I wrote this commentary for the Philippine Online Chronicles.
Far from summing up the real conditions of the nation, the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino III simply recited in an unadulterated manner the state of his imagination: Poverty incidence is declining. Jobs have been created. School shortages have been eliminated. The victims of Typhoon Yolanda and the man-made calamity in Zamboanga are on the way to a rapid recovery. And the elimination of corruption are but some of his wild claims.
All easily refutable: data on poverty is low because the government’s definition of the poverty line is equally low with only those earning P52 a day below categorized as poor. Unemployment continues to rise in spite of his claims of job generation. And many students continue to suffer from lacking classrooms, chairs, and school books on top of other education woes such as rising tuition and other fees and budget cuts for state universities and colleges.
Thousands of internal refugees in Zamboanga and victims of Typhoon Yolanda all over Visayas continue to live in tents and evacuation centers. Yet the president proceeded to invent some of the most absurd excuses to cover up his government’s criminal negligence and slow response to Yolanda. The tall tale about electricity already back in all Yolanda-affected municipalities by Christmas is just one of his most astounding lies. Even more ridiculous is his boast that the country’s recovery from Yolanda is one of the speediest in the world.
He even had the nerve to blame previous regimes for the failure of agrarian reform under his term: land redistribution is sluggish because his administration was left with giving out land with ‘complications.’ Perhaps he meant his family’s beloved Hacienda Luisita? Clearly, the Filipino is not just worth living for, as a teary-eyed Aquino professed, the Filipino is worth lying for.
All this is nothing new. Except for the obvious appeal to the public’s emotions to hold up BS Aquino’s falling popularity, the fifth SONA turned out to be no different from his previous SONAs.
Without directly blaming former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, BS Aquino began his speech with a reference to the corruption-ridden legacy of his predecessor which his ‘matuwid na daan’ supposedly sought to change. Later on we realized that the role of scapegoat appointed to the ex-president has now been assigned to Aquino critics. ‘I am not the one these people oppose, but the entire Filipino people who are now reaping the benefits of the straight path,’ said the president.
Meanwhile, BS Aquino’s praise of his cabinet members this year is more energetic, a clear message that he will stand by his small gang of ‘Kaibigan, Kaklase, Kabarilan’ amidst the brewing political crisis besetting his administration. ‘We will triumph because we are in the right,’ said the President.
Like in previous years, we still have the standard showcasing of infrastructure projects and pet projects from the TESDA scholarships, road projects all over the country including Aquino’s home province Tarlac, and the controversial Jalaur Mega Dam (which will submerge the ancestral domain of the Tumandok indigenous peoples of Central Panay and deprive them of their homes and livelihood). Only this time we learned that these were in fact funded by the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Far from showing a ‘statesman’ magnanimously offering his legacy to the people, as the president’s media handlers project the speech, the SONA was simply a continuation of BS Aquino’s July 14 televised speech which aggressively defended DAP. But now presented in a manner designed to win sympathy, complete with crocodile tears, a sobbing presidential sister Kris Aquino, and the projection of his term as a continuation of the ‘sacrifices’ of his parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino.
True to form, he repeatedly professed his loyalty to the Filipino people as his boss, and yet in the same breath never forgets to give a nod to his real patrons: ‘we have been regaining the trust of the market, of the world, and of our own people, in government.’ The welfare of the people is equated with the interests of big business and of foreign monopoly capital.
Indeed, as the president declared, ‘there is no doubt: the Philippines is indeed more open for business.’ Only the ruling classes of big businessmen, big landlords, corrupt bureaucrats, and foreign monopoly capitalists got good news from the president’s covering up of the real plight of the people. And it is only for them that the ‘economy and the country are taking off.’
BS Aquino’s advisers couldn’t have been more wrong when they lobbied for the president’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was eyeing the Oscars. But he will need more of his acting skills and publicity gimmicks as more and more people wake up from the illusions conjured by his yellow magic. His role as Thief Executive has been completely exposed. The pork barrel king BS Aquino has no clothes.