Aquino's Sona 'lacking, repetitive'-A A +A
Monday, July 25, 2011
MANILA (Updated) -- Several lawmakers found President Benigno Aquino III's 53-minute State of the Nation Address (Sona) lacking in substance and a bit repetitive, while others lauded him for his speech.
Aquino delivered his second Sona before Congress at 4 p.m. Monday, amid protests staged by different groups outside the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City and other areas in the country.
In his speech, the President used "wang-wang" -- the local term for a vehicle siren used by officials to flout road rules -- as a symbolism for corruption. He used it as a symbol of how the previous Arroyo administration and its officials often disregarded the law for their own political and financial benefit.
Aquino failed to mention controversial measures including the reproductive health (RH) measure and the freedom of information (FOI) bill, among others. The first intends to guarantee universal access to birth control and maternal health while the second further eases public access to government documents.
With this, several lawmakers said Aquino's Sona lacked meat in terms of legislative priorities.
"What is the priority?" asked Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano noted in an ambush interview after the Sona that Aquino did not enumerate the bills he wants Congress to pass in its second regular session. The 15th Congress opened its second regular sessions hours before the Sona Monday.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said, however, that specific bills can be discussed at the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac), the body that acts as "a consultative and advisory body to the President as the head on certain programs and policies essential to the realization of the goals of the national economy."
One of its functions is "integrating the legislative agenda with the national development plan."
The Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and three members each from both houses of Congress sit on the Ledac.
Asked how he took Aquino's Sona, Estrada said he was "satisfied."
The senator said he agreed with the "wang-wang (siren)" metaphor the President used in his speech to refer to shortcuts and abuses in government.
"We really have to get rid of the 'wang wang' in government," Estrada said.
But Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino said: "As expected, puro magaganda ang narinig natin pero sa totoo lang, yung wang-wang bumenta na yun eh. And for him to repeat that, tila ibig sabihin nito na mukhang di pa umuusad."
He said the key measure to move forward is the FOI bill.
Casino noted that the President also did not discuss issues in agrarian reform, wage, increase in prices of basic goods and services, and the land ownership dispute in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita.
When sought for comment on the failure of Aquino to tackle the RH and the FOI bills, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said: "Sa susunod na lang (Till next time)."
Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay, an opposition lawmaker and a vocal critic of the Aquino administration, thinks that Aquino did not provide solutions on problems on livelihood, employment and rise in prices of basic goods.
Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino, for his part, likened the President's Sona with the sound of "wang-wang", which the youth lawmaker said embodies the empty rhetoric that mutes the "gut issues" confronting the people.
"No word was given on Hacienda Luisita and land reform; wage increase for our workers; regulation of oil and other prices of commodities; social services like health and education; Visiting Forces Agreement and foreign dominance; and concrete anti-corruption measures like the passage of Freedom of Information Act. I cannot help but perceive all his talk against 'wang-wang' as a stratagem to cover up the fundamental issues of the people," Palatino said.
Actress-turned-congresswoman Cavite Representative Lani Mercado-Revilla was expecting more economic programs to be laid out by the President in his Sona, including public-private partnerships (PPPs) - a flagship program of the Aquino administration.
She also advised the Aquino government to not rely on conditional cash transfer alone "but rather on programs that will bring jobs that gives respect to the individual and food on the table."
But Palawan Representative Antonio Alvarez, vice president of the National Union Party where most Cebu lawmakers belong, said it is expected for Aquino to not mention every piece of legislation crucial in the point of view of each legislator.
"To criticisms that it failed to mention many things, of course it did not, because the Sona is not a Noah's Ark of words that can accommodate everything. At the end of the day, he will be graded not for the speech he gave but how he carried out the promises he made in that speech," he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, whose expose on an allegedly anomalous purchase of helicopters by the Philippine National Police was mentioned in the President's speech, said the Sona was "well said."
"Not everything (he promised) has happened, but by and large, I see that there have been some changes," he said.
Senator Franklin Drilon, senior Liberal at the Senate, for his part, said Aquino's Sona was straight to the point: "It said where the country is headed, and where we are now. That's what we need."
Former Presidents Joseph "Erap" Estrada and Fidel Ramos also praised President Aquino's Sona.
"I congratulate President Noynoy Aquino on his first year as President. I believe that he is on the right path as his administration first focused on restoring faith in government," Estrada said in a press statement.
Estrada added that Filipinos - especially his critics - should give Aquino time in restoring faith in government because of the immeasurable acts of corruption, which the administration of former President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo committed.
Arroyo gained the post of former President Estrada in 2001 after the latter was ousted in People Power 2.
Ramos, for his part, said that compared to last year's Sona, the 53-minute speech of Aquino this year was better.
"Itong sona na ito, mas maganda ng kaunti kaysa nung nakaraan ngunit, kailangan pa nating bilisan," he said.
Ramos, however, noted that Aquino failed to provide solutions to the country's poor state compared to other countries in the Southeast Asia and even the whole Asia-Pacific region. "Kailangang umarangkada tayo."
For Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles, Aquino's Sona shows that it is very clear what he wants - to stop corruption and abuse in government.
Cebu Representative Tomas Osmena seconded this saying, "He stated facts. (The speech) showed he is doing his homework. He does not confuse promises with accomplishments."
Pound-for-pound king Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao said that Aquino seemed to have done everything expected of him.
Senior legislator Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meanwhile, rated the President's speech 7 out of 10, saying President Aquino III's examples were anecdotal.
"He has not yet achieved a level of performance where he can say there has been a national renewal," she told reporters outside the session hall of the House of Representatives.
She said Aquino should now craft a national development plan as "most Presidents do," detailing governance beyond fighting corruption.
Santiago said corruption is just one of the problems of the Philippines. She said Aquino should also come up with an economic plan. (Kathrina Alvarez/Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)