Carvajal: A damn shame

Break Point

When I watched and listened to US President Joe Biden’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), I couldn’t help but notice striking differences between his Sona and the Sonas of Philippine presidents.

In attendance were prominent members of the two principal political parties of the US. The Republican Party stands for small government that levies minimal taxes and leaves people pretty much to their devices in coping with job, health and welfare problems. The Democratic Party on the other hand is for big government and imposes heavy taxes on big corporations and rich individuals to fund not just the running of the government but also a host of social welfare benefits.

Democrats occupied one side of the Senate hall and Republicans the other. Since Biden is a Democrat, only Democrats could be seen standing up to applaud portions of his speech. The Speaker of the House, a Republican, kept seated with fellow Republicans even as Vice President Kamala Harris stood up with fellow Democrats to applaud. The healthy dynamics between two differently oriented political parties were clearly in evidence.

In the Philippines, no clear distinction between opposing parties can be observed at a Sona. In attendance are generally members of factions of one party of the political right. Because they are mere factions of one rightist party, they really oppose each other only during elections. After elections, all switch loyalties to the winning President’s faction. Thus everybody in the hall applauds the President’s speech except for the few members present of left-wing political parties. The loudest opposition comes from the crowd demonstrating outside.

That is why a Philippine president can do whatever he wants. The unwritten law after elections is for the opposition to kiss ass or get nothing in terms of budget or pork barrel funds for their constituencies. Except for the Communist Party, all parties are guided by no ideology, no principles unless, of course, one calls political pragmatism cum graft and corruption an ideology.

All politicians after election go where the money is. And money comes from bowing to the President’s wishes and/or getting into the good graces of the First Lady who at times is the real power behind the throne.

There’s one other big difference. US mass media pay no attention to what the attendees wear. That’s because both gentlemen and ladies wear nothing special, just their usual business attire. In the Philippines, a Sona resembles a night at the Oscars. Media coverage starts with attendees arriving in their expensive vehicles and rich attire, insensitively showing poor Filipinos how rich they have become in office. Ugh!

Yet the worst part comes when they go about the business of running the government. They make no bones about forgetting the rest of the population. The Cha-cha is the latest example of how our officials ignore the people’s voice to get what they want for themselves. A damn shame.


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