by Darwin Mendiola
President Benigno S. Aquino III’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) for many of his critics was nothing but a mouthful of litany without a substance.
Will his second SONA be different?
I bet to the last cents that PNoy’s second SONA will not be any dissimilar from his first.
If I sense it right, it is just about two things: those that he will say with conviction and those that he will not dare to say in order not to bite his own tongue.
There is nothing in his first SONA that showed any forward-looking solutions that his government is proposing to address the country’s endemic problems.
In fact, PNOy has become strangely passive in office for his first year, acting as if his only task is to discredit the Arroyos and to let the government do its work in a business as usual manner.
But he can’t keep dodging the bullet when there are many critical issues that posed great challenges to his administration.
PNOY will surely throw out the baby with the bath water. To show that he is keen in moving his campaign slogan, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”, he will not miss this chance to expose new anomalies and irregularities of the previous administration that his government has unearthed. He will brandish that his war on corruption is gaining ground.
It is no longer new and surprising to know the extent and magnitude of the PGMA’s misdeeds but what is good in barking without biting. it will best serve the interest of the public if this will lead to prosecution and punishment and not just mere public exposition.
Pnoy will certainly blow his own horn by announcing that his economic blueprint, known as “Social contract with the Filipino people” is on the right track as the economy is fast growing. The Philippine Development Plan or the six-year economic blueprint sums up the administration’s economic direction with its defined strategies and goals for the next six years.
The economists believed that PDP is straightforward. It means – keeping the economy afloat in the globalized free trade while intensifying privatization through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), and implementing social support programs like conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and fuel subsidies.
If economy is indeed improving, do we feel better off? Pnoy’s second SONA may play with figures. But translating it to poverty alleviation will be the biggest question that Pnoy needs to answer.
On peace and security
Pnoy will definitely claim that peace efforts are now in place in the resumption of the peace talks with Muslim and communist rebels.
But human rights groups have repeatedly recommended to the Philippine government to fully observe its legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The continuing attack against the perceived legal fronts of the communist rebels through harassment, intimidation and criminalization of political offense will only squander the opportunity to address the root causes of insurgency.
On human rights
PNoy’s first SONA never said anything about human rights and his government’s commitment for its promotion and better protection except perhaps a passing mention of his administration’s effort to solve the six extrajudicial killings that happened during the first few months after assuming office.
The lack of a clear human rights agenda is believed to be the reason why human rights violations continue unabated.
On land reform
Despite having been the centerpiece program of her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino the agrarian reform program was completely left out from his first SONA. Although, Pnoy mentioned his plan to build grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, road networks and post-harvest facilities for agriculture. But the highly controversial Hacienda Luisita is one issue that he will not dare dip his finger in.
The uneven ownership of land continues to magnifies the uneven social gaps in the society.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programs despite claims of its success has not able significantly to redistribute wealth and liberate the vast majority of agricultural lands under the principle of “land to the tillers”.
On OFW, labor and employment
Despite assurance that wage hike is imminent, PNoy will not go far in his second SONA to commit his government in complying with its constitutional mandate to provide workers a family living wage.
The labor sector has been assailing ever since the big mismatch between the actual needs of workers and their level of income as the wage system is based more on the ‘capacity to pay’ of an employer rather than the ‘capacity to buy’ of a worker.
While a small wage increase will only benefit a reducing number of regular workers due to outsourcing, retrenchment and contractualization, at least three million Filipinos are expected to be completely out of work due to the exodus of returning OFWs. PNoy has no other way but focus on local job generation rather than extending the “labor export policy.”
Whatever are the hypes and promises that Pnoy will say in his second SONA, what we are expecting more to hear is for Pnoy to declare that his government will work not only to improve governance but also to make the economy a foundation for humane and decent living with respect and protection of our fundamental human rights.
That will be music to our ears.