CEBU CITY -- President Benigno Aquino III has hinted his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) today, Monday, will outline economic problems and “major irregularities” he inherited from the last administration.

But officials in Cebu hope he will also use the Sona to explain clearly what he wants to do in his six-year term.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Representative Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, fourth district) said he expects the new president to define his direction “very clearly.”

“It’s difficult to speculate as to the focal point of his speech… (but) he will lay down his plans for the country for the next six years,” Salimbangon said.

President Aquino will deliver his Sona at 4 p.m. during a joint session of the 15th Congress.

His allies in the House of Representatives hope they’ll have won the Speakership by then. But Aquino’s party mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, has withdrawn from the race for the Senate presidency, expected to go to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile or defeated presidential candidate Manuel Villar.

“We see glimpses of the Sona from the reports from Malacañang,” said Representative Pablo Garcia (Cebu Province, second district). He said he expects the President to discuss proposed solutions to the problems of corruption, joblessness, lack of education, and insurgency.

He also said he hopes in Aquino’s first Sona, “the people will find a reason to hope for a better country. Filipinos need to listen and become aware about the current status of the country and its people.”

The automation of elections, conducted last May, was one of the targets former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo identified in her first Sona in 2004. The first-term congresswoman, however, is not expected to attend Monday’s Sona.

Aquino has said his advisers discovered some major irregularities in Arroyo’s government, and that he intended to use his speech to tell people about them.

“You will be very, very surprised at the things we have discovered,” Aquino said.

But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “there is no intention to spite or to offend Rep. Gloria Arroyo.”

Asked what programs he would like the Aquino administration to emphasize, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he doesn’t want to make demands.

“It’s too difficult to be demanding. It’s not easy to become President. You are asked something and you have only a limited budget. But somehow, we just wish him the best, that whatever he will be saying, he will really ‘walk the talk’,” Rama said.

The mayor is attending the Sona in the Batasan Complex in Quezon City “just to add color” and to catch up with Cebu City Reps. Tomas Osmeña and Rachel del Mar.

As cause-oriented groups and militant organizations are expected to hit the streets Monday, the police have made plans to ensure order.

Cebu City Police Office Director Patrocinio Comendador Jr. said crowd dispersal management teams were tasked to secure the rallyists in their different converging zones.

There will be “a lot of tolerance but a handful of persuasive force,” Comendador said.

Akbayan Party-Cebu and Alliance of Progressive Labor and its affiliate organizations from the women, youth and workers’ groups will hold a rally in front of Sto. Rosario Church at 9 a.m. Monday.

Decent jobs, housing, quality education and the fight against corruption are among the issues the groups will raise.

The group will also protest the Commission on Elections’ decision to let former presidential son Mikey Arroyo sit in the House of Representatives, as a party-list member representing, among others, security guards.

The group will also push for the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

“The work ahead will not be easy over the next few years. Nearly all the funds intended for use over the next few months have been stolen,” Aquino, 50, said Friday in an apparent preview.

A public opinion poll released last week showed more than 80 percent of the nation trust Aquino.

“The problem with that is that there is no way to go but down,” said T. Lloydon Bautista, political economy professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Delivering the Sona is one of the president’s duties, under Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution. (RRF/PDF/JTG/AFP/Sun.Star Cebu)