THE SENATE will organize its committees on Tuesday to immediately begin with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s “marching orders” during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), Senate majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said.

“We heard the marching orders of the President. Tomorrow we’ll start electing the chairperson of the different committees para sa ganun ay trabaho na po tayo (so that we can start working),” Mr. Zubiri said in a chance interview at the House of Representatives Monday evening.

“We’ll all be working. All the committees will be assigning their members to work on the different measures and from then we’ll await the committee reports,” he said.

Among the measures the President urged the 18th Congress to pass is the creation of the Departments of Water, Disaster Resilience and Management, and Overseas Filipino Workers.

The President also pushed for economic measures, such as the remaining packages of the government’s comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP), beginning with the proposal to gradually reduce corporate income tax and streamline fiscal incentives.

The CTRP also include improving the valuation system of local governments, rationalizing capital income tax, and increasing excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products.

Senator Imee R. Marcos opposed increasing anew the excise tax on tobacco products, but commended the President for bringing focus on the agriculture sector.

“Tobacco taxes utang na loob tigilan na kami nakadalawang beses na ang (for goodness’ sake, enough, there have been two hits on)  Ilocos,” she said in a chance interview, referring to the tobacco-growing region of Ilocos.

She, however, said, “Tuwang-tuwa ako na nabanggit ni Presidente ang agrikultura, higit sa lahat ang (I am very glad that the President mentioned agriculture, especially the) coco levy (fund).”

For his part, Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa, presumptive chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, sees the President’s request to revive capital punishment on heinous crimes involving drugs and plunder as an appeal rather than a directive.

“Well, klaro ‘yung sinabi niya na humingi sya ng tulong na makalusot ‘yang mga batas na ‘yan. Depende sa indibidwal na myembro ng Congress ‘yan kung susundin nila. ‘Yung kaniyang appeal is appeal, hindi yun directive, hindi namumwersa, hindi nagdidirekta (it was clear that he is asking for help to have that law passed. It depends on the individual members of Congress if they will heed it. The President’s appeal is an appeal, it was not a directive, he is not forcing use, he is not giving us an order),” said Mr Dela Rosa, who previously served as city and national police chief under Mr. Duterte as Davao mayor and later as President. — Charmaine A. Tadalan