SOME Filipinos complain that the State of the Nation Address or SONA has become too politicized, but not just in one, but in two senses has it always been political.
Delivering the SONA is a duty required of the President by the Constitution, and it’s been a yearly ritual since 1935 with but a few exceptions because of war and political upheavals. What it’s basically and obviously all about is a report on how political power has been used in the years immediately preceding until the present, and that hopefully it was used for the country’s benefit. It also includes the Chief Executive’s legislative proposals for the succeeding year, which he wants Congress—the Senate and the House—to implement through the passage of appropriate Acts—thus the interest, over the last five years, in whether Aquino III would make certain bills such as that on freedom of Information, a priority.
AMONG THE supposed accomplishments he crowed about were the decline in the crime rate and the improved peace and order situation—claims that are at least as outlandish as the allegation that economic growth and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) have benefitted the poor.
On the very same day that Benigno Aquino III was delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), 23 men and women were killed in Sulu in an ambush by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen, while up and down the archipelago, murders hold-ups and rapes were going on unabated, no thanks to his favored and favorite creatures in this earthly paradise, the Philippine National Police and the military.
“CHANGE” has been the mantra of all administrations since at least the Marcos period (1965-1986).
Ferdinand Marcos vowed to “make this nation great again” when he was elected in 1965, and to “reform society and save the Republic” when he placed the entire country under martial law in 1972. Both proclaimed intentions supposedly looked to the future, but the first was a hearkening to a past–the 1896 Revolution–in which greatness was defined in terms of both resistance to tyranny and commitment to social justice.
NOTHING is impossible, said President Benigno Aquino III last Monday during his third State of the Nation Address, while demonstrating in the same speech that certain things are just not possible in an Aquino SONA.
Apparently it’s not possible for Mr. Aquino to mention “Human Rights violations,” “extrajudicial killings,” “Freedom of Information,” “Ampatuan Massacre,” “the killing of journalists” or even “Reproductive Health” in his address. And it’s probably not because of the limitations of his vocabulary.
EXPECT President Benigno Aquino III to be extra enthusiastic during his State of the Nation Address on Monday in reporting what his administration did about corruption in his second year in office. But expect him too to be silent about the Freedom of Information bill, the Ampatuan massacre, the killing of journalists and media workers, and the state of human rights in these isles of dread.
It’s almost certain he’ll remind us of the removal through impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, the corruption charges that have been filed against former Arroyo administration officials, and the charges of electoral fraud and plunder against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself.
A statesman she’s never been. And statesmanlike she wasn’t during her ninth, and hopefully last, State of the Nation Address. As many expected she was her usual self: petulant, combative, self-righteous, arrogant.
This year’s SONA would have been another ho-hum event were it not for the context in which it was being delivered.
Instead of rising above the gutter politics she swears she’s immune to but is actually the master of, she reached another low by using what was supposed to be a report to the nation to attack her critics, justify her actions or lack of them (she didn’t declare martial law), and to praise herself (for not declaring martial law, among other reasons).