PRESIDENT Aquino ought to have a “road map for the future,” former resident Fidel V. Ramos reportedly said after listening to the former’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona) last Monday.

It might have been as well that Aquino didn’t do that.

A predecessor did draw a road map during his first Sona and look what happened to him. Addressing the first regular session of the 11th Congress at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27,1998, then president Joseph Ejercito Estrada said:

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“Today, I stand before you with an accounting of the present and with a road map for our future. Nasaan na tayo ngayon? Saan ba tayo nanggaling? At saan ba tayo patutungo?”

Erap would soon discover where he was going: out.

Erap’s Sonas stood out for their bombast. In his second Sona on July 26, 1999, for example, he declared:

“I Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines, with the nation, the world and God as my witness, do hereby reaffirm my unwavering commitment to democracy.

“I stand by my solemn oath to defend the Constitution as president. I will always uphold freedom in all its various forms, including the freedom of speech, of the press, of worship, of assembly and of choice. None of these freedoms are under threat. Freedom may have been lost before. It will never be lost again. Our people will see to that. I as president will stake my life on it.”

The late Cory Aquino’s prose, on the other hand, was elegant. In her last Sona, which she delivered on July 22, 1991, she said:

“None of the good that we do is ever lost; not even the light in an empty room is wasted.

“From Ninoy’s burnt-out candle and thousands like it in cells throughout the garrison state, we gathered the melted wax and melt more candles. To burn-–not as long in such loneliness-–but much more brightly all together, as to banish the darkness and light us to a new day.

“You might ask, when will the President stop invoking Ninoy’s name? My answer is, when a president stands here other than by Ninoy’s grace. And not while gratitude is nourished by memory.

Not while we acknowledge that it was his sacrifice that gave us back our freedom. And restored freely elected office whose incumbent must stand every year in this place.”

Former president Arroyo’s Sonas were, compared to those of Erap, dull. They dealt mostly with figures that support her claim of the country’s economic growth.

She addressed Congress nine times from 2001 to 2009. Her first SONA was also her longest, lasting one hour and six minutes.

The shortest was in 2005 that ran for only 25 minutes.

Her last Sona (on July 27, 2009) was the most combative. “I did not become President to be popular,” she said. Towards the end of her speech, she declared:

“I never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term. Many of those who accuse me of it cling like nails to their posts.

“I am accused of misgovernance. Many of those who accuse me of it left me the problem of their misgovernance to solve. And we did it.

“I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my office for personal profit. Many of those who accuse me of it have lifestyles and spending habits that make them walking proofs of that crime.

“We can read their frustrations. They had the chance to serve this good country, and they blew it by serving themselves.”

And then came the warning: “Those who live in glass houses should cast no stones.”