school teachers using public funds.
“A quality education is one of the strongest weapons we can use to arm our impoverished countrymen in the fight against poverty because it gives them opportunities to make a decent living for themselves and their families,” said Gatchalian, an active member of both House committees on Education during the 16th Congress.
Gatchalian also stressed his belief that Duterte’s anti-crime campaign would not result in long term peace and order unless petty criminals from the poorest classes of society are given a fighting chance against poverty through improved social services.
“We cannot win the war on drugs without waging a war on poverty at the same time,” said Gatchalian. “Otherwise, poor Filipinos in desperate situations will always be tempted to turn to crime if given no other option to escape from crushing poverty.”