President Bongbong Marcos’s 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA): Great Expectations vs Stark Reality

The President Wil deliver his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday July 24, 2023. The pre-SONA information drive of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) has been harping on the positive gains since the first one last year. What has President Bongbong Marcos (BBM) achieved in his first year in office?

The New Agrarian Emancipation Act stands out among the legislation passed by the Senate and House under Senate President Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez. It is landmark agrarian legislation equaled only by the late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos — Apo Lakay‘s Presidential Decree (PD) No. 27 — which declared the entire country an agrarian reform area. But what else after this? Not much.

I had high expectations of Marcos. The hope was that since he had seen what happened since 1986, he’d knew exactly what needed to be done to put the country on the right path again. Instead, there is the Maharlika sovereign fund and the pivot to the US which effectively makes the Philippines the equivalent of China’s reclaimed defensive perimeter in the South China Sea. After he declared martial law, in 1972, Marcos Sr (PFEM) went after the drug lords, the oligarchs, political warlords, and the cartels. The tag line was Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan (“To ensure national progress, discipline is essential”). We haven’t seen any of these from Junior. No iron fist. BBM is more like a CEO than the leader of the country which should’ve been more progressive than its regional counterparts.

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The reality is even Vietnam has passed us by and we are actually regressing instead of progressing. Filipinos gave Marcos enormous political capital but he hasn’t used the same wisely. Marcos has surrounded himself with the oligarchs who supported his presidential bid and hasn’t made it a priority to amend the Constitution, particularly with respect to the economic provisions.

Let’s put it this way, other southeast Asian countries have their share of cronies but they aren’t gatekeepers. In our case, even with legislation passed to liberalize certain sectors, the playing field still isn’t level because there are the corporate political parties and the politicians in the pockets of the oligarchs. Good if they are all investing their profits back in the country but you see them diversifying operations in the region, with some like ICTSI, being global players.

Then there is disiplina. It’s high time that the Pinoy learned about the concept. As it is, it’s been a free-for-all since 1986 which is why we have bedlam in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the regional urban centers. There is no long-term planning. We haven’t plugged the infrastructure deficit and quality of life continues to deteriorate. I can’t “love” the Philippines if the damned jeepneys are still on the roads and what is “Bagong Pilipinas” if there is no plan for radical reform such as a change in the form of government?

The general sentiment is “di ko ramdam si BBM”. Former President Rodrigo Duterte had a mayoral demeanor which is what endeared him to the average Pinoy. In contrast, the “presidential” Marcos is statesmanlike but that won’t get us anywhere. What we need is combination of a statesman and a “bastonero” in Muntinlupa, which is what Apo Lakay was at his peak. You can be a bastonero in barong anyway. The pomp and circumstance is back in the presidency but are we just going to continue to be gawkers at the rich and the famous and the high and mighty? What is it that’s said about the measure of a country having social equality if the rich take mass transport just like any other Juan and Kulasa? The President tools around in a Mercedes in the capital and a luxury SUV when in tbe regions. The optics are good but that doesn’t solve my primary problem of my P1,000 only being able to buy half of a large brown bag of groceries given the present level of inflation.

Our leaders continue to pander to both the rich and the poor to the point that the poor are entitled enough to demand ayuda while the rich dole out charity as consuelo de bobo for the same kind of entitlement they get from their political lackeys. The vicious cycle has to stop if we’re to catch up with our regional neighbors. It doesn’t look as if this is going to be a possibility in the next five years.

One Reply to “President Bongbong Marcos’s 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA): Great Expectations vs Stark Reality”

  1. Arguably the greatest failure of the first Aquino “administration” was the ill conceived “Agrarian Reform” (which she conveniently exempted her own holdings from) which effectively eliminated large scale farming in favor of tiny plots that can in no way produce the amount of farm produce as that of a large farm. To make matters worse, when the small farmer has the usual Filipino swarm of kids, the farm get divided up again and again until they are nothing but tiny garden patches, each one with a shack taking up yet more of the tillable land.

    At this point in time, it would be useless to try to undo all the damage caused by Cory, but there should be some kind of effort made to get small farmers to form cooperatives in order to return to a more economically viable farming effort.

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