Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Noynoy Aquino's SONA and other silly politicians' stunts

As expected, President Benigno S Aquino III delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress yesterday. The Constitution requires him to do so. The President has the right to appear before Congress in other times he sees fit. But that doesn't happen often. It usually happens if there is a national crisis.

So for people who ask, why he had to deliver a SONA barely a month into his term, the answer is that the Constitution requires him to do so. A president's first SONA in all respects puts down the Presidential platform of government for the next 6 years. This is unlike the British Queen's Speech at Westminster where the government of the day writes a speech outlining the program of government . The government is always at the pleasure of Parliament and if the government loses a vote of confidence, it has to resign and the Prime Minister has to go to Buckingham Palace and ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call for new elections. One of the first business of Parliament is to vote on the Speech. If MPs don't approve it and asks for it to be revised, then it means the government from day 1 loses confidence and it should resign. So far that never has happened. It would be too embarrassing for Her Majesty!

The Philippines presidential system provides none of that. People and other less than mighty politicians and street "parliamentarians" may have their own SONAs but that neither can compel Mr Aquino to resign and let the Jojo take power. That would be a real shocker!

So I find it quite silly that Senator Bongbong Marcos was asked by ANC what he were to include if he delivered the SONA. I think media is extremely silly. If Bongbong wants to deliver a SONA, then he should run and win the presidency first! But my comment doesn't mean that Bongbong's opinions are silly. They do have sense.

Another silly stunt is to ask Rep Manny Pacquiao, who was at a loss of words to make sense of what was just said.

These are aside from the Congress fashion show, with some ensembles making the silly list without effort.

Noynoy's SONA began with a litany of alleged corruption of the previous Glorious administration. There are an estimated 3810 words in the SONA, 1503 words dealing with the Glorious Mysteries, 1850 words on how to solve some of the problems and the legislative agenda. Narrating corruption accounted for 39.4 % of the speech and what to do without it accounted for around 48%. Not bad, we suppose. However I think the speech is wimpy since Noynoy has listed the alleged corrupt acts and there is no suggestion at all of what to do with the alleged Corrupt One! (Who as reported by the press, has sneaked to Hong Kong out via PAL's Mabuhay Lounge!)

If Noynoy had more sense, then there would have been a statement of what to do with corrupt government officials and not just what to do with tax evading pawnshops. If Mrs Corazon Aquino had been magnanimous in victory, her son Mr Noynoy Aquino has little sense of what to do with his victory. It is not enough to make criminals accountable under a Truth Commission. Noynoy Aquino has to take cue from Thomas More, who said that the best threat against criminals is to "threaten them with Justice". Paradoxically justice cannot threaten innocent since it presumes all charged as one until the sentence is read out in court and the guilty are punished.

The public are no longer shocked by corruption revelations of the political elite which Aquino belongs to. What the public will find shocking is that someone from that class will be sent behind bars with our possibility of parole and with no presidential pardons. Too many of the lower classes have been sent behind bars sometimes on the flimsiest of evidence.

I agree with the Left that Aquino has placed agrarian reform low on the priorities scale together with other important issues like debt servicing, science and technology, environment and governance. I don't see any radical changes on these issues in the Noynoy presidency. Aquino just places all of these in the basket of 'reviewing all laws". That would take ages unless Aquino prioritizes what is truly important.

Aquino proposes reviewing the 1935 National Defense Act which is the first act of our nation in expressing our sovereignty. Aquino does not say which part of the Act needs amendment. If the amendments will ensure a more responsive and well trained Citizen Army, then I will support it.

With respect to peace talks, Aquino should insist on complete disarmament of all non-state combatants instead of focusing on their criticisms of the government. He should be aware and constantly reminded of the roots of insurgency which has to do with land.

Well this is Aquino's first year. Now to see what his proposed national budget contains!

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