THIS time the State of the Nation Address was different. It was far cry from the SONAs of paper boats, super maids and super regions, strong republic and the “ramdam ang kaulanran” sort of crap. But President Benigno Aquino III somehow unfurled a more honest state of the nation—a nation in shambles if only because of leaders who were more engrossed with party politics and self-aggrandizement than concerned about the welfare of the country and the common good.
After nine years of being bamboozled with empty rhetoric, the SONA this time seemed a relief. It actually feels comfortable to get ones haunches finally substantiated with honest declarations. Every barber in town knew that there was something fishy with rice importations (that crippled local agriculture) or the fraudulent extravagance of government officials. But to be told with sincerity that the government imported rice 10 times or so over the necessary was like earning a sense of victory. And no amount of justifications from apologists of the previous administration can deodorize the foul odor of corruption. (The argument that importing so much rice just to be abandoned to rot in NFA warehouses was a policy decision does not make it neither reasonable nor sane—except, perhaps, for reasons that the past dispensation had been overly infamous of.)
The profligacy of MWSS big bosses and of other government owned and controlled corporations smacks of plunder so subtle yet so detrimental. This was the “kalakaran” that characterized the past administration; that was why even the lowly director of a GOCC didn’t have qualms receiving 20th month pay or flashy cars over and above the regular perks and under the table SOPs knowing that the queen herself did not even blink in tendering a “simple” $20,000 meal in Manhattan’s Le Cirque while more than half of the Philippine population was gnawing pangs of hunger. For some, it sounded like Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning.
That somewhere over half of the calamity fund for the current fiscal year has been shamelessly siphoned to a few districts in Pampanga before the elections rather than disbursed to provinces that were real victims of past calamities is more catastrophic. But even that is only the tip of the iceberg. By the looks of it, there should be more anomalous transactions, which can be thievery pure and simple, if only the Ombudsman must be ombudsman enough to side with the truth and the Filipino people. In fact, the upcoming Truth Commission should be superfluous in a government structure designed to plug every bit of leak incumbent in democratic governance.
For sure, six years of presidency will not allow the Aquino government to accomplish so much. But that is irrelevant for now. What is of consequence is that the Filipino people have found spaces for hope and some reasons to unshackle their dreams after many years of wasteland.