SONA 2013: Scene Juan, Act Four

On the twenty-second of July, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III yet again delivered his annual State of the Nation Address to his bosses: the ninety million Filipinos making up this country. Being the fourth of six parts in his term as head-of-state, the proceedings of the entire affair were somewhat predictable and familiar.

In fact, it was almost a play of sorts.

The stage was set. Working microphones, drinking water within reach, and other props were all in order. The key actors were in place after a red-carpet-esque entrance worthy of the Academy Awards. Beyond the walls of the Batasan Complex, ‘neath the bright sunlight, the extras keep themselves toasty with burning effigies and their spirits high by engaging in a nice violent round of dodgeball with the police using eggs and stones as projectiles, efficiently inconveniencing the traffic of vehicles along the road. Back inside, the audience were on the edge of their seats, prepared to judge, criticize, praise, or completely miss the point of entire affair (as in the case of those who displayed greater than passing interest on designer dresses and barongs; because, honestly, who the *** cares?).

Cue the main protagonist’s – or anti-hero’s depending on your perspective – entry from stage left.

His monologue was lengthy enough to rival that of Archbishop of Canterbury from Henry V. Or rather, the speech was eerily reminiscent of a tale that is a textbook illustration of a plot diagram taught to fifth graders. Beginning with exposition, the introductory part of the speech was certainly verbose enough to have had me urging PNoy to “get on with it please” through the television screen kilometers away. The rising action came next when our protagonist narrated the surpassed struggles and the victories achieved by his administration in the ongoing relocation of informal settlers, the employment rate of TESDA-DOLE scholars, the strengthening and growth of the agricultural, the extension of Philhealth coverage and services, the development of natural and hazard calamities response mechanisms and many other projects. Cue applause at the appropriate intervals. Statistics and specific names of exemplary individuals in various fields sustained the momentum until the climax. Of course, the true climax was lost under the barrage of data and unnecessary hypothetical questions that made perfect ingredients for sheer ennui even for the most attentive of listeners. Now we move onto the falling action, the part that reflected my dwindling hope for PNoy to address pressing issues, particularly the pending Freedom of Information Bill, the negative impacts of mining on our environment, the current territorial conflict with China and numerous others. Even with the list of economic successes (abstract increases in summary measures like the GDP that go on unfelt most of the lower income bracket families), the resolution part was as bittersweet.

Despite the impression that this blog post may convey, I am not staunchly opposed to every step taken by the Aquino administration. On the contrary, I approve of a fair number of the actions that he has taken since. The passage of the RH Law, the implementation of the K-12 educational system, and the elimination of corruption as an institutionally and shamelessly accepted practice in public governance are the most significant ones that come to mind. More importantly, I trust in his sincerity to bring about “tuwid na daan” or widespread social and political change, which is far more than what I can say about his recent predecessors. I also understand that President Aquino is a man thrust in a powerful yet difficult position that requires him to make decisions that would inevitably make people unhappy.

This, nevertheless, does not make me any less dissatisfied with his SONA. Considering its length, I expected the speech to contain more substance. The lack of mention of the VFA, the situation with China, and the FOI detracted much from its overall quality given that with these three falling under the umbrella of foreign relations and transparency would have been very telling indicators of, you know, the state of the nation. Excess rhetoric was another glaring problem. Combined, these made for the worst SONA to date in my opinion. PNoy ought to consider having a talk with his speechwriter(s).

All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players. President Aquino knows his role and does it regardless of praise or criticism. Maybe the audience should consider getting out of their comfortable seats and taking on roles themselves in this theater to ensure that all this – in Shakespearian sense – ends up being a comedy rather than a tragedy.

– M.T.A.V. Fernandez



Aquino III, Benigno S. “Fourth State of the Nation Address.” Session Hall of the House of Representatives, Batasang Pambansa Complex, Quezon City. 22 July 2013. State of the Nation Address. Available: <;.

Lapeña, Carmela G. “ From blood-red rallies to the red carpet at SONA 2013.” GMA News Online. 23 July 2013. 28 July 2013. Available:<;.


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