A SONA means all's well with the country

STRAWS IN THE WIND - Eladio Dioko -

Although there have been a surge of commentaries on President Noynoy Aquiño’s SONA, my piece for today also deals with that subject. But I won’t dwell on what was said nor on how it was said. Rather, I’ll focus on the event itself and its significance.

 Watching the SONA unfold itself even only on your tv screen comforts you with the thought that all’s well with the country and its people. The event is one major ritual in a democracy, and seeing it happening makes you feel proud of being scion of a freedom loving people.

 Freedom and democracy – how easily do we take for granted these aspects of our community life! Yet here in the southeast corridors of Asia we are among the very few who enjoy the atmosphere of a truly democratic way of life. Our neighbors, even the affluent ones like Taiwan and Singapore, don’t have the kind of freedom-inspired government we have. Talk against the government in these countries and you quickly land in jail. Preach a divergent ideology and you end up accused of system sabotage. They have no Bayan there, nor Gabriela, nor a klatch of activists, some of whom (unfortunately) sit as members of our legislature.

 Perhaps, because we have forgotten our history, we have but a faint insight into the long and bloody struggle our forebears waged to win the freedom we now savor. From Biac-na-Bato to Palanan, from Bataan to Edsa, every footstep of the Filipino was stained with blood. In fact, in front of where President Noynoy Aquiño took his oath of office last month our national hero, Jose Rizal, faced the Spanish firing squad.

 One who has read Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo cannot help but feel the ordeal of an oppressed and dehumanized people and appreciate the courage of the patriots who opposed the wicked ways of the Castilian rulers. And one who was old enough to experience the horror and violence sowed by the Japanese military during World War II cannot help but feel exuberant over that seemingly simple event as a SONA.

 I was about six year old when the Japanese bombed Cebu City in 1941. I still remember how fear rode with us as our family took flight to southern Cebu aboard a bus. But even in that far flung place the clammy hand of fear still reached us when one night we had to scamper up a hillside to escape from the terror of the enemy. Fear indeed was an ever- present spectre in the lives of our people when our country was under foreign domination.

 A SONA implies self-rule and democracy and government of the people. It implies too normalcy and security from getting apprehended and killed at the whims of invading troopers like what happened during the war.

 More important, a SONA, particularly that of President Aquino, signals a democratic regime change. To be sure, not many developing countries like the Philippines are fortunate enough to have a socio-cultural condition conducive to such change. In the African continent as well as in eastern European countries regime changes have been accompanied by social upheavals, including armed confrontations among contending political and ideological forces. Massive loss of lives and ethnic violence prevail, and the rule of law takes a backseat.

 For Filipinos, the kind of change signaled by the new presidents’ SONA is change towards transparent governance guaranteed by the new leader’s evident idealism. It is change that kindles hopes among the marginal millions in this country for a better future for themselves and for their children.

 The fact that 85 percent of Filipinos said that they trust President Aquiño, per survey after the SONA, augurs well for the new administration. With most of the people behind him there is no reason why he will not succeed in leading this country to a more auspicious era in the days to come.

 There would be as usual the Opposition, of course. But given the high credibility of P.Noy, their bark this time will not be as loud as before and unity of purpose and efforts will prevail.

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