POSTSCRIPT / July 23, 2013 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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To the masses, true SONA is in the guts

RATING THE SONA: After an hour of discussing agrarian reform, Hacienda Luisita and a host of other subtopics last Friday, we sprang on President Noynoy Aquino’s uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco the question:

“Off the record, how would you rate the Aquino administration after three years?”

He sort of laughed, reached for a glass of water, and begged: “Any other question?” We laughed with him. He was breakfast guest of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) at our Bale Balita (House of News) at Clark Freeport.

Cris Icban, Bulletin editor-in-chief and CAMI chairman, grabbed the ball and pressed: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the Aquino administration?” Peping, better known now as the dad of champion equestrienne Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, laughed harder.

That, we told ourselves, is the State of the Nation according to the President’s uncle who, despite his having been pushed gently away from ringside in the Palace, is still respected for his instincts and insights into the ongoing game in the political hard court.

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REACTIONS: It is unfortunate that the people do not get the total picture every fourth Monday of July when the President of the Philippines reports on the State of the Nation (and inadvertently reveals also his state of mind).

One’s stomach growls when he is served only pre-selected morsels of what should be a complete and balanced meal. But then, how can we expect a defensive President to tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

It is also useless asking lawmakers, costumed in the best suits, barongs and gowns that taxpayers’ money can buy, as they tarry in the Batasan lobby angling for media interviews on the SONA.

Solons who are already in and those still poised to join the Aquino stables will praise the SONA, while the diehard oppositionists and the Leftists (who will never be satisfied whoever sits in Malacañang) will tear the President’s report to pieces.

A violent reaction, on Commonwealth Avenue leading to the Batasan, was registered in protest marchers’ brushing aside “peace offerings” and friendly gestures of the riot police blocking their way.

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ASK THE MASSES: The best jurors, actually, are the teeming masses even if they were not there in the cavernous plenary hall of the Batasan.

It is enlightening to ask plain folk who have no taste for speeches, who drink tepid coffee for breakfast, must make do with salted rice for lunch, and loathe being served government statistics and commissioned poll surveys for supper.

We dare say that to the greater majority, the true State of the Nation is what hits them in their guts every day.

The poor and the hungry may not readily appreciate claims that foreign investors are rushing in, that the economy is surging at 7.8 percent, that jobs are opening up, that foreign credit raters are giving us good grades and money leaders are itching to lend us more millions, blah-blah.

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DOLES TO THE POOR: Glowing government propaganda just raises expectations that are difficult to meet, given the grim reality of people having to survive on so little.

The National Statistical Coordination Board reports that poverty incidence has remained statistically unchanged at 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012 compared to 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent in the same periods in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

This translates to around 26.8 million Filipinos out of a 96.2 million population who are statistically poor — showing an increase of some 3-4 million from 2009.

Correcting for the official lowering of the poverty threshold to an unrealistically small P52 daily subsistence income, the nation’s poor would number around 38 to 68 million.

The doling out yearly of P44 billion to those listed among the poorest of the poor has not made a dent on the widespread poverty. While promoting a mendicant attitude, doles do not make the poor more productive and self-reliant.

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SCOREBOARD: As this Postscript is being written the day before the SONA, this watcher will just list what he wants to see in the President’s report:

• First is a review of the Road Map wherein the President, like Moses, points to our national destination — where we are going or where he is leading us. President Aquino has such a map, but it seems he and his propagandists are not that excited about showing it.

• Second is a Scoreboard showing at this midpoint, after three years at the helm, the PROMISES made a year ago based on the Road Map versus what have been DELIVERED as of today. There should be some kind of measurement.

• Third is a clearer, and more reassuring, Picture of what lies ahead after the midterm, and a recapitulation of what the President plans to do in the coming year and in the next three years.

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RECONCILIATION: This tired watcher reiterates the wish for the President to take his SONA as the occasion to open wide his arms, embrace all sectors and plead earnestly for national unity and reconciliation.

The battered nation needs political and moral healing for faster economic progress. The President himself can benefit from reconciliation as he clambers over the hump to slide toward the concluding half of his term.

The nation and the President gain nothing by his continuing to be in political-combat mode. The 2010 campaign ended three years ago, and people are getting weary waiting for the promised deliverance from want.

Political vendetta must stop.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 23, 2013)

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