A news report said that President Benigno Simeon â€œBSâ€ Aquino got a total of 120 claps while delivering his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress. In Philippine society, such trivial detail seems important enough to be highlighted. It is crucial to let the public know that the President is still popular particularly since he was only voted because he had a popular name. One canâ€™t help but think that the clapping audiences, which is composed mostly of members of Congress, are just perpetuating President BS Aquinoâ€™s delusions of adequacy.
There was nothing in the Presidentâ€™s one-and-a-half-hour speech that could have merited such thunderous applause. His speechwriters for the last two years have never been known to use the sorts of words that might send the audience leafing through a dictionary in the first place. The premise of the speech is not even original. The English translation of his SONA revealed that they used the famous quotes â€œIf not us, then who?â€ and â€œIf not now, then when?â€ Those were the same quotes US President Barack Obama used when he was still campaigning for his health care reform. BS Aquinoâ€™s speechwriters seem to be in the habit of looking to President Obamaâ€™s speeches and slogans for inspiration. We recall that the words â€œhopeâ€ and â€œchangeâ€ were very much part of Noynoyâ€™s campaign slogan prior to the 2010 election.
President BS Aquinoâ€™s SONA and the reaction in the gallery confirms what some have been thinking all along, that BS Aquino is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others. It was said to have been the longest by a Philippine president since the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. But the length of his SONA did not make up for its lack of substance. The men and women in Congress probably thought that at least the length of his speech made spending a fortune on dressing up a little bit worth it. They got more airtime parading in their Maria Clara gowns and expensive Barong Tagalogs that donâ€™t even look special on TV. One wonders why they even bother with the pomp and pageantry every year. Itâ€™s probably their way of keeping the masses in their place.
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The publicâ€™s interest in what BS Aquino had to say seems to have waned or lessened this year. The GRP blogsite statistics indicate that there were less people who searched for his SONA compared to previous years when search engines sent site stats through the roof. It seems like most Filipinos did not want to waste their time reading his SONA anymore. Well, his first and second SONA pretty much contained the same theme of blaming the previous administration to make himself look good anyway. The lack of interest in what the President has to say indicates that Filipinos have once again become apathetic about how the country is being run.
The last three SONAâ€™s have muddled everything Filipinos know about the blame game in the Philippines. Now that there is supposedly no corrupt President to blame, BS Aquino still manages to get away with blaming previous President Gloria Arroyo (GMA) and every other GMA-appointed public servant for his administrationâ€™s own shortcomings. Yes, P-Noy still manages to blame everybody else but himself regardless of the fact that he is still using GMAâ€™s policies until now and has not introduced any radical measures that can actually distinguish his stint in Malacanang from the rest of the previous Presidents before him.
BS Aquino does not fail to mention how GMAâ€™s nine years were â€œwasted yearsâ€, never mind that as previously mentioned, leaked reports courtesy of Wikileaks confirmed that world leaders in China and the U.S. say GMA was perceived to be a good leader because she was someone who was in control of the situation in the country. To wit:
Online whistle-blower WikiLeaks leaked the diplomatic cable â€œProgress in the Philippines, but More Neededâ€ detailing discussions on Southeast Asia between Eric John, then US deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP), and two senior Chinese diplomats. The leaked cable was dated March 5, 2007.
Hu Zhengyue, then Chinaâ€™s Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general for Asian Affairs, discussed with John his countryâ€™s efforts in dealing with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.
â€œBeijing sees President Gloria Arroyo as a good leader because she has shown that she is in control.â€
DAS John agreed President Arroyo has stabilized Philippine leadership and enacted strong fiscal and economic policy, but stressed that Beijing and Washington must encourage Manila to continue working hard to promote transparency and good governance, according to the leaked diplomatic cable.
President BS Aquino cited the excellent performance of the Philippinesâ€™ stock market as proof of the effectiveness of his economic and investment policies. However, stock markets are all about perception. The Philippine media that is very biased for the incumbent President created all this positive perception surrounding him. This positive image reverberated across the globe. The positive image gives investors more confidence to invest in the country.
But if you think about it, if the mainstream Philippine media was responsible for giving BS Aquino or the Philippines a positive image, they were also responsible for giving GMA or the Philippines a negative image and driving away potential investors as a result. Headlines like, â€œFailure of elections will benefit GMAâ€ or â€œAnother Arroyo dinner to cost $15,000.00â€³ also reverberated around the globe. Such articles were not even worthy of front-page news and were also written in styles befitting tabloids and not the broadsheets they appeared on. In short, the uncertainties induced by the media during GMA’s term made foreign investors jittery or gave them unfounded anxieties. The â€œbusiness confidenceâ€ we see now is all thanks to mediaâ€™s reduction in much of the ado they made about nothing and have very little to do with BS Aquino.
Before he even stepped into office, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) registered a growth of 7.3% for the first quarter following frontloaded tax payments and an average inflation rate of 4.3%. Let us give credit where credit is due â€” to the whole lot of factors including president Arroyos policies, global economic recovery, increased remittances and increased consumer spending.
The President promised to create more schools but these will not be enough to train people to help them become more entrepreneurial. Our manufacturing sector seems to be irreversibly descending a slippery slope and can no longer compete with those in China, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. Besides, the President also needs to address the reality that it is in our cultural DNA to be less competitive than other ethnic groups.
BS Aquino’s lack of enthusiasm in addressing calls for economic reforms can be construed as wanting to ensure that protectionism remain entrenched in the country. After all, he is the son of the former President who was instrumental in forging the protectionist clause in the Philippine constitution in 1987, which guaranteed the ruling elite’s domination of the Philippine market with their low quality products and services.
As Jesse Ang, country representative of the World Bankâ€™s private sector arm International Finance Corp, said in a previous article, â€œPhilippine govâ€™t asked to end protectionismâ€:
â€œThe country should â€œopen upâ€ more, as many of its neighbors were doing that and in an aggressive manner.â€
â€œWe really need to open up. If the gates are open, then we should take advantage of it,â€ he said in a recent forum. â€œWe as a country have used protectionist policies for far too long. Thatâ€™s why our industries are not competitive. We should join the bigger market. This is the way the worldâ€™s going. We really need to learn to compete.â€
From the same article it was mentioned;
Asian Institute of Management Policy Center associate director Lai-Lynn Barcenas added that the country also needed a â€œcohesive industrial development, trade and competition policy.â€
To boost the countryâ€™s competitiveness, she said concrete steps would have to be taken to improve the countryâ€™s energy infrastructure, road networks, and other infrastructure needed to do business.
President BS Aquino might have scored brownie points with some of his detractors for his support of the RH Bill when he mentioned the words â€œresponsible parenthoodâ€ but that will only translate into something if he sticks to his guns even in the face of Catholic Church pressure bearing down on him.
BS Aquinoâ€™s handlers are not helping him to stay grounded on reality when they highlight the success of his SONA. By praising him for having done nothing significant as the leader of 100 million Filipinos, it is as if they act to cushion his every fall. How will PNoy learn to deal with reality then when they keep doing this?
Likewise his talk of leveling the playing field only applies to his own cronies if you look at the number of friends who are now members of his cabinet. And his devotion to reprisals against people even without solid bases for doing so is turning his term into one showdown after another. I wonder how much real work will get done apart from his futile attempts at getting rid of all those associated with the previous administration?
It is not a good sign when the electorate has complete trust in their government. When the electorate does not even question things or use their critical analysis faculties when listening (or not listening) to their public officials, it only means that they are not in a â€œwhat can I do to help?â€ mode. They are more in the mode of â€œwe can trust him to take care of everything for us.â€
The Filipino electorate is indeed dreaming again. They are back in their comfy stupor. They keep going back to being less vigilant every time there is a newly elected head of state.
Indeed, a President that does not plan to exceed peopleâ€™s expectations coupled with an electorate that does not expect much is, shall we say, a match made in heaven.
In life, things are not always what they seem.