Time to change the system

Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2015 - 10:00am

One of the annual events eliciting varied comments and long winding discussions is undoubtedly the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress. While it is quite obvious that almost nothing useful can be derived from it, this yearly ritual must nevertheless be observed because it is mandated by the 1987 Constitution (Section 23, Article VII).

Actually, in our first Constitution of 1935 under the Commonwealth regime, the President is not required to give such address before Congress. Said Constitution only provides that “The President shall from time to time give to the National Assembly information of the state of the Nation, and recommend to its consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” (Section 11 (5), Article VII). But in the 1973 Marcos Constitution, the President has been required to “address the National Assembly at the opening of its regular session” (Section 6 (1) Article VII). And such annual event has been carried over into the 1987 Cory Aquino Constitution that we still have up to now.

The purpose behind this annual event is really to enable the incumbent President to present the program of government and recommend from time to time, for the consideration of Congress such measures as he (or she) may deem necessary and beneficial to the people. Over the years however, we have seen that all Presidents have used this event merely to show off his (her) alleged accomplishments and /or to justify the failures or blunders committed by his (her) administration especially at the last year of his (her) term.

 So far however, President Aquino apparently stands out as the President who has largely taken advantage of this annual ritual to showcase the alleged accomplishments of his regime and to defend the failures or wrong doings of his administration. This is more evident in his final SONA delivered last July 27, 2015. It is really one grand production similar to an epic motion picture complete with scenes showcasing the glowing testimonials of ordinary people about the benefits they have derived and are now enjoying under his administration. The presentation has indeed spurred so many people to conclude that they are actually produced scenes with hired talents as in movie or TV shows; or at the very least, they are isolated cases randomly selected for the occasion to convince the skeptics and doubters that his speech is credible and not self serving.

Very notable about Aquino’s final SONA is that it lasted for more than two hours. This is a clear indication and an indubitable proof that his speech contains some assertions which are really hard for people to accept as true, and/or that over the past five years he has already lost his credibility in repeatedly telling the people about his tuwid na daan and about his slogan that kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. If he really thinks that people still believe him because of what he has done for the last five years then his speech should not have taken that long. Action speaks louder than words.

Another noteworthy aspect of his final SONA is his apparent self- righteousness and the tendency to blame the past administration for the failures and blunders of his administration. Indeed he skirted some issues which will place his administration in a bad light. It is really quite hard to understand why he failed to appreciate or even mention the heroism of the SAF 44 commandos massacred in Mamasapano when he even cited and profusely thanked his personal tailor and designer of his fashionable barongs in that speech which is supposed to be about the state of our nation.

In the long run and as a final analysis, Aquino’s final SONA may have really given us the state of mind or mental attitude of our public officials, of people in government from top to bottom. It has vividly shown us the alarming political situation in our country today as manifested by the people running the affairs of the State not only in the Executive but also Legislative branch. And this is clearly seen in the happenings at the Batasan prior to the speech itself particularly the red carpet reception that has become a fashion show akin to the Hollywood Oscar Awards.

This particular event before the speech of Aquino presents to us in vivid colors the current political situation in our country. It shows us the kind of politicians we now have who unabashedly savor the trappings of power and wealth. Obviously they now think and act like they belong to an exclusive and elite group of well dressed or well groomed sector of our society, different from and higher than the ordinary citizens especially the poor and the uneducated ones who put them in power. This is the kind of politicians who believe that the bigger number of our electorate will remain dependent on them for as long as they can show them how moneyed and powerful they are in dispensing political patronage. And so they don’t hesitate to display these trappings of power and wealth especially during the SONA.

The happenings before the SONA have also shown us the emergence of another class in our society aside from but similar to the upper class in our present society mostly composed of the business elite constituting ten percent of our population who owns 80 percent of our country’s wealth and resources. Obviously this is due to our present system of government where there is too much centralization of power in the President who holds sway even on Congress by dispensing political largesse. Thus even the local government units have remained dependent on “imperial Manila.”

It is therefore timely that as the SONA was about to be held, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno had convened a “ Summit of Change,” a gathering of leaders of various multi-sectoral organizations and political and economic advocates to discuss the challenges facing the nation today. Dubbed as “Securing the Country’s Future,” the meeting is aimed at revising the Constitution to change our present presidential form to a federal form of government. This is very timely indeed.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com




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