Friday, July 26, 2013

The 4th SONA

QUITE literally now, one almost fell off his chair while uncomfortably listening to the longest SONA in local history—an hour and forty-five minutes—when the President of the Republic concluded with “Napakasarap maging Pilipino sa panahong ito!” (It is wonderful to be a Filipino in times like this).   The august body applauded in standing ovation but looking seemingly more attentive to their fashionable attire that approximated the Oscars in Hollywood than the sincerity of really knowing what the stark state of this country is.
            It was like being hit again from the gut with the “Ramdam ang kaunlaran” (Development is now felt) publicity spin of the past administration when one couldn’t be really certain whether to proceed with irony, satire or sheer comedy.  Because that time—of course, seriously even until today—neither the sense nor the development was in sight.
            If it is really fun to be Filipino in times like this, how can the President explain the growing number of Filipinos leaving the country to find work abroad despite the personal hazards and social costs?  How explain the worsening poverty, the 7.5% unemployment rate (not to mention the 19.2% underemployment), the rising criminality and the burgeoning foreign debt?  How explain the growing discontent among the masses which maybe deduced from the growing communist dissidents in the provinces?
            This was actually the rub of the SONA.   The President settled on the peripheral rather than on the substantial.  To drive more dramatically his anti-corruption crusade he hailed personages and government agencies that were at the ambit of his “daan matuwid” while, on the other hand, shaming agencies that were “kapal mukha” in corruption such as the National Irrigation Administration and the Bureaus of Customs and the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation.  That earned him an ovation from the legislators and admiration from the masses who were glued to their radio or TV, although punctuated by his severe coughing from change-smoking (which may have also appealed for sympathy or pity).   But he, in fact, did not address any substantial issue at all.  Because if he did, he would not have ignored the calls for the abolition of the presidential and legislative pork barrel which is at the vortex of wholesale corruption in this country—and in his administration that is presently reeling with allegations of a P10 billion scam involving both houses of congress. 
               Besides, if President Aquino is really sincere, as he projects to be, in crusading against corruption he should not have shelved the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) knowing, as everybody does, that transparency is key to anti-corruption and good governance.  
                In this 4th SONA, the president self-imposed laurels to his administration for lifting a growing number of Filipinos out of poverty through massive CCT dole-out coverage of poor Filipino families which is targeted to reach 4 million next year.   Obviously, he measures the number of people  redeemed from poverty by the number of CCT recipients.  But by empirical data and common sense, this does not add up.  Nobody is stricken out of poverty just by receiving a subsidy of one thousand pesos or so monthly.  The Magna Carta for the Poor which he dumped to smithereens could have been more viable and realistic than dole-outs that have wastefully cost this country several billions of pesos already. 

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