As he did in his first three State of the Nation Addresses (SONA), President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered his report to the Filipino people in the vernacular. He himself noted that this would be his fourth SONA, and only two more were on the horizon.
After this, the President, popularly called Pnoy, hopes to ride off into the sunset with reputation intact.
It could happen.
Mr. Aquino remains a popular figure, which means that he could play a major role in picking who succeeds him. Just like his mother, the late President Cory Aquino.
It may be a minor point, but whoever wrote the speech should take lessons in how to deliver messages briefly. Overstating a point can have the negative effect of the message being lost to the audience. The speech suffered from a lack of unifying theme and that explained the inclusion of things totally unnecessary to make the speaker’s point. It is thus understandable that the audience halfway through was beginning to lose interest, with the applause made only as a matter of courtesy, not out of genuine appreciation.
Still, one must admire Mr. Aquino for making the delivery with confidence and an easy-going manner. Perhaps he had received the good news—for him, at least —that his popularity rating was still exceptionally high.
To repeat, PNoy’s Sona IV was one of the longest in recent memory, giving a little too much detail of ongoing government projects.
While Sonas are accepted to be the equivalent of a report card enumerating the achievements—real or imagined—of every president since the address was institutionalized, going into the most minuscule detail served no useful purpose except to test the ability of the audience to stay awake.
This is not to downplay some of his administration’s real achievements. Even Mr. Aquino’s most vicious opponents cannot ignore the economic growth that the Philippines has experienced under his watch. The most that they can say is that the growth has not filtered down to the masses.
This is only partly true.
The fact that there is a growing middle class where there used to be only a small fraction of the population says that there has indeed been a filter down effect that can be seen and felt. But we would certainly want to see more.
The President also noted that he has forced out of his administration some officials perceived to be either corrupt or incompetent, specifically from the Bureau of Immigration and the National Irrigation Administration.
These, too, can only be considered partial victories, as there have been greater cases of wholesale graft and corruption where the crooks involved have seemingly gotten away with murder, figuratively speaking.
Department of Transportation and Communications kickbacks and pork barrel scam, anyone?
One Cabinet member that Mr. Aquino heaped praise on was Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro. And why not? The former president of De La Salle University is making his mark in Education, and not just for his groundbreaking K-to-12 program.
The Education sec is also close to erasing the perpetual backlog in classrooms, as new school buildings have not been built fast enough to keep pace with the increase in the number of students.
The Agriculture department also received the two thumbs up from Mr. Aquino, what with the steady drop in rice imports paving the way for self-sufficiency by the time he completes his six-year term as chief executive.
Already, the Philippines has become an exporter of high-end rice, one reason why Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was publicly congratulated by the chief executive.
It also goes without saying that the Economic cluster of the Aquino Cabinet has been doing a good job. As a result, tourism arrivals are rising to unprecedented levels, jobs are being created, and the Philippine economy is now one of the strongest in the region.
Not everything the President tackled in his SONA will be greeted warmly by the public, though. For one, he more than implied that the fare of the LRT and the MRT—the most popular means of mass transport in the National Capital Region—will necessarily have to go up in the near future, and not by a few centavos or pesos either.
Also, Mr. Aquino said that contributions to the Social Security System will have to be increased in the near term.
Overall, we can expect President Aquino’s supporters to say that he delivered a most meaningful SONA, while his critics will claim that the speech was nothing more than empty words.