The real report this country needs is not a state of the nation address (SONA), but a state of the state report (SOS). This stands a better chance of saving our sad republic than a self-serving egotistical SONA.
This format will address directly the heart of national malaise, which is bad government, ineffective, incompetent and corrupt.
I’ve been thinking lately about this change in focus because we are again in the time of year when we take stock of the state of our lives and our country. In keeping with tradition and duty, President Aquino will report on the state of the nation at the opening of the final regular session of the 16th Congress on Monday, July 27.
What kind of report he will make, what phony achievements he will parade, and in what state of mind he will do it, is a matter of much conjecture.
I submit that the real report and accounting that needs to be made should concern “the state of the state” in this country. Because it is through effective governance that national success or failure is truly determined.
Giving up on BBL deadline
We get a sniff of where things are headed by the fatuous statements that have been issued lately by the Malacañang spin machine and by BS Aquino himself, viz.
1. Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte has said that putting the BBL in the SONA is not the reason President Aquino wanted the BBL passed by June 11 next week, when congress will adjourn. The real reason she tells us with a straight round face is a timeline in the peace deal with the MILF.
Senate President Franklin Drilon has given up all hope of the Senate meeting the once-inflexible deadline. He now says the administration looks to passage of the law in October when candidates will file their certificates of candidacy in the 2016 elections.
2. Last Thursday, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced matter-of-factly the first quarter performance of the economy. The statement said simply, with no dressing, that the economy grew by 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to 5.6 percent a year ago. This fell way short of what analysts and economists had forecast.
Instead of just letting the PSA numbers convey the deflating news, communications secretary Herminio Coloma conducted a press briefing and spun the tale that President Aquino was not satisfied with the economy’s first-quarter performance.
Then he became wishful and declared that there is “room for optimism on faster growth in the next three quarters.”
He inadvertently revealed that government underspending, once again, was the major culprit behind the poor results. Government now foresees better results for the rest of the year, because government will turn on the spigots for vital public works and infrastructure projects.
3. The real performance of the economy is showing that the Philippines is the weakest economy among the original Asean 5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand Singapore, Philippines). It is hardly the “darling of Asia” that PNoy boasted of during his recent trip to North America (the US and Canada).
In five years in the Presidency, Aquino has been a disaster in every way. He has weakened our tripartite system of government, by Corrupting congress and weakening the Supreme Court.
While already a problem before, corruption has become the cancer of our democracy. Where in the past, corruption consisted of bribery by the private sector of public officials and agencies. Under Aquino, the corruption has mutated into outright malversation and thievery of public funds.
Global race to reinvent the state
This chaotic period under Aquino has placed the country outside the contemporary global movement of nations that seek to test ways to innovate and improve performance in governing.
In a new book published last year, The fourth Revolution : The global race to reinvent the State (Penguin press, 2014), by John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge – editor in chief and managing editor of The Economist respectively – the authors report that there is ever-fiercer competition today between states to figure out which innovations in governing will yield the best results.
Historically, there have been three major developments in the evolution of states, namely:
The appearance of nation-states in the16th and17th centuries, which brought internal order and external competition to Europe;
The liberal revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries, which replaced patronage systems with meritocratic and often much smaller government; and
The Fabian revolution in the early 20th century which created the modern welfare state.
China and Singapore as innovators
The authors report that there is a fourth revolution underway in global politics. Western liberal democracy is in a state of crisis, because of an unsustainable debt burden that Western states are carrying.
For the first time since the middle of the 20th century, the global race is on to devise the best kind of state and the best system of government.
Who wins this contest to lead the fourth revolution in modern governance will stand a good chance of dominating the global economy.
Up front in innovating on ways of governing is China, which has taken giant strides in producing a new model of government that directly challenges the western belief in free markets and democracy.
Also receiving mention is tiny Singapore –which has created arguably the world’s most effective administrative machine.
Both have espoused authoritarianism in governing to some extent.
Philippines in a time warp
The Philippines is nowhere in this global movement of governance innovation because we have not thought about the challenge for over a generation.
Since the time of President Marcos and his experiment in constitutional authoritarianism, there has been little Filipino thinking about innovation and upgrading in governing. It’s as if our nation sank into a time warp by blindly following western precepts of liberal democracy and free markets.
And now here we are overwhelmed and overmatched by the challenge of governing and providing for a nation of over 100 million people.
To return then to my original point, we need as a matter of national salvation, a full review of the state of our state, not just because there’s a move to establish a Moro sub-state from one of its ribs, but because government is failing in its most basic functions in society.
Government today is the most distrusted institution in this country.
In the annual Philippine Trust Index survey conducted by Eon Stockholders Relations, government comes out last in a survey that rates and ranks six institutions: church, academe, media, business, non-government organizations, and government.
Church came out first.