Could’ve and Should’ve: A Brief Analysis of the 2013 SONA

Halfway through President Benigno Aquino III’s term, it is made clear that this isn’t going to be like his previous State of the Nation Address’s: not an apologetic one due to the baby steps he was taking at the start of his term, not one that keeps admonishing the previous administration. This is his fourth already, but somehow, it always feels like the first. Based on the more recent SONA’s by him and previous presidents, a SONA, by nature, should be a clear report on what condition the nation currently finds itself in. On the other hand, a SONA by any logical and rational thinking president should obviously detail primarily the positive things going on in the country. In a way, though not most of the time for that matter, the SONA has served as an illusion, a gift-wrapped message intended towards putting at ease the citizens of the country. On the flipside, the SONA can serve as a far-reaching rallying call for greater socio-civic involvement, a means to communicate how the government can work with the public. These trends in the nature of the State of the Nation Address have more or less retained themselves in this year’s SONA.

Numbers in a way, are like picture books; you’d rather put focus on the nice, eye-catching images rather than the small, underlying text below.  Numbers were probably the biggest takeaways from PNoy’s fourth-go around the Batasang Pambansa stage. They were religiously thrown a lot this year, in an administration that seems to be on track to be remembered as one that put much of its focus on commerce and the economy. From the 7.8% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2013, to the decreased dependence on rice importation (estimated to be at only 350,000 metric tons this year, compared to 2 million in 2010.), and many other “applause-inducing” numbers. The numbers were nice in a way, reminding us that we’re probably better off right now than we were before, but numbers are superficial; they only scratch the surface. PNoy made us hear what we wanted us to hear, what he thought we wanted us to hear, but failed to tell us what we needed to hear.

Sometimes I scratch my head when he mentions “achievements” that supposedly, should already be standard for any president and his or her administration. Take for example the implementation of the 1:1 police to pistol ratio. By that, you mean to say over a thousand cops out there are armed with sticks and stones? These are the things that should be expected of the administration. In particular, and what I think a lot of people needed to hear, was how the president could address the recent rise in unemployment. Yes he, mentioned the Pantawid Pamilya Program, as a means of merely subsidizing family incomes. That could help ease the burden of unemployment, but no real solution was expounded upon. In the end, lots of things could have been better discussed, such as foreign policy issues, but that’d take more than just one day to address them all.

Lastly, it has become a trademark of his SONA’s to either praise (in most cases), or absolutely demoralize government agencies and individuals he deems to be underperforming. This time, the unfortunate ones were the Bureau of Customs and former TESDA chief Augusto Syjuco. In a government where progress is slowed down by bureaucratic arrogance and red tape, it seems only fitting for the president to be the one to call out these individuals. It’s a reaffirming of his “Daang Matuwid” platform, one that I hope, continues to make permeable changes in the culture of government.

This year’s SONA was another exercise of the trends I mentioned in earlier in this post. While it couldn’t answer many of the questions people wanted an answer to, it brought a sense of cautious optimism for his next three years in office. He ended his SONA with a call to the Filipino people: a call for solidarity, which in my opinion should bookend any SONA by any president. This year’s SONA brought us a lot of possibilities; let’s hope by next year, at this same point in time, that they don’t become uncertainties.

-Joshua M. Siat 2012-61056


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