POSTSCRIPT / July 28, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Sans a contra-SONA, I’ve to rate Noy 88%

IF MOST of what President Noynoy Aquino reported in his State of the Nation Address yesterday is true and correct, I have to give him a grade of 88 percent for his accumulated achievements the past five years until I see other indicators.

And this grade is not only because the President came out pushing for the Anti-Political Dynasty Law mandated by the Constitution – a stand he had kept a closely guarded secret until yesterday – despite the likely resistance in a legislature dominated by political dynasties.

As of deadline, I have no validated contrary figures to disprove the SONA statistics rolled out by the President and the positive conclusions he had derived from them. (Please find the relevant SONA figures in the news pages.)

I do not know if the man in the street who cannot consume or eat statistics feels the same way I now do – assuming Juan dela Cruz out there heard or appreciated the President’s SONA.

It took the President, looking wan and occasionally coughing, two hours and 10 minutes recalling what he has done in the past five years as the country’s general manager. Still, one wonders if he was able to fully communicate his upbeat message to his “bosses” the people.

Yes, the illustrative samples that the President gave were anecdotal and a bit emotional. But we hold on to them until consolidated and credible figures show there is a misleading conclusion derived from his SONA statistics.

His SONA was augmented by videos flashed on giant screens in the Batasan plenary hall and on the TVs in households all over the country.

Assess SONA versus ‘social contract’

LATE into his second hour at the podium, the President took time – to the cheers of the crowd — to recognize the people big and small, in and out of the Cabinet, even his household help, and publicly thanked them for helping him perform his duties.

With bated breath, the crowd waited for the President, as he called out Cabinet members, to announce DILG Secretary Mar Roxas as his anointed successor. But the endorsement did not come, although the President praised the secretary profusely.

We will see in the coming days, and in the election period next year, how President Aquino’s SONA influenced the masses, whose concerns may not coincide with those of the ruling class, Big Business, foreign investors, et cetera.

The SONA is a classic example of a massive message that must be broken down and packaged into digestible portions to suit the interests and absorptive capacity of various target audiences. There cannot be a SONA for all sectors.

More serious observers are expected to rake up the programs and promises — the “social contract” that President Aquino entered into with the people upon his assumption of office in 2010 — and compare them to what he had actually reported yesterday.

That covenant is a fair measuring stick of what the President has accomplished after five years in office versus what he had promised. Someone is apt to do a comparative scoreboard, adding another perspective to the SONA.

We will see in the coming days, and in the election period next year, if President Aquino’s audio-visual SONAregistered well with the masses whose concerns may not always coincide with those of the ruling class, Big Business, foreign investors, et cetera.

SONA a game of numbers, perception

DETERMINING the true state of the nation is mostly a game of numbers – and perception.

In this country plagued by poverty, the economy is the main determinant of the national condition as perceived by the masses. The gut issues of food and jobs color everything.

The glowing statistics on the economy such as those on national productivity and foreign investments cited in government reports remain as cold figures requiring trickle-down benefits to the people to mean anything.

STAR reporter Delon Porcalla had good reason to write on the eve of the final SONA that the President would focus on his achieving “a stable economy with the highest GDP growth in 40 years and second best in Asia after China, a million jobs generated as of January further reducing unemployment.”

As expected, the President claimed an improvement in the local employment situation, resulting in the reduction in the number of overseas Filipino workers from 10 million to eight million in five years under his administration.

The President reported that the improvement of the economy has resulted in the lower incidence of self-rated hunger. He cited surveys showing that hunger levels have been at their lowest in 10 years.

As expected, the President again mentioned the upgrade in the credit standing of the Philippines, serving as a vote of confidence just like the lifting of the ban of Philippine flag carriers in the United States and Europe.

But he skipped comparing the economic performance of the Philippines with that of other ASEAN-5 members (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand). The Philippines is the laggard among these five most robust economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 28, 2015)

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