SONA Bonanza

People have witnessed the Philippine President’s second State of the Nation Address, or commonly known as SONA, last July 25, 2011. Some might have raised eyebrows, some might have smiled. The President’s much awaited speech was held at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City which was attended by notable public figures such as former presidents, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada. Not much of a surprise was that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not attend the event as it was reported that she was undergoing some medical treatment.  Arroyo was lucky enough (or maybe smart enough) not to attend such gathering as President Benigno S. Aquino III or locally known as PNoy tackled his 53-minute speech combating corruption and the authorities behind it, in which Arroyo has been popularly charged of.

PNoy was not wearing a brand new barong, as it would have been against his advocacy of anti-corruption and saving schemes.  He was firm in molding the direction of the country against wang-wang, which symbolizes change in society and its people’s collective attitude. The fight against wang-wang, or fight against the abuse of authorities was well discussed throughout PNoy’s speech. This supported the slogan, “Tuwid na daan” or the Straight Path which was also made popular throughout the SONA. He made an impression of a swift, simple yet meaningful speech.

A third of PNoy’s speech was about the past administration’s flaws and how the current one has helped the country advanced in terms of food self-sufficiency, employment rate and international credit ratings, among others. In the middle part of his speech, he reported the current programs on economic and human development and corrective measures on the unscrupulous authorities/departments that have wrongly utilized the masses’ taxes. The last section of his speech discussed the right direction of his administration- its roles, the society’s and hopes for a better and prouder country.

It was apparent that PNoy wanted policies in line with good governance and anti-corruption. PNoy has come up with several committees in ensuring all the public budget goes to productive and worthy programs, and by guaranteeing public accountability. PNoy has given much attention to GOCCs or Government-Owned Control Corporations in terms of income generated and budgets requested- the budget ins and outs of these corporations. The Commission on Audit (COA) became stern in the liquidation of budgets released in order to trace down all “alarming” and “mischievous” accounts. PNoy bravely shared in his SONA all questionable earnings and budgetary requirements such as that of PAGCOR and Department of Energy and Agriculture.  PNoy also emphasized on the importance of lessening dependence on imports, making the agricultural development as the top priority of the government. Social interventions, through the acts of conditional cash transfers as part of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) were also mentioned in the president’s speech. Through this movement, human development and poverty reduction course of actions are sure to be in line in the president’s agenda for the next five years to come. The activities for this course of action include: giving compensation to the victims of Martial Law, granting appropriate salaries and benefits to house helpers, improving the awards pension system to retired soldiers, expansion of DOST scholarships to underprivileged students, advancement of universal quality healthcare, responsible environment management,  and formation of safety facilities during calamities. The current issue on the Spratly Islands was also implied in the SONA. The strengthening of the Filipino troops aligns the country in terms of ensuring security, justice and peace. PNoy stressed on his speech that “What belongs to the Filipinos, belongs to the Filipinos” (pertaining to the conflict in ownership of the Spratly Islands between the Philippines and China).

Those were just some of the policy implications noticeable during the SONA. The President was smart enough to use the Filipino language for the whole country to understand thus, enabling him to deliver his messages clearer to his audience. Some speculators were disappointed on the lack of presentation of concrete economic and development plans for the country. I say that not all plans can be reflected in an almost one-hour speech. There could be other venues for more concrete showcasing of transactional agendas for development.

The second SONA may seem as symbolic and anecdotal but PNoy was able to give the Filipinos an idea of his plans and what the expectations are from his administration in the duration of his presidency. PNoy offers an opportunity for recovery. Recovery in the sense that corrupt leaders pay for their misdeeds. From there on, policies would be aligned and the country can finally move forward. This is something that the country needs to experience after nine and a half years of questionable and crooked activities by the previous administration.

For what it’s worth, the second SONA seemed to be promising.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. karlo mikhail
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 14:44:02

    A alternative view would be this: the SONA had many things to say about Aquino’s supposed accomplishments but it had little to say on the thorny issues that really matters most to the greater majority of the Filipino people. Human rights, education, land reform, higher wages, concrete steps to address hunger and jobs: all these failed to be concretely tackled by the SONA. It would thus seem that all the talk about “wang-wang” and anti-corruption only serves to coverup the administration’s essential similarities with the previous administration in terms of political and economic programs and policies: doleouts in the form of Conditional Cash Transfers, privatization in the form of Public Private Parternship, continued prioritization of foreign debt servicing over the social services, no serious land reform program, etc. Finally, Aquino’s penchant for pitching good governance and anti-corruption sounds empty without concrete steps to prosecute Arroyo and institute a Freedom of Information Law.


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