THE Philippines is in bad shape. That is the state of the nation. Would we be better if we’re under the administration of politician X? We can’t say for sure. Many of our problems are perennial. They’re like congenital diseases.
So there is nothing to look forward to in today’s State of the Nation Address (Sona). Other than the fact that it is a mere fulfillment of what the Constitution says, there really is nothing special with it. The people are in the best position to say the "state" not just of their nation but of their lives. In fact, it would be better for the government to listen to the daily miseries we’ve been experiencing since March.
For sure the scriptwriters of the Executive won’t run out of words. In this country, beautiful words and promises are as abundant as the garbage in our landfills. Needless to elaborate, these words are not worth believing; they’re not worth the attention even – in the very first place.
And then there is the anti-terror law. I guess that the chances of it being mentioned in the Sona would be around 90 to 100 percent. It would be a great mistake in my forecast if the president won’t say anything about it. I’d like to make it clear that I am not passing any judgment on the contents of the law. Petitions are now in the Supreme Court and hopefully, the highest magistrates would still exercise their power keeping in mind and heart that justice is a fundamental virtue in any political system. What I would like to say is that it would be a big disappointment if, in the middle of this pandemic, much of the rhetoric would be spent in defense of the said law.
Another possible topic of the Sona would be the national budget. With this, and in the most likelihood, will be promises of more stimulus packages or subsidies. But just the same, I don’t find this fascinating not until and unless we will see concrete gains and returns.
Lots of things are happening at the grassroots level and they may be unknown by the higher-ups. The way goods or "ayudas" are distributed evidences bad planning. Strategically it does not even comply with the safety standards which we ought to follow. People are considered merely as warm bodies that are worth counting for the next election. Until and unless we stop this way of reducing constituents to commodities, surely this country will never improve.
I am almost sure that part of the Sona will be a lecture on discipline. Again, this is nothing new. When a government (any government) would fail to deliver its promise, it would always pass the blame on to the people. Of course, it is true that in general people are unruly. It would be unnatural if they are not. This is, in fact, an old postulate which is at the core of the very theory of the origin of State formation and thus the necessity of political obligation. It was Thomas Hobbes who said that man’s “state of nature” is “a state of war.” He added that without force imposed by a central authority, men and women are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. But what do we get if we keep on repeating this? We are tired of hearing descriptions about who we are, what we want is a way forward, a brighter future of what we can be.
Then there’s ABS-CBN, separation of Church and State, no vaccine – no schooling. These may be covered by the Sona. But again, and just the same, they are relatively old, boring topics.
It has been said perhaps for a thousand times that we are in a new normal. But if there is anything in this country which I see has difficulty adapting the new normal – it is none other than our politicians and the politics they play. In this country where politics is as old and as nasty as prostitution, I am not optimistic that we will be going somewhere in the years to come. There are signs of promises and hope. Hope springs eternal they say. But sometimes we also need to distinguish hope from illusion. If only to wake up to the reality which we must face, we must destroy the illusions and the false promises that go with them.
I used to require my students to listen to the many State of the Nation Addresses in the past. And I would, like many other teachers, ask them to write their reactions to it. But I guess this is something I am not convinced of asking anyone to do this year. Maybe it would be good to listen to the things "unsaid." The state of the nation is in no measure about the real condition where we are in. On the contrary, it is a manifestation of collective political psychosis.