Should we worry about the state of the nation?

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman () - July 27, 2009 - 12:00am

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will deliver her much-awaited State of the Nation Address today. The public will listen to her final report as the 14th president of the Philippines on the status of the nation at the Halls of Congress. But many still speculate that she wants to hold onto power – so we await the moment of truth.

The President will speak at a time when many Filipinos have lost faith in her leadership. She will be addressing a severely wounded and self-doubting nation. How will she ignite the flame of hope burning in our hearts? How will she make us listen to her words and take them seriously? Will this final SONA (if it is?) make a mark toward building her legacy?

This is the challenge GMA will face as she speaks today to the Filipino people.

*   *   *

So, what will the President say? Be prepared to hear all the good stuff like how the OFW program has sent back an estimated total of $16.4 billion to the country in 2008 – amid the economic downturn and how the gross domestic product (or GDP) growth has been most resilient in Asia this past year. Even if this were true, I strongly feel that this is still the wrong way of pushing a government forward. This sounds more like encouraging slavery. A government must protect its people and their families, not separate them by sending them away to strange lands to work for strange people. Don’t get me wrong but I feel for our OFWs who have left our country to earn a good keep to send their children to school and provide their families a decent life in the Philippines. Why can’t we ever attain a self-sufficient nation where opportunities are available in our own land so that our countrymen do not need to go abroad?

The sad thing about this is that our President in her speech today will brag about how the OFW remittances have helped the economy. Sure, it has helped our economy but it has also destroyed lives and families. It has put a strain to our life. Being away from home and having to work abroad is very difficult to do. I cannot reconcile with the thought of how one can find happiness in another land. These are all sacrifices made by Pinoys and Pinays – our fellow brothers and sisters just because our government (past administrations as well) has not resolved the people’s problems. All our leaders have done is to continue to milk our country’s resources to fatten their bellies. I hope La Gloria not only thanks our OFWs but honors them to the highest with the sacrifices they have made and from which this government has profited from.

With more than 11 million Overseas Filipino Workers spread over Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, other Middle East countries (including Israel) and the rest of the world – we are at risk everywhere. Each time a ship sinks, Filipino seamen go down with it. Everywhere there’s war, Filipino OFWs die or are grievously wounded. They are slain when suicide bombers blow up a bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, or a building in Baghdad, or a hotel in Indonesia. It is even worst for those who die for other reasons and have been recruited illegally just like the 10 Filipino fatalities in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan recently.

Every life is sacred, but sadly, we can’t save them all. All our OFWs in the world’s troubled areas know they are always at risk, but they must go where they can find employment since their families face hardship, deprivation and even starvation here at home.

The President may also talk about her war against terrorism of which I think US President Obama is interested in. Even if our military continue to fight in Mindanao, they will never be able to win this fight for it is not really about a fight against terrorism but a war against ignorance and illiteracy. And since we have not yet been able to resolve the issues we have about public education in our country for the more obvious reasons that it has not been made a priority, then how do we win the battle to alleviate poverty and elevate our lives?

It’s over. We must swallow both our outlandish euphoria and our shame, and strive to recover what we can of our lost credibility in the outside world (and with regard to our own homegrown terrorists here in this archipelago). To stave off future outrages to be inflicted by those who’ve concluded we’re a nation of wimps, we must try to recover despairingly lost ground, and struggle to become strong. GMA has for so long been attempting to picture ourselves as a “Strong Republic”, but we were blown down by the first gust of wind. It’s time to pick ourselves up – and demonstrate we can be strong.

GMA cannot, no matter how hard she tries to charm her way out of the fact that this administration – far from coming to grips with corruption, greed and graft – has encouraged it, the Chief Executive not least of all by her rewarding and promotion of so many blatant culprits. As my dad would say, “ these are harsh words which should not be expressed lightly, but only the blind and the sycophant can leave them unsaid”.

The President of course will never talk about the many scandals that involve corruption in high places such as bribery, foul play, mismanaged funds, scams and weak leadership.

Even if the President will exude with an enormous self-confidence today, many commentators may notice how her confidence is so absolute that it may prevent her from seeing the other side of the issues. As a result, we may fault her for a lack of self-reflection. However, she could use this self-confidence to our advantage by being more open-minded as she leads us through these difficult times.

GMA must remember not to make a similar mistake Bush did during one of his press conferences when the press noticed how his self-confidence was undercut by his hunched shoulders, his halting answers, his querulous tone, and his defensive posture. His self-confidence seemed to be at odds, therefore, with his non-verbal ‘conversation’ with the audience. When we see this kind of internal tension, we tend to assume that there is something inauthentic going on.

They compared Bush to Obama’s stance. Obama has self-consistent body language. His self-confidence is supported by his erect posture, his ready smile, and his confident tone. The package appears to be authentic.

We need to elevate the standards of public service to attain quality. This will only be possible if presidents are able to serve with honesty and integrity. We need leaders who will be true to every word they say during election campaigns, leaders who will set aside personal ambitions for the good of the people, leaders who are God-fearing, leaders who, like Ninoy Aquino can say, “the Filipino is worth dying for”.

Here’s wishing good cheers to the President. As the old saying goes, “Break a leg” – uhh! Well, I did not mean that literally!

CHIEF EXECUTIVE HALLS OF CONGRESS LA GLORIA MIDDLE EAST NINOY AQUINO OBAMA OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS PRESIDENT SELF
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