Wenceslao: Sona blues

Candid thoughts

I PURPOSELY did not watch President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona). Two things. One, I retired from journalism work in February yet. Two, gone are the days for me when Sonas generated interest because I wanted not only to get a glimpse of the state of the nation but also of the ability of a President to inspire the people via the spoken word.

When you’re a journalist, you are forced to brush up your knowledge of current issues because that is your job. When you are a retired journalist, you get leisurely. So what if I don’t hear the President’s voice during the Sona anymore? There is no longer any urgency there. Or so what if I don’t see on live television what Sen. Nancy Binay is wearing during the Sona?

Which brings me to my other point. The late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was hated, but one cannot accuse him of being a bore when he delivers speeches, like those lengthy Sonas. I am referring here only to form and not of content. After all, what could Marcos tell the people after years of overstaying his welcome in Malacanang?

The presidents that succeeded Marcos lack his speaking skills but they tried to make up for it by pretending to be substance-based. Or in the case of the current chief executive, by putting a good dose of jokes and expletives in the Sona. But the truth is, a President’s speech can be interesting even without expletives--if he or she has something substantial to tell the people.

My interest in Sonas actually got snuffed out the moment President Duterte hired film directors to “direct” his Sona. I thought the merger of politics and showbiz was complete. After the country had Joseph Estrada as president, we now have a wannabe Erap and Fernando Poe Jr. as his successor.

But here are my thoughts on a few of the Sona topics that got picked up by the media, like the issue on the West Philippine Sea. It’s good that fact-checkers immediately corrected some of the misimpressions spread during the Sona, like the claim that since China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea, we could no longer be assertive as far as our claim to the said territory is concerned.

Variations of the same theme, actually. Or should I say there is nothing new there. From the President to Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the word is “surrender.” But then, we could not even defend ourselves from the flood of Chinese workers now taking over many of the country’s jobs.

It’s good, though that the President supposedly no longer talked about federalism. Perhaps he took a cue from his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara, who correctly pointed out one major flaw in the proposal: the control by political dynasties of many political enclaves in the country. But while federalism got lost in the passing, the death penalty wasn’t.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III immediately painted a bright future for the death penalty bill that will soon be thrown into the legislative mill after the President mentioned it in the Sona. Our move backwards continues.


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