POSTSCRIPT / July 26, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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State of the Nation? Just look around you

IT MIGHT be best for President Noynoy Aquino to just deliver his final State of the Nation Address in a telecast from Malacañang instead of reading it tomorrow right at the plenary hall of the Batasan.

That way, the President can spare the nation’s capital the monstrous SONA traffic gridlock, the barbed wire entanglement and the wall of container vans thrown around the Batasan, the millions in taxpayer’s money splurged on the designers’ barongs and gowns of lawmakers, the P2.5 million to feed the perfumed guests, and the fielding of 5,000 policeman and 2,500 soldiers to face the protest marchers.

Besides, unless President Aquino has been keeping a big secret that he now wants to reveal for shock effect, there is nothing new that he can report to the nation. The mass media have done a thorough job documenting the true State of the Nation.

All that plain Juan dela Cruz has to do is look at his family’s quality of life, look around, and check media reports.

No need for Powerpoint razzle-dazzle. Just look at scavengers sifting through garbage, vagrants sleeping on the sidewalks, waifs begging at street corners and eateries, family elders looking for elusive jobs, squatters fighting to keep their shacks, calamity victims huddled in tents while billions in rehab donations lie hidden somewhere – and you get a glimpse of the sad State of the Nation.

No need for glowing statistics and ambitious plans. Just look at the long lines of commuters waiting for the decrepit MRT cars and then walking back to the station when the train stalls. Claw your way through Metro Manila’s traffic mess, scream at transport officials mismanaging the mass transit systems – and you see another tragic aspect of the State of the Nation.

No need for such slogans as “tuwid na daan” and “kung walang korap, walang mahirap”. Just watch how sadists in power hound their political enemies while turning a blind eye to the big-time thieves around them – and that is another snapshot of the corrupted State of the Nation.

No need for listing promised foreign investments and citing the credit upgrades by the Shylocks of the West baiting the Philippines into borrowing with abandon. Count with your fingers the foreign direct investments that have set up shop and opened up jobs – and you see an illusory aspect of the State of the Nation.

No need for the siren song of peace. Watch how Muslim Mindanao is being sold piecemeal, how elite police commandos were led to a massacre by their commander compromised by a ceasefire with rebels – and you see the State of a Nation being dismembered.

Deliver SONA from Malacañang?

LET’S simplify and get real. We should have recast tomorrow’s SONA extravaganza at the Batasan and asked President Aquino to deliver his address from Malacañang and beam it by TV to the Congress and to his “bosses” awaiting his final report.

Senators, congressmen and guests can still assemble at the Batasan and watch on giant screens the President delivering his farewell SONA from the Palace. That will be less stressful and less expensive for everyone.

But can officialdom and the rest of the ruling class be deprived of their annual July event? And will lawyers not argue that the SONA is mandated by the Constitution and tradition to be delivered right where the lawmakers are assembled?

• Article VI (The Legislative Department) says in Section 15: “The Congress shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session, unless a different date is fixed by law xxx.”

It says “shall convene”, meaning the Congress must convene once every year on the appointed fourth Monday of July, etc., traditionally with the two chambers in joint session.

• Article VII (Executive Department) says in Section 23: “The President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”

It says “shall address”, meaning the President must address the opening of the regular session. Nothing is said about a “State of the Nation Address”.

But Section 23 does not specify where the president must speak from: standing behind the podium, or ten meters from the first row of lawmakers, or 10 kilometers away from the building, or from the presidential palace?

Even if the minutes of the Constitutional Commission may show that the presumption was for the president to stand before the assembly, creative construction can justify, in the higher interest of the public, the president’s now addressing them from his Executive office using teleconferencing systems then unknown when the Constitution was ratified in 1987.

Free cleft lip/palate surgery for kids

IF YOU or a friend has a child six months to two years old with a cleft lip or palate, you can have that defect corrected for free on Aug. 5-13 on the US Navy Mercy Ship docked on Subic Bay.

Call the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) at landline 045-4580027, or cellphones 0917563314 and 09998847060 for assistance. The mission, which can accommodate at least 200 patients, is a project of the KDF, Operation Smile, the Rotary Club and SBMA.

KDF executive director Sylvia M. Ordonez appeals to parents to bring their children in need of help to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) gymnasium on Aug. 5 for screening and scheduling of surgical procedures.

Free transportation to Subic will be provided also to patients and their care-givers who will go on Aug. 5 to the KDF-Jesus A. Datu Medical Center in Barangay San Vicente, Bacolor, Pampanga, according to Ms. May Shilton, past president of the Rotary Club of Mabalacat City and overall mission coordinator.

Indigent patients/care-givers will be sheltered for free at the SBMA Convention Center before and after the surgery, Ordonez said in last Friday’s forum of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) co-sponsored by the Clark Development Corp. at the Holiday Inn-Clark Philippines.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 26, 2015)

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