The 22nd of July, 2013 saw the delivery of current President Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address, and with it came the myriad of responses from individuals and groups.
On one side, one would get those speaking of praise, that the content of the President’s SONA was right on the money, or at least for the most part. An online article from Sun Star quotes Senator Loren Legarda’s positive reception: “I can’t say that there is something lacking in his SONA that he had delivered. However, if ever he had missed something, we are here to help him achieve that.”
On another side, however, one would find those with reactions far from an outstanding thumbs up. For instance, an online article from the Daily Tribune described the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) criticism towards the President’s SONA as “. . . bereft of any bright spark because it offered nothing but crumbs and palliatives for the Filipino masses. . .”
Lastly, of course, there are those with a more, let’s say, dissected opinion on the matter— some sections of the SONA were well and good while other parts, not so much. Just watch the video broadcast of GMA News where Professor Solita Monsod approves of, for one, the basis for the President’s strategy in growth and job creation, but, among other criticisms, she points out the inconsistencies in the figures the President gave out, i.e. the deficit of the first six months, the amount of insufficient collections, and the level of overspending.
So what’s the point? Well, the point is that you can’t make everyone happy (obviously). There would always be those that break into applause and admiration at virtually everything said and done while at the same time, there would always be those that seek to trip you up and bleed out every single chink of error that they perceive. And then there are those of the relatively neutral stance— of which I identify myself with— a stance lays out the deliberated “good” points and the deliberated “bad” points and, if circumstance permits, a conclusive assessment, taking into consideration any personal bias and/or limitations that may skew objective judgement (if such judgement really does exist, but then let’s leave it at that as that’s another issue).
Admittedly, as one who doesn’t innately update one’s self with the national issues, I’ve taken some time— albeit indeed far from enough time— in doing what research I could do just to get a general feel of the different receptions towards the SONA in order to buff up my own opinion on the subject. Of course, while it may be the case that specifics of the resulting opinion may never be on-par with those from individuals who in their own ways actively test their grit in the arena of national issues, well, let’s just say that an opinion is an opinion is an opinion is an opinion (though an informed one is preferable, mind you). As such, while we’re at it, I’ll be sharing both what I found good about the SONA and how it was conducted and what I found lacking thereof.
Now, I like starting off with the bad news, to get that out of the way, so from the body of my negative feedback, below are some criticisms of which I thought pertinent (I’ll limit to about 4):
1) While arguably a petty matter in comparison to the bigger picture, I don’t particularly approve of the described “Red Carpet” entrance of a number of celebrities and politicians, which was goaded on by the media. Flashy attires and personalities subtly trying to outdo one another— truly akin to its Hollywood analog— simply misdirects the attention and interest to where it ought to be directed, and the attention and interest ought to be directed to the relevance and consistency of the SONA to the current position of the country and the nation. That’s kind of a no-brainer, is it not?
2) Next, while the President’s use of statistical figures proved to be effective in providing solid and objective proof to his claims of improvements in various sectors and aspects of the country’s economy and such, some of these spouted numbers lacked in interpretation. Simply put, what do they mean? Point-in-case, based on the President’s SONA, the growth in the agricultural sector tripled in the first 3 months of 2013 compared to that of the same period in 2012— a growth of 3.3% from a growth of 1.1%. Alright, that sounds good, but then, well, so what? What composed of that growth? Was it due to new technology, innovations in existing processes, or both perhaps? More so, with that growth, what now can we expect from that sector? We don’t know, or maybe we weren’t given a sufficient answer.
3) Corollary to the second point above, an online article from Get Real Philippines described the given figures and measures of improvements throughout the country as “a litany of unconnected dots delivered”. I find myself in agreement with such sentiment in that the SONA fell short, at least for myself, of providing a statement or statements that would take all these seemingly independent measures and encapsulate them more substantially or more specifically than “Napakasarap maging Pilipino sa panahong ito,” as the President thus ended his SONA with. I mean, sure school books got cheaper; more communities have access to electricity; the public healthcare package got expanded; and so the list goes on. But then how will that interpret to the day-to-day of the average Philippine citizen? Relative to the country’s previous positions (and perhaps even relative to future positions) what does the current one have and not have, by what margin, and then to what consequence? Again, with just these figures and measures, one can only be free to speculate by his/herself.
4) Lastly, of course, there are the failures of the SONA in part of addressing insufficiently or not addressing at all some issues that a number of citizens find relevant. For me, simply including in the address that both the Sin Tax Bill and the Responsible Parenthood (Reproductive Health) Bill have finally been passed into law doesn’t give the two issues ample justice. I’d like to know, even if just put succinctly, how smoothly or otherwise the implementation of both are going; what are the observed effects of these implementations, if any are apparent and confirmed already; and if there are any hindrances to the related operations, what counter-measures are being taken. Of course, the SONA was devoid any mention regarding the Freedom of Information Bill. A number of people have a lot of things to say to that, that’s for sure. Moreover, as Professor Monsod also voiced out, there were no updates on the Philippines’ current progress with its Millennium Development Goals nor were there proposals on how the country plans to realize such goals within a specified timeframe— and I for one find those concerns of equal importance compared to those actually mentioned in the SONA.
While there goes the bad, now comes the good, so accordingly from the body of my positive feedback, below are some points I’ve thought pertinent (similarly limited to 4):
1) First off the bat, I found it reassuring that the Philippines was accorded an investment grade status from both credit rating agencies Fitch as well as Standard and Poor. Hopefully, if investment conditions continue to improve in the country, then the President’s strategy, as described by Professor Monsod in the GMA broadcast, of growth spearheaded by investment would come to fruition. Especially for developing countries— in this case the Philippines— gaining investments are crucial yet hard to come by (commonly due to the relatively high risks associated with these countries). Nonetheless, by virtue of spending on investment goods, future production and consumption may be expanded, and with the news of a relatively favorable investment climate in the Philippines, it has better chances of garnering those crucial yet hard to come by investments, thus more opportunity for economic expansion.
2) Well, what can I say, I’m a sucker for logistical and technological improvements. The implementation of intercropping for coconut plantations so as to improve the returns of harvest per hectare as well as to facilitate a kind of mutualistic symbiosis among the different crops which not only improves returns but also decreases plantation costs— great! The establishment of ADMANTEL which would be a major boon for the semi-conductor industry— why, excellent! A connecting road that reduces travel between NLEX and SLEX to about 15 minutes down from 2 hours— sweet, sweet, sweet! The construction of the Blumentritt Interceptor Catchment area which, when completed, can prevent an equivalent of 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water from flooding the Metro— well, as they say, shut up and take my money! And much more of these improvements of similar nature come with the whole SONA. Whatever it is, there’s just something with improvements that facilitate for the continued ease and efficiency of production and daily operations— especially despite less-than-ideal situations— that just make me nod with contentment.
3) In terms of addressing the corruption within the government; e.g. the cases of Mr. Syjuco, a number of PAGCOR officials, the Bureau of Customs, to give a few. The President did good to name names, to single out individuals and agencies and hold them to their shortcomings. Politically speaking, to call them out at such a publicized event means that, as the head of the Executive Branch in Government, the President means business. Let’s just hope that the momentum from this act of pointing out follows through in the form of actual steps for proper accountability in the coming events after the SONA.
4) Lastly, this is one of the aspects that I mostly commend the President in his fourth SONA for: his attempt to instil among the citizens of the state a sense of solidarity in the achievements and goals in the SONA, that it was the people’s SONA, that it was primarily due to the people that these goals were achieved and that the continued growth of the country rests upon them— all of them, all of us. The simple fact that he delivered his SONA in Filipino already allows for the average Philippine citizen to readily identify him/herself with the nationwide event. More so, his frequent mentions of praise to Dondon Sultan and Edlyn Arbo— your normal citizens simply abiding by their duties and principals— sends the message that acts of duty, of kindness, and even of selflessness are still very relevant in society today.
There we have it: a personal deliberation of President Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address.
While making everybody happy is virtually impossible for a single SONA, the latest one was successful in eliciting a smorgasbord of responses from all kinds of individuals, from all kinds of groups. Perhaps that’s what matters, that the State of the Nation Address is still relevant in the Philippine context, that— by extension of this logic— the SONA stimulates individuals and groups to assess their own positions relative to others’ in the big picture of the national and state background, thus discovering or rediscovering their roles in society as well as their principles and ideals. Henceforth, with this discovery or rediscovery, there comes the renewed vigor to push and clamor for more necessary changes and improvements in the coming generations, for, after all, perhaps all of us citizens had a part to play in the SONA.
Well, just to make this post feel more blog-like and since I’ve already used up most of my delegated sanity for this day: to those who have so-persevered to read up to this point in my composition, I say to you congratulations! To be perfectly honest, in my head, I was planning this out as something really short— a mere 500 words or so— but then I got to typing, and, the next thing I knew, all of the above happened.
— Miguel Raymundo C. Gutierrez
Lastly, to steer clear of any possibilities of plagiarism, below are my references: