The President’s SONA

The State of the Nation Address, a yearly tradition where the president delivers her speech before the joint session of Congress and Senate, is always attended to with a sense of Marxist dialectics.

Offhand, it divides a wedge between apparently only two classes of people – the psychopants the militants, if we go by extremely reductionist drift.

At no time of the year is the dynamics of democracy more graphically demonstrated than when a thick mob of protesters is blocked by thick rows of anti-riot police and military troops and any number of 10-wheeler container vans, fire trucks, military 6 x 6 army vehicles, and APCs are placed across all possible entry roads. Red flags, pennants, and effigies and the skilled political agitators in clenched fists drown patronizing activists and international media observers to their piercing oratories.

Thus, Sona, viewed from within and beyond, mirrors two conflicting scenarios. PGMA does a one-woman show to make official the final draft of her long-consulted presidential speech. At the other end, a mob – and their vocal icons – speaks their minds on the true state of the nation before a demagogue. Thus, society writ large can see two sides of the coin and it is apt for them to judge which version to choose.

President’s sona ought not to be a difficult task altogether. It is easy enough to defend some pro-poor programs that are visible at ground level. Who will forget the food for children program, the one-time P500 refund on electric bill, the cheap NFA rice in designated outlets, the land titles to identified beneficiaries rationalized by presidential proclamations, those checks to families-victim of the sea mishap and other disasters?

No wonder, Malacanang, Inc. – under the skilled care of its spin doctors – is just like any other photo studio outlet. Tri-media takes care of the final cosmetic touch with their editors, broadcasters, and writers placed in secret payroll from Arlegui. In other words, on special events, PGMA can be portrayed in the kindest way possible to her heart’s content.

Even the latest findings of social weather or poll circuits such as the Social Weather Station, Pulse Asia and the like few days or weeks before Sona are entirely tinkerable, if there be a word. However bad, in very real terms, the latest findings of PGMA’s performance and trust ratings have become for the July 1 to 14, 2008 survey by Pulse Asia, still, if compared to that of last year, nothing is really rotten anywhere. Is that statistical trick or what? Such words as – “do not differ significantly” in the context of 2007 and 2008 comparison are really tricks in the book by push-polling circuits.

Funny, but even if we say that one of every two thinks that PGMA’s performance and trust ratings are poor, the analysis as would be given by the president’s advisers will cut across the grain to say – it is not that bad, in the end. Even if the statistical data already tells us that 48% disapproves of PGMA and that 53% distrusts her – this disapproval and distrust ratings – can still be (mis)interpreted in the best of light such as saying that in Visayas, except Mindanao and Luzon, a 30% approval is registered. In other words, in matters political – “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” – that the defense secretary is heard to have said it is pointless to boycott the sona without knowing it.

PGMA has been president long enough in a tricky two-term scenario. On the scoreboard, the more official is the one from Malacanang or is this why there had been at least 20 drafts before the final sona is completed? The military, defense, and police establishment – being all-out on her side – serves as an insurance company that she will finish her term up until 2010. What with upcoming promotions for colonels and generals?

When sonas seem to resolve issues as to why many Filipinos today experience hunger, as to why the price of oil follows a near spiral, why the number of poor provinces or towns were never reduced in spite of fatty pork barrels, then something is wrong in this country. Effigies, grafitti, militant voices – all will be drowned in oblivion with a government vest with so much political power

There will be nothing new about the sona that people do not already know at ground level. As an old year has passed, a new one has begun. PGMA simply makes a grocery-list of what she has delivered so far and a new grocery-list of what she intends to deliver this year after her speech.

UP Diliman, Quezon City email: cellphone: 09164985265