“Where’s the road map? Where is tuwid na daan going?” That’s the basic theme of criticism directed at President Aquino’s SONA.
The critics missed the message. More than that they miss Gloria Arroyo, she who always presented grandiose plans with roadmaps that led directly to her bank accounts – a broadband network for the entire country, a railroad from Clark to Manila, roro ports everywhere, fertilizers, health cards, privatization, and anything and everything she could lay her hands on, including leaflets from the PCSO, because, as Jimmy Breslin once said, “The number one rule of thieves is that nothing is too small to steal.”
It’s easy to deliver a SONA with a vision that comes with a blueprint. The world does not lack policy wonks. And President Aquino could have hired a whole school of them to come up with a speech that would give wonks an orgasm. But titillating wonks is not what he set out to do. He was more interested in talking directly to the nation. So he spoke to them in the national language, about things they care about.
(I’ve often wondered why other presidents mix Pilipino and English in their SONAs. Is it because some parts of their speech are only for the English speaking crowd? Or is it because they have not absorbed what they are talking about thus they are unable to express it in their native language?
In fairness to those past presidents maybe they had speechwriters who are idiots in the native language, intellectuals conversant in the language and culture of the colonists but who can’t ask in Pilipino directions to the nearest toilet. No wonder they are full of shit.)
At any rate, President Aquino spoke to the nation about the importance of qualitative change, that how without it we are not going to get anywhere. He reminded the nation of the destructive effects of a wang-wang mentality, how equal opportunity can only become a reality if there is a level playing field, where rules apply to all and players are fit to compete, and how you can have the best hardware in the world but if the software is bad the whole system will inevitably crash.
And so in his first year in office, President Aquino focused on field preparation. He prioritized cutting down waste due to sloppy work and theft, raising revenues through more efficient collection of duties and taxes, and ending the culture of impunity.
Jobs are a consequence of investments. And investments go to countries where there is rule of law because those countries are stable and efficient. Stable because injustice is an exception rather than the rule and efficient because the focus is on ensuring fair competition among fit competitors.
The vision of President Aquino is of a Filipino that can stand on his own. So he is laying the groundwork for an environment where every Filipino will have an even chance of making his dreams come true. That’s all a president is supposed to do.
Now, to those still unable to comprehend what the SONA was all about, I suggest they read the president’s budget message and comb through his budget. It’s the roadmap. I hope they can read maps.
Finally, when was the last time we had a president who was ready to submit his budget on the first working day of Congress? Not bad for someone without a clear vision of where he wants to take the country, right?
Photo credit: REY S. BANIQUET/ Malacanang Photo Bureau