Looking at what the social media world was talking about the day after PNoy delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), it was clear that the emotional content of the speech was more interesting than the substance—if there was any.
The discussions and heated exchange among netizens were on matters like “did the President cry or did his voice simply crack”, or “why was presidential sister Kris wiping away tears?” “Was the President hurting?” or “Was the weight of presidency too much for him to carry”? “How many times did he cough?” and “Were the coughing simply meant to prevent himself from choking with emotions?”
So, there you are. Clearly, the greater segments of the SONA’s audience, both those in the gallery and those watching and listening via media, were focused on the dramatics of the moment. If asked whether or not they understood what the real state of the nation is after PNoy’s speech, they probably would say, “We don’t remember him talking about it.”
There are two possibilities regarding the apparent injection of heavy emotional content into the delivery of the SONA.
One is that it was not deliberate. The other is that it was done on purpose.
Regardless, what was clear was that the speculation on the basis for the presidential tears served as a powerful distraction to the substance of the speech—or to the lack of it.
But to those who chose to ignore the dramatics and focused on what was being said by PNoy, the scanty substance was disconcerting and alarming in many parts.
Already, many have noticed that PNoy did not touch on the items that matter much to many Filipinos such as the Freedom of Information bill.
The other items were delivered in a rather hurried manner that they apparently failed to register in the SONA audience’s mind. PNoy may have created the impression that since these items were just hastily enumerated by him, they were not really that important. In so doing, these items escaped the attention and scrutiny of many listeners.
But not on all.
One alarming item on the SONA which the presidential emotions may have clouded was PNoy’s take on his supposed accomplishments on water.
PNoy boasted that his administration has prepared well for the future of our water supply. He enumerated the following as evidence that he has addressed this issue: the construction of the Kaliwa Dam Project in Tanay, Rizal, and the Water District Development Sector Project under the Local Water Utilities Administration.
There is nothing wrong with preparing future water sources. The Kaliwa Dam project is part of the originally-planned Laiban Dam, a controversial project that is facing stiff opposition from various sectors.
What PNoy did not say is what he is doing to ease the current woes of millions of Metro Manila residents struggling with the cost of water services imposed on them by the two giant concessionaires—the Pangilinan group’s Maynilad and the Ayala Group’s Manila Water.
He did not say what action he has taken on the issue raised earlier by an angry public protesting the “greedy” practice of these two giants of passing on to consumers expenses that should rightfully be shouldered by the concessionaires. Among these are the passed-on corporate income tax and the millions of pesos in expenses for dining in fancy restaurants, buying gifts, give-aways and, as my favorite media colleague Teddy Boy Locsin would say, even flowers for their executives’ favorite “pom-pom girls.”
By distracting the public with future plans on water, PNoy may have skirted a more important public aspiration—lower water rates and the refund of these passed-on costs. Water consumers have long expected him to side with them and champion their cause against two of the country’s most profitable business giants. Once again, PNoy failed them in that expectation.
Such public expectation is not without basis, after all.
MWSS regulators appointed by PNoy announced late last year that they had ordered the two giants to lower water rates. That announcement was met with public applause. Yet, consumers in the areas served by the two are still being charged the same rate they were paying before PNoy-appointed regulators raised hopes following that pompous announcement of lower rates last year.
PNoy would have done the public justice if he had, in his SONA, directed the MWSS to implement the lower rates the agency had already decided and ordered.
The presidential tears may have caused many to overlook the apparent lack of importance he has placed on water issues.
Now, tears are starting to fall from our eyes, too.