The final State of the Nation Address (SONA) proves BS Aquino, his inner circle, and public relations experts not only to be adept at blatant deception and evading pressing people’s issues. The speech demonstrated how the Aquino regime rides on some of the most backward, chauvinist, and reactionary prejudices in order to cover up its incompetence and legitimize its rule.
The structure of the SONA itself, with its torturous duration and spectacle-like aura, basically functioned to bring these patently conservative and politically incorrect views to full play.
The operation begins by portraying a heroic fight between light and darkness with BS Aquino once again bashing the scandal-ridden Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency in order to put his own rule in a good light. This is then followed by the protracted enumeration of statistics meant to impress the gullible.
BS Aquino then segues into a high school valedictory speech-like acknowledgment of his closest political allies, before finally ending with a call to continue his “reforms” beyond his term. Of course, the SONA is incomplete without the customary tribute to his parents, the so-called heroes of democracy.
Arroyo as Scapegoat
“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past,” a truism from Orwell’s 1984 seems to have been overused by Aquino’s PR team here in the vain hope of obscuring his regime’s absence of any significant departure from the programs of the previous administration.
Aquino condemns the Arroyo regime for its declaration of a State of Emergency in 2006 and the political repression of its critics while he himself is a big violator of human rights with 268 extrajudicial killings and 538 political prisoners under his watch.
He cites the Ampatuan Massacre as an example of the impunity with which gruesome crimes were committed by the officialdom of the previous administration. Yet he conveniently omits the fact that prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr. just died even as the case continues to drag on with no end in sight.
Aquino proudly presents the Conditional Cash Transfer as the centerpiece of his administration’s anti-poverty efforts when the dole out program, which is funded through massive loans from foreign banks to be paid by taxpayers, was begun under the Arroyo government.
And even the bad service, lack of trains, and crumbling infrastructure of the MRT-LRT is attributed by BS Aquino to the previous administration almost six years into his term. We are quite simply given the figure of Arroyo as a scapegoat for all the country’s woes.
Deception and Omission
BS Aquino’s more than 2 hour speech steered clear of issues that have tarnished his rule. In spite being his lengthiest SONA ever, the speech was deafeningly silent about the Mamasapano bloodbath, the hidden pork barrel and DAP-like provisions in the national budget, the continuing plight of Yolanda victims, and intensifying human rights violations, among many others.
He dangles the promise of so-called reforms that we can all but hope for, such as the passage of an Anti-Dynasty Law, while expediently forgetting about how he backtracked on the Freedom of Information (FOI) which he vocally advocated when he was still running for office.
An array of detailed figures and minutiae were meanwhile deployed in order to mask the larger picture of the impotence and anti-people character of the Aquino regime.
The president cites a 6.8 percent unemployment rate that has been adjusted so that the calamity-strickenEastern Visayas region is excluded and anyone who do not have work but are not actively looking for a job are not considered jobless.
He proudly boasts about how Filipino workers are said to be returning home in droves supposedly because of more decent job opportunities at home without mentioning that this is most likely a result of reduced opportunities abroad because of the continuing global economic and financial crisis.
The decreasing number of labor strikes is presented by Aquino as a positive sign even if this is caused precisely by the wanton attacks on the labor rights of Filipino workers who are mostly contractuals and hence deprived of the right to form unions, strike, and fight for benefits and higher wages.
No reference is made of the 73 Kentex workers who were burned inside factory quarters that were padlocked from the outside just like the 19th century sweatshops of the London of Charles Dickens’ novels or the Paris of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
Aquino gloats about how his government turned the Philippines into Asia’s 2nd fastest growing economy, citing glowing descriptions of the country as Asia’s “Rising Tiger” even as 55 million Filipinos continue to live on P100 or less a day. Then again, the country should indeed be a “bright spot” for the 10 richest Filipinos whose wealth has tripled from P60 billion in 2010 to P2.2 trillion in 2015.
School for Cynical Reason
In truth, Aquino’s SONA is one of the best demonstrations of how we are schooled in a cynical reason that compels us to simply bear suffering as the best that we can hope for.
Public services are run inefficiently and lack adequate facilities and yet top executives take taxpayers’ money for their bonuses, costume parties, and “epal” early campaign materials. Our country is literally the dumpsite of garbage imported from developed countries like Canada.
But all these are simply the natural order of things that are still the lesser of evils compared to the “violence” of protests and activists. We are admonished to fear Binay’s corrupt dynasty as an aberration while keeping mum on the Aquinos’ dynastic rule.
We are expected to be grateful to the president for his supposed benevolence and repay his kindness by being blindly obedient to his whims and caprices like the way the indebted peasants served their lords in the haciendas of yore that unfortunately continue to exist up to the present.
And we are drilled to carry the burdens imposed by unjust social structures individually rather than uniting to confront common problems through collective struggle. Beyond the meaningless platitudes about reforms, the “tuwid na daan” discourse really teaches us to just accept an unjust reality instead of collectively transforming it.
The last SONA is exemplary of the Aquino regime’s penchant for manipulating historical amnesia, invoking of imaginary threats, and mobilizing feudal “utang-na-loob” and rampant individualism. It shows us a regime thriving on ignorance and cynicism to deflect legitimate criticism and promote its self-vested interests.
Photo by Vencer Crisostomo. Some rights reserved.