Philippine President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino’s last state of the nation address (SONA) was pathetic. The captive audience had to sit through a series of blame-games, videos of individual testimonies mostly praising the current administration and, just when you thought it was over, the President enumerated all the people he wanted to thank for supporting him. It was a long drawn out congratulatory speech thanking and patting his allies on the back. It was actually insensitive of him to talk on and on without thinking of the comfort level of the audience. It was not surprising that he was booed in the end. That booing was actually the best part of the SONA.
I could have won big time had I put money in my prediction that his last SONA would include blaming former President Gloria Arroyo. I mean, it wouldn’t have made any sense for him not to blame Arroyo on his last SONA because he had been blaming her since his first SONA so, why would he stop? He sure did not disappoint in that regard.
But it doesn’t matter how prepared one is to hear BS Aquino blame Arroyo and his other predecessors, it’s still as shocking as ever. It’s so apparent why he wants to paint the previous administrators in a bad light. It’s his way of looking good in comparison. Unfortunately, this tactic of his often backfires. I don’t know if it’s because he is dense or arrogant but he should have realized by now that the people have gotten tired of his speeches focusing on the shortcomings of past governments. He just ends up highlighting the fact that he didn’t do his job to improve the situation. After five years, the people expect him to do something other than complain about his predecessors.
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It would have been nice had BS Aquino given credit to previous administrators as well despite their shortfalls. After all, he is still using their policies. And if they really didn’t do anything right, he would have had a harder time achieving the economic gains he trumpeted throughout his term. The truth is, it was some of the reforms during Arroyo’s term that helped boost the economy that BS Aquino is enjoying today. Just to reiterate a previous point, David Pilling, Asia Editor of the Financial Times in his blog post Philippines: assessing the ‘key man’ risk raises the question of what happens after Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Pilling makes two assertions that bring to question Aquino’s place in history:
(1) Much of what the government of President BS Aquino had achieved over the last four years is primarily attributable to Arroyo’s legacy…
In truth, some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside his administration, particularly at the central bank. Although his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was deeply unpopular and accused of overseeing a corrupt administration, much of the improvement in economic fundamentals can be dated to her government.
(2) Circumstance, perhaps more than policy, has driven economic growth…
Very healthy levels of remittances from abroad and strong domestic demand mean the economy is shielded more than most from external shocks. The country, where half the population is 24 or under, is entering the sort of “demographic sweet spot” that saw other Asian nations prosper.
But BS Aquino doesn’t want anyone to realize this. He wants people to think that the economic “miracle” immediately started on his first day as the President. He probably thinks everyone is stupid enough to believe him. He also downplayed the role of remittances from overseas contract workers as if the country is not relying on these anymore. It’s as if Filipinos are not leaving in droves due to lack of opportunities in the country. He was a bit delusional painting it that way.
BS Aquino also conveniently omits the fact that he put a lot of projects on hold that were initiated by the previous government. Now he is claiming that Arroyo neglected a lot of things. This includes putting on hold the construction of the Metro Manila Integrated Rail Terminal or Common Station among other things. The proposal encompasses the proposed terminus of LRT Line 1. It is the planned interchange station that will connect LRT-1, MRT-3 and the terminus of the proposed MRT-7, which will run from North Avenue, Quezon City, to Araneta-Colinas, San Jose del Monte in Bulacan via Commonwealth Avenue and Quirino Highway.
BS Aquino also blames Arroyo for neglect of the Metro Rail Transit, which has been allowed to degenerate into ruin by his government under Department of Transportation Secretry Jun Abaya. Instead of apologizing for its poor condition, BS Aquino even praised Abaya despite his mismanagement of this vital facility. One wonders if there is some kind of bromance going on between the two because the President can’t even admonish him the way he would someone who is not an ally.
What’s equally appalling about BS Aquino’s last SONA is his use of visual aids showing old scandals linked to the previous administration. He doesn’t care if the allegations against Arroyo have not been proven in court due to lack of evidence; he still wants to show she is “guilty”. This is utter disregard for rule of law. At one point he showed a photo of the previous Ombudsman Mercedita Gutierrez on the big screen. It was that all-too-familiar classic trial-by-media that BS Aquino is known for on show again.
Yes, BS Aquino was again trying to destroy the country’s already fragile institutions by depriving individuals of their right to due process. Only his friends and allies can enjoy the idea that one has the right to be regarded as “innocent until proven guilty”. His goal is to paint his political enemies as monsters so he can look like a saint.
I will leave the rest of the analysis to other political pundits who, as Manila Times columnist Ben Kritz put it, were busy sharpening their knives during his speech.
In life, things are not always what they seem.