Since the nation (or those who are concerned, whoever they may be) is still reeling from last month’s spite-filled SONA by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, I thought it best to publish another scathing essay which I wrote in response to one of her earlier SONAs, her second to be exact (2002).
Actually, the following essay was originally written to be delivered in an oratorical contest by Adamson University’s English Department (now the Foreign Languages Department). I just don’t remember the details of the contest anymore (who the orator was, which particular contest it was entered, etc.).
After reading this essay again, I’m so surprised that –seven years after the 2002 State of the Nation Address– we still haven’t progressed under the Arroyo Administration. Then as now, she consistently boasted of the country’s economic growth in all of her SONAs, but a seemingly undying poverty and discontent are as consistent as they’ve ever been as well. This is not to say that we worsened under her questionable presidency. Pero ang masasabi co lang, hindí pa rin natin naáabot ang La Gloria na ating ináasam…
SKEPTICAL RESPONSE TO THE SONA’S PROMISES: THE WIDESPREAD PERCEPTION OF THE DISGRUNTLED HOI POLLOI
José Mario S. Alas
More than anything else, this nation, like all of the other impoverished Third World countries, is a hoping nation. Insofar as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s second State of the Nation Address, or SONA, is concerned, it is safe to surmise that the masses, however, have all the more reason to become more hopeless upon hearing the annual state briefing. And “why?” is a stupid question to that assumption; just like in last year’s SONA, this year’s version which was broadcast this past July at the Batasang Pambansâ was pelted with an avalanche of protests and cries of disillusionment, despair, and distrust. The president, despite displaying a braggadocio posture while claiming of a “strong republic” topped with numerous economic achievements, no longer have in her manacles the full support, not to mention the trust, of many Filipinos, rich and poor alike. Besides, she took over the reins of our country via a well-organized power grab.
President Arroyo’s unusual rise to power could perhaps give light on why the Filipino hoi polloi cannot fully give their whole confidence to her authority. Whether we admit it or not, she never had the charisma, not to mention the movie star allure of her beleaguered predecessor. Likewise, her elitist-friendly stance and socio-politically harmful foreign policies that are in relation to the national economy further dragged her name down from popularity surveys. The toiling masses’ eyes are keen and open. Their senses are made sharp to social observation because of the hunger pangs that are spurring them to stay alive in this hunger-filled world. It has been like that for several decades, and their condition only gets worse each day. Thus, their bitter existence can never complement the sugar-coated promises and feats of the Arroyo administration. Moreover, I am certain that many will never forget President Arroyo as one of the senators who pushed for the ratification of the notorious General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade back in the mid-90’s.
Let us now, therefore, analyze the public’s response to the president’s SONA. It is de rigueur that a SONA must be addressed to Filipinos regardless of social classes in order to draw out a favorable response. It has achieved, in its final written form, the way to unify each and every sector of a liberal democratic economy, which includes the working class. By emphasizing that a strong republic is independent from sectoral and class interests, which would stand for the benefit of all, and not just for the privileged minority, President Arroyo was successful in evoking a unified response from her national audience. Or so she thought.
The 50 or so ovations that her SONA had elicited during its delivery were dwarfed by a multitude of disgruntled militants who knows better what the real state of the nation is. And those protesters who were at the Batasan gates were seconded indirectly by millions of sullen and vexed Filipinos who were encountering the SONA through multi-media. Still, many of them did not even care to give a small piece of hell on the issue at all. We could already imagine them scoffing and yawning throughout the delivery of that national speech.
Such apathy towards national concerns may be attributed to rhetorical politics that has reached ad nauseam. Certainly, too much politics results into adverse complications. Either it results into social apathy or it could lead to Leftist or opportunistic Rightist continuity. For how could progressive-minded individuals allow such an almost inoperable social cancer to spread throughout their beloved country in wild abandon? All of a sudden, in sheer panic, somebody might think of instigating another EDSA.
Yes, the masses have had enough of politics. The non-productive bickering in Congress which seem to be ad infinitum, the self-interest-motivated sashaying of political fidelities, the existence of an alien éminence grise in our government, and the gaping chasm which further widens the gap between rich and poor is all but enough for the hoi polloi to shout “¡pátria o muerte!” Give me liberty, or give me politics.
So nowadays, who cares to listen to a dubious SONA? Well, last year’s SONA was filled with boldfaced promises to combat poverty. This year, the president said that she had “detailed a long list of measurable targets that would show a government on the move, marking progress by swift sure steps, despite the turbulent state of domestic and global affairs.” She also declared “tangible results in the delivery of government services,” and went on to flaunt the immediate crises that have been resolved.
Surprisingly, though, she did not disclose the fact that more than 5 million Filipinos today have no jobs. Just this April, unemployment rates peaked at 13.9%, a high percentage within the last two years. She also did not acknowledge a Population Commission data stating that 40%, or roughly 32 million people from a population of almost 80 million crises-hardened Filipinos, are subsisting in a shocking P38 daily budget! And a few days ago, the children of a prominent solon were kidnapped!
These, my friends, are just but some of the innumerable manifestations of today’s real state of the nation. This kind of degenerating situation is what President Arroyo blatantly omits during public fora and briefings. But the masses, even though majority of them are unschooled, cannot be fooled. They know the truth, because they are experiencing it. They feel it. The putrefaction, the stink, the lies within this obvious distortion of reality is only made manifest in the grumbling, hungry stomachs and unreachable dreams of the disgruntled masses! I am sure that when the honorable president of this debt-ridden republic was delivering her rhetorical hilarity, the masses were laughing, if not mocking, at her. To paraphrase a line from a popular Freddie Aguilar song way back in the 80’s, “tawanan na lang natin ang ating mga problema.”
Let’s just, instead, laugh at our troubles. After all, laughter is a temporary respite from all this highfalutin fabrications of society.