I would have wanted to hear his policy directions for the last two years of his term, which he had nothing to say about. Still, PNoy’s latest State of the Nation Address the other day was decent.
To begin with, four years into his term, PNoy finally ceased passing the buck to anyone. Gone were his annual complaints that much of the problems that his administration faced were created by his predecessor. While he still had stinging rebuke for his critics- as if he deserves only praises, at least, this time, he did not say that the problems of his administration were the creation of other people.
There too was a tacit acceptance of defeat as far as the controversial DAP is concerned. We discern this from two of his statements: one, that he will ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget for items covered by DAP; and two, he will ask Congress for a definition of “savings”. It would appear that after taking flak even from his own allies and the yellow PR machinery itself, the President has finally admitted, albeit impliedly, that the DAP is flawed. As a counsel for Petitioner Belgica in the case where the Court ruled DAP to be unconstitutional, we have always argued that in lieu of DAP, the Executive should have gone to Congress for a supplemental budget to fund the projects funded by it. We pointed out that in the case of Yolanda, all that the President required was two weeks to pass a supplemental budget. This after is the fringe benefit of controlling both Houses of Congress.
Anent the definition of “savings”, the President’s desire for a legislated definition certainly confirms that as currently defined by law, savings pertains to leftover sums after a project has been competed or abandoned. This does not currently cover the administration’s substitution of its judgment for what projects should proceed outside of what is provided in the appropriations law. Dean Raul Pangalangan observed on national television that the President’s second remark on DAP mirrors the administration’s position in its Motion for Reconsideration that “savings” is defined by law and not by the Constitution. Be that as it may, the fact is that his declaration that he would ask Congress for a definition is an admission that its own definition of “savings” as nullified by the Court lacks legal basis. Why else would he ask Congress for a definition anew?
It helped too that the President became magnanimous in the case of “Tanda”, “Sexy” and “Pogi.” He could have claimed their incarceration as a victory for his administration but rightfully desisted from doing so. First, because it is uncertain whether the prosecution of the three will actually warrant a conviction on the basis of evidence gathered by the Executive department through the Department of Justice; and two, whether the proceedings will conclude seasonably, or at least during his lifetime, even if it is certain that it is not going to be in the lifetime of all the accused. To claim the prosecution of the three would also have been wrong since until proven guilty, they enjoy the presumption of innocence.
Yes, this Sona was decent. Still, the President did leave out a lot of things. There was no mention for a second straight year of the Ampatuan massacre case and whether he can promise its conclusion during his administration. There too was no mention of the Freedom of Information law which he promised to support when he was campaigning. Likewise, there was no promise to repeal EO 464 which prohibits the appearance of Cabinet officials before legislative inquiries without permission of the President. There too was no policy direction on why he is not supportive of efforts to extend the life of Carper, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law which expired this year. And while I am sure foreign policy prudence was behind the absence of the West Philippine Sea issue in the Sona, the President should have assured the nation that we continue to be ever vigilant in the defense of our national territory.
I twitted during the course of the Sona that when all else failed, the President invoked the name of his dearly departed parents and resorted to tried-and-tested tears. That was the highlight of the Sona. For as he parries criticisms of the DAP, the President invoked the imagery of the democracy icons – his parents. He repeated their words that “the Filipino was worth dying for”. What he omitted is the fact that Filipinos are in fact, dying: from extralegal killings, enforced disappearances, torture, war crimes, and hunger.
But heck, a speech is to inform and entertain. The tears and the croaking voice was good entertainment giving the hottest telenovelas a run for their money.
Ultimately, what was lacking in his Sona was typical PNoy: what will he do for his last two remaining years in office? His omission of any agenda for the remainder of his term sends the message henceforth, that it’s all about who will succeed him in office. But the more than 700 days remaining in his term deserves an agenda which he should have discussed in his second-to-the-last Sona. The fact that he lacked a road map for the remainder of his term is confirmation that as usual, his governance will be reactive to everyday events rather than attempting to influence how the days will go by.
Oh well, it was a decent Sona. Let’s hope for an equally decent last two years of the PNoy administration. Meanwhile, as Ellen Tordesillas suggests, let’s find ways to both survive and be amused during the last two years of this President’s term.