Last July 22, 2013, President Benigno Aquino III delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the House of Representatives. As expected, the president enumerated all the achievements by his administration for the past three years. Some of these achievements are: 7.8% GDP growth rate in the 1st quarter of 2013, the K-12 program, expanded Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and PhilHealth, increased employment rate from TESDA graduates so on and so forth. He also said at the end of his address that this is the people’s SONA. But, I beg to disagree.
Don’t get me wrong. I laud the achievements done by the Aquino administration but his SONA does not reflect the real state of the nation. Yes, there was a 7.8% GDP growth rate during the 1st quarter of 2013 but does this growth translate to better lives for Filipinos? It is just normal for the president to brag about this high growth; however, he did not mention how he is going to make Juan de la Cruz feel this growth. His address lacked concrete plans on how his administration plans to distribute this wealth to the poor. If there is one thing that I will never forget in my economics class, that will be growth does not equate to development. Next, is about the issue on Hacienda Luisita and land reform in general. According to him, the distribution of land titles for Hacienda Luisita will start on September. This is a very great progress but it took 3 years of his term and a removal of a chief justice to accomplish this one. For land reform, he said that having a correct data is the first step for an effective land reform implementation because his administration inherited a defective land records system. To be frank Mr. President, assuming that your administration did inherit a defective land records system, why did it take four government agencies (DOJ, LRA, DENR, and DAR) to fix this system in three years? Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this is still a progress in terms of land reform. Lastly, the president did not mention one important bill that we will need to combat corruption – the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill. Through the FOI bill, transparency among public officials will be improved because this will give the public more access to government information. If this bill would be passed, corruption will be lessened. It is the perfect time for the president to endorse this bill given his political capital in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. I believe that the president still remembers his slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”
Now then, why do I disagree that his address is the people’s SONA? It is because until the “achievements” by the Aquino government cannot bring Juan dela Cruz out of poverty, it will never be the people’s SONA. Until the statistics presented by the president are not felt by Juan dela Cruz, it will never be the people’s SONA. But as long as change and progress are present, it is not impossible that someday a president’s SONA will be a people’s SONA.
– Jose Mari C. Espino