Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
No, this is not a tongue twister. “Sana” is colloquial for “wish” or “hope.” In relation with the President’s upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA), I prefer “sana” to mean the latter because “wish” has a ring of being unattainable to it. Thus, this piece contains my “hope list” of things included in PNoy’s second SONA.
I said that this President succeeded in inspiring our people to hope again after many years of a discredited administration. PNoy assumed the Presidency with a huge political capital —(almost) an entire nation trusting his pedigree and willing to work so the country moves forward.
The same political capital was given to his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino, who, like PNoy, symbolized change following the Marcos dictatorship. In fact, PNoy’s line that he is the opposite of Gloria (ex-President GMA), was a take-off from Cory’s “I am the opposite of Mr. Marcos.”
To many, Cory’s biggest legacy was the re-establishment of formal democracy in the country. This was important but still fell short of people’s expectations. People wanted change that their stomachs could feel—freedom from hunger, freedom from poverty. To them, formal political democracy was good but should have resulted in a better quality of life particularly for the poor.
I do not need to belabor the point that while Cory succeeded in maintaining her clean image, her presidency was also severely criticized for being weak and incapable. Much was wasted of the huge political capital she had when she assumed office. She could have made bold, controversial moves in favor of the poor, and people would have followed then. The country missed the boat.
Cory’s presidency was proof that to effect real change, good intentions and a clean heart are not enough. Beyond these, a well crafted program of government with concrete plans for achieving results, political will, leadership qualities, and capability are equally crucial.
Why do I dwell on Cory? It is because I see parallel things happening now with the second Aquino president and I am hoping that PNoy not only learns from GMA, but also from his mother. After all, his main qualification (which made people vote for him) is being the son of his parents. I mean no disrespect but if Cory did not pass on at the time she did, Noynoy would not be President now.
But we have to deal with what and who is there now. I agree that PNoy barely finished one of his six years in Malacanang, and it may be too early to say if he will succeed or not. However, the first year is quite important because it is the best time to use PNoy’s immense political capital and make the necessary, even if controversial decisions. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
My recent articles examined this government’s promises and actions and gave a “needs improvement” grade for two major aspects of PNoy’s “A Social Contract with the Filipino People,” transformational leadership and economy. The same grade I will give for the rest: government service, gender equality, peace and order, and environment. This contract, so far, is the single most important document in assessing PNoy’s performance because it outlines his campaign promises.
Two of which, the reproductive health/responsible parenthood (RH/RP) and freedom of information (FOI) bills could have passed during his first year if PNoy only exerted the needed political will. Now, they remain languishing in Congress awaiting his push.
PNoy’s much-appreciated campaign tagline, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” needs a lot of work to achieve since corruption and poverty are the two most serious problems we have.
Recently, we again heard PNoy promising achieving zero corruption during his term. The President must know that such is an impossible task for six years and he will fail if he insists on this.
Poverty, on the other hand, is a complex problem and connected with a host of other issues beyond corruption. We need much more than the dole-out Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. People’s health, education, livelihood and other forms of social protection must be allocated MORE resources if we are to beat poverty. This is the sustainable way.
PNoy promised transparency, accountability, and political will. It is high time to show the country what this administration means by these big words.
To me, transparency is much more than not having “wang-wang” on our streets and has nothing to do with statements about PNoy’s singlehood and his search for a first lady. It is opening to the people all information on government actions and decisions.
Accountability is more than keeping a hands-off policy on issues such as Hacienda Luisita, or appointing people on the sole basis of trust (meaning: friendship). It is doing the right thing for people’s welfare even at the expense of family’s and friends’ interests.
Political will goes beyond populist slogans or strong accusations against political foes. It is exercising leadership, making decisions that may be difficult and controversial BUT necessary to address people’s needs.
PNoy’s popularity is steadily going down as shown by surveys. His very important political capital diminishes with his numbers. I, for one, do not want his political capital wasted. We don’t want to miss the second boat with the second Aquino president in command.
For the coming SONA, my “hope list” includes all the presidential promises as contained in his contract with the people. Specifically, I, together with the majority of our people want PNoy to tell Congress that he wants the RH/RP and FOI bills passed.
Moreover, I hope PNoy will give us guide posts for his remaining five years.
I do not look for a complicated master plan. People should simply know his goals for the entire five years, in numbers and broken down on a yearly basis. For instance, instead of anti-corruption slogans, PNoy should clearly state what should be achieved in which areas and when. Steps in fighting poverty must also be concrete and time-bound. The same should go for the other points in his contract with us.
We no longer want vague promises; we need actions on concrete plans. Sana, nasa SONA.