Nearly six years have passed since Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, son of the late Benigno Aquino Jr., was elected as president. His duties as president involved delivering the annual Talumpatìsa Kalagayan ng Bansâ—the State of the Nation Address (SONA).Today, President Aquino delivered the last SONA of his term. As expected, this final release had the whole nation rife with anticipation as citizens eagerly discuss the topics to be brought up during the address. One such group gathered in the Home Library on N. Bacalso Street, Cebu City.
What seemed to be a casual get-together on the surface turned out to be an in-depth discussion on the possible issues to be raised during the president’s 5th SONA. The group was composed of eight teachers and intellectuals who meet up occasionally to discuss current events, and this pre-SONA meeting was no exception.
Around a table and a plate of bread, the group began conversing about what the president would say in his final message to the nation. This topic led to another, and pretty soon the whole conversation had turned into a discussion about internal politics and bureaucratic corruption in the higher levels of the government.
“A SONA is where the president is supposed to share the state of the nation, but our political history tells us that it has become an opportunity for him to advertise his accomplishments and visions,” said the host, RJ Abellanosa.
Several members of the gathering expressed disappointment in Pres. Aquino’s administration and at his mishandling of sensitive issues like the Chinese takeover of Scarborough Shoal, the 44 Special Action Force operatives killed in Mindanao, and the increasing division between the rich and the poor.
Mr. Abellanosa described PNoy’s administration as typical Philippine politics or more commonly called as “personality politics”. While other countries talk about ideal visions, issues and political parties, ours focus more on names and alliances. “We hear names instead of issues,” he says, “We hear alliances instead of party platforms.”
In Philippine politics, “the old is dying, but the new cannot be born”, for it is said to be deduced from the combination between dynastic and feudal politics. The domination of a particular clan over an area has become a trend even as we trace back to our native roots. This political practice was even coined to be an amoeba that can spread to different units and through different terms.
The ongoing issues our country have been experiencing were characterized by Mr. Abellanosa’s “problems with many hearts”, a phrase used to outline dilemmas that would only create new ones when tried to be solved. Thus, this would only entail an unlimited liability for the Filipino people.
Is the Aquino administration competent enough to be able to lead us through these problems? The answer of the group is no. According to them, there are two factors that would determine the competency of government leaders: bureaucracy and leadership.
“As much as Pres. Aquino is considered to be a good president, he is not a good leader.”Even the people he chooses to work with are mostly mediocre, which lead to the impression of Pres. Aquino’s insecurity as a government leader. However, the problem, according to Chief Justice Puno “is not the captain of the ship, but the ship itself.”
Aquino’s leadership was even compared to former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s. While Arroyo can get things done, Aquino could not seem to demand much, even respect, from his subordinates.
Aquino’s vision of a “daang matuwid” upholds the idea that hisis an administration of change, but was he really able to make a difference? Did he make a significant leap that solved the generic problems in our country such as corruption, poverty, malnutrition and lack of measures against climate change?
In almost every discussion about politics, it would always boil down to the corruption in the higher echelons of the Aquino administration. Aquino, for his part, was able to promote the abolishment of the PDAF in the light of the controversial pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles.
As for the humanitarian response in times of crises, the government has so much to work on and to develop. Typhoon Yolanda and the Mamasapano incident, which took away the lives of our many Filipinos, were the domineering manifestations of their ineptitude with regards to making decisions that would benefit the common good.
Foreign Policy problems also arouse in the conversation in relation to the territory-grabbing China has been doing against the Philippines. Our country had ceased to thrive in almost all aspects including military defense. The need to prepare our armed forces is raising its bar with this conflict against China.
Additionally, according to one of the attendees, it is time for us to stop being latent in the shadows of our “friends” like the United States because if worse comes to worst, we have no one to depend on but ourselves. Ourill mentality towards these possible threats is that “we let others fight the war for us”, so when we are left to fend for ourselves, we tend to be helpless.
Now, knowing what the present administration succeeded and failed to do, what could possibly be stated in Pres. Aquino’s SONA? “Arbitration and hardware bragging,” stated one of the attendees. “Bangsamoro Basic Law,” said one. “K to 12”, said another.
To wrap up the whole discussion, the last question was asked: What do you think is Pres. Aquino’s legacy? There were a couple of answers in lieu with the different bills and laws he approved, but one said, “That one still remains to be seen.”
As the Aquino administration reaches its twilight, so much is still expected to happen. With only one year left of his term, we still wish that Pres. Aquino can create his own legacy, one he really thought of himself. The past five years have not been the best for the Philippine government, but in a country of pessimism, we still have a ray of hope and a cry for change.