I stand corrected. Last night I issued this rather glib tweet: “So what do we at GRP do now? We predicted EXACTLY what #PNoy was gonna say in #SONA2014. #NoChallenge”.
The fact is, Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered before Congress yesterday, did leave out a few things we predicted he would say in our otherwise prescient pre-SONA articles published last weekend…
(1) He did not blame the previous administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his troubles; and,
(2) He did not make any further attacks on the Philippine Supreme Court in retaliation for their ruling his Disbrusement Acceleration Program unconstitutional;
…at least explicitly.
Trouble is, President BS Aquino continued defending the DAP. And it was an embarrassing sight — like a schoolboy stammering out an excuse for not having done his homework. The SONA, in essence, was like one big dog-ate-my-homework speech — a piece of wordsmithship befitting a mere administrator more than that of a statesman or leader worthy of that lucrative seat in Malacanang. Rather than communicate a vision, President BS Aquino’s SONA enumerated minutiae that would probably interest accountants and other such anal-retentive folk.
Considering his is a Showbiz Government and that a lot of the Aquino-Cojuangco clans’ minions are celebrities who did the hard yakka baking in perceptions of substance into the Yellow brand where there was none, President BS Aquino seems to have forgotten that Filipinos elected him because of his pedigree and shimmering Yellow light, not because of his accounting prowess or ability to come up with a coherent development strategy. Evidently, President BS Aquino has forgotten the fine art of eliciting from the Filipino that familiar wistful look to the yonder of nebulous hope that gets elections won — and bags broad public approval.
That’s the whole trouble with the President’s SONA style this year and those that preceded it — all droll litanies rather than well-structured reports. His reference to the future was more a venting of worry over who might succeed him rather than a confident staring down of the challenges that might face him. In this 5th SONA of the Son of Heroes, one can almost feel how much of a pain-in-the-ass having to deliver these speeches might be to a President who assumed the office only because he had to and not because of any higher personal purpose he had set his feeble mind to.
Filipinos do indeed deserve their government. If people are still willing to take this President seriously after yesterday’s song-and-dance then that is a sign that they will probably also deserve the president they will get after 2016. Funny that, considering Filipinos celebrated the birth of the 100 millionth Filipino yesterday. This has now officially become a country of 100 million that cannot produce even one good president.
So the SONA took all of almost an hour and a half. That’s quite a long time to essentially just say that the DAP is really a nice thing despite what everyone else says. But while the President went to great lengths to enumerate positive aspects of where the country was headed, he failed to make a convincing case that these were all outcomes of what he did and what policies he implemented. Indeed, to that assertion, we can simply defer to Mr Jose Enrique Africa, executive director of the Ibon Foundation for a reality check…
One-third of the DAP or Php49.8 billion went to virtually no-impact spending – consisting of equity infusion or payments to financial institutions, landlords and big business, Africa said. He cited the P30-billion DAP fund that went to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as one of the examples of no-impact projects. He said that a check with the BSP annual reports revealed that only P31 million or 0.1 percent of the total amount received by the BSP was given as credit to small and micro entrepreneurs.
A total of P10.17 billion from DAP went to the pockets of landowners and big business, Africa said. Of this, P5.4 billion was used by the Department of Agrarian Reform to pay 4,000 landowners, including the President’s family for Hacienda Luisita land. The P4.1 billion for the Department of Education was used as advanced payment for the two private companies engaged in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) school building program. The remaining P630 million was used by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for payment of right-of-way claims.
Twelve percent of the DAP went to low-impact spending, Africa said. These included the P10.4 billion of DAP used to pay for foreign services, foreign goods and equipment. One of these is the P450-million Jalaur River multipurpose project. Africa said the amount was used as an initial payment to Korean corporations for the pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Even if this spending did manage to stimulate the Philippine economy to perform, stimulus by and in itself is not development spending in the real sense (in most cases, it really is more of a spending of last resort). Indeed, laying the groundwork for the building of a strong country need not even involve big bucks spending. If President BS Aquino was, as he insisted, worried about whether the “reforms” (albeit the existence of which remains debatable) he’s supposedly implemented could be sustained past the end of his term, he could have stepped up as the country’s premier champion of institutional strength. But he did not do that. He did the opposite. He, instead, turned the Philipine government into a war zone, pitting his office against the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court against Congress. Specifically, his refusal to recognise the unanimous SC ruling on the unconstitutionality of the DAP may go down in history as the biggest legacy of infamy of his regime.
Interestingly, President BS Aquino’s 5th SONA kicked off with an expression of his pathological fixation on defending the DAP and ended with an ironic reference to the very aspiration of the Republic he had undermined because of it, “The future we desire is on the horizon: one where justice reigns supreme, and where no one will be left behind.”
Last I heard, justice reigning supreme, starts by respecting the justices that make up the Supreme Court of the land.
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