Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's Up Philippines?: On The 2009 State of the Nation Address

[This is my reaction paper for a Developmental Studies cognate. Anyone who copies, dies. >:D]

I don’t usually watch SONAs. Or if I do, my short attention span gets the better of me and I either fall asleep, or wander off and do something else halfway through the address. It’s not that I don’t care about how the country is doing. I just don’t care that much for percentages, pie charts, and bar graphs (even if I was a former almost-Math major). Maybe I get bored because I don’t feel any personal connection with the statistics they present. If one really wants to know how the country is doing, riding a jeepney everyday—with kids wiping your shoes, asking for spare change—sure beats hearing about an “x percent increase in GDP since the last year”.

However, this year, I decided to watch the whole SONA, mainly since it would be President Arroyo’s last (or at least, it better be). The first thing that strikes me about GMA’s SONAs is the never-ending applause. They seem to clap after every sentence. Politics does involve some kissing up (Haha). But seriously, I cannot give blow-by-blow rebuttals about the things she said. I’m rather ignorant about figures, especially in Economics. However, it did make me think about some things.

First off, a SONA—basing on the few that I’ve witnessed—is basically a walk on the bright side of our country’s condition. A State of the Nation Address will talk about everything that went right, and none of what didn’t go so well. Statistics doesn’t mean objectivity, because the president can choose not to tell us about the negative growth rates, the number of understaffed hospitals in far-flung provinces, or such. I think the SONA only describes half of our nation’s status quo.

Second, I think that instead of merely giving figures of isolated projects-gone-right, a SONA could be a good venue to be transparent about the national budget. How come it’s never discussed? We hear about earnings from one industry or another, but what I want to hear about is where those earnings go. Of course, thieving government officials would steer clear of financial auditing in public, but at least give us some general idea.

The last remarkable thing about the 2009 SONA was how it kind of turned into a formalized bashing session of President Arroyo’s critics. The air was so heavy with bitterness (Haha). I guess she needed that, and I don’t really blame her for wanting an outlet. It was absolutely amusing to see. Philippine politics and show business have so much in common, with the crazy publicity stunts and with all the trash-talking. In my opinion, everyone deserves what they get hit with. It’s a dirty game they chose to play. Philippine politics is a lot like a Mexican telenovela: it never runs out of plot twists, but they’re all more or less predictable.

Of course, everyone was also talking about GMA’s vagueness regarding her rumored plans of extending her position as the head of state. It’s a separate issue, but I was expecting her to say something definite as well. However, from what little she said, it looks like she has some fishy plans up her sleeve. Either that, or the president just wants Philippine politics the telenovela to have a mystery/suspense feel.

Actually, I don’t hate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I don’t feel the need to burn her in effigy (or in reality); not even the need take to the streets and rally for her to step down. I think it is helpful that she knows about Economics, and I think she’s better at this job than an impeached, former action star who slurs all his words. No offense meant to others who might not have the same opinion. And besides, before anyone feels the need to burn me as well, I’d like to add that I’m not a Gloria fan either. She’s a lying, stealing trapo, I know. But I think she did some good things too.

I’m just waiting for 2010, when she steps down, fair and square, and I get to vote for someone whom I hope will be a better president. If she tries to extend her stay in power, though, I’ll be among the first to grab a torch. Because all I really know about the state of our nation is that we have the right to choose what happens to it. We won’t let anyone take that away, so I still believe that things are looking up.

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