The President’s address

The President mounted the rostrum to a great volley of cheering from the throng. Speaker clapping madly; Senate President standing quietly.

President looks tired but relaxed and confident.

President broke protocol by recognizing former President Ramos ahead of the Senate President.

“Ours is a country divided. The story of our nation is a tale of two Philippines… one is the Philippines whose economy.. is now poised for take off… the other is the Philippines whose political system… has become a hindrance to progress…”

She points out 6% growth and 4 million jobs despite high oil prices; marked improvements in tax collections, improved infrastructure, rice productivity… 69 million beneficiaries of health insurance including 30 million indigents being re-enrolled. The drug menace “cut in half”, kidnapping reduced, and the “insurgency in the South, abated…”

She makes reference to the “titanic struggle” to achieve fiscal reforms, to end the cycle of borrowing, “to snap the chain” that binds us to “our profligate past.” That struggle, she says, has done Congress great honor.

Abroad, “we’ve worked long and hard to restore” the country to its place as a co-founder of UN and prominence as a front line of free countries… Pays tribute to Speaker (great, appreciative hooting from audience). Says Bush lauded Philippine anti-terrorism efforts.

“Permanent peace in Mindanao is within reach. Indeed, our story as a country on the verge of take off is real.”

“If only we can overcome our tendency to become our own worst enemy.”

“We will not waver in our commitment to economic reform and fiscal discipline whatever the political cost.”

“The other message to send… We will address the burden to the other Philippines… I refer to how… our political system has become a hindrance to progress…”

“To be sure, the system is still capable of achieving reforms… it has betrayed its promise… Filipinos… are voting with their feet and are leaving that system behind… Perhaps our best is not good enough… It’s time to bring the people into government and change the way the business of government is done.” (Applause, wild cheering)

“The people want good government that works for them at every level… From the barangay… and does not end at the closed door of a bureaucrat in Metro Manila…” (cheering)

“The system needs fundamental change, and the sooner, the better.”

“It’s time to start the great debate on Charter Change.” (very happy applause and cheering)

“Such questions as: how much more government is needed for the greater safety of our people… and how much less is needed for.. economic progress…”

“A Constituent Assembly might give our people the quickest way to needed reforms.” (Frenetic applause and happy cheering).

“I shall work with Congress, civil society groups, and local government executives” (interrupted by applause) “who are convinced that charter changes are needed…”

President acknowledges local government executives, gestures to them: whistling, cheering, stamping of feet in response. She says they represent “An LGU power revolution to transformative leadership.”

“They.. make a compelling case for Federalism.” Gallery leaps to its feet with joy.

“Perhaps its time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it.”

She suggests a parliamentary system -interrupted by more cheering and another standing ovation- “similar to that of our progressive neighbors in the region.”

“…I hope we can still work together on other initiatives…” Here, she proposes more funding for schooling.

She asks Congress to pass a pre-need code to regulate the pre-need industry.

She has issued an executive order mandating that hours spent in vocational training be credited toward a college degree.

“Our competitiveness is greatly endangered today by the oil crisis…” She asks Congress to pass legislation promoting renewable energy.

For national security: she urges the passage of an Anti-Terrorism Law with adequate safeguards for civil liberties.

“There is much work to be done. Now is not the time for divisiveness… While there’s no avoiding partisan politics… All sides can limit the collateral damage to a country poised for take off.”

“Let’s call on the Lord to lead us…”

Then a passage in Filipino: “I know we all want peace, stability… I appeal to all of you, to help me work for the benefit of the country….”

“We may disagree among ourselves but let us never lose sight of the greater battle for one people, one country, one Philippines.”

“Not the country of this of that president, but the Philippines of our shared, and impassioned, affections.”

She ended to yet another standing ovation; Speaker delighted; Senate President looking mournful. There hasn’t been such an outburst of political joy in a State of the Nation Address since Cory Aquino opened Congress in 1987.

Crowd chanting: “GMA! GMA! GMA!”

It seems the trial balloons of a conciliatory speech were just that; the speech wasn’t taunting, but firm, and incidentally, completely what Fidel Ramos wanted.

Senate President jeered when he gaveled the session closed; Speaker wildly cheered. More chanting of “GMA! GMA!”.

Update, 6pm: The full text of the President’s speech is now online.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

77 thoughts on “The President’s address

  1. Folks, those of you discussing the Left, i.e., the CPP, would be interested to know that Ateneo U Press is considering for publication this huge tome of a dissertation by Dominique Caouette (a friend of mine who came to grad school two years after me) on the CPP’s history from 1968 to the 1970s shifts then to its debates and eventual splits in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s a great piece. I have a copy of the dissertation in my desktop and would be happy to send it to those who’d want to read it.

  2. “The SONA had to be in English – the world is watching and we have to send them a message that the Philippines is still in business…”

    The world is watching? I don’t think so, Mita. Most everyone else is preoccupied with their own problems to give a hoot about what’s happening to us. Blair is worried that suicide bombers have brought their act into the UK. Bush is worried above Rove’s involvement in the Valerie Plame outing, as well as the quagmire that is Iraq.

    It was in English because that is where GMA and our elites who cheered her are most comfortable with, including her speechwriters. Further, she does not have Erap’s command of the Filipino/Tagalog language, so why bother?

    That speech stands out for what it did not say and discuss about – the political turmoil rocking our institutions because our leaders have not been exactly truthful with us.

  3. I agree with torn,
    I thought she was “out to lunch” on terrorism and kidnappings being abated.
    What about Valentine’s Day?
    What about the deaths of journalists?

    She was right when she talked of two Philippines, though. One of the hardworking poor folks and one of the corrupt rich.

    I see very poor people without running water, education, and basic toiletry.
    I see disease and illness.

    I see people in my neighborhood that are so rich they don’t know what to do with their money.and they buy ferraris to drive from their house to the golf course down the street……………while their maids can barely afford antibiotics for an infection.

    Yes, two very different philippines

  4. personnaly, i think, civil disobedience is a must for the anti-gloria to win the second round of the politial battle.

    i agree that the SONA is not the SONA. it’s a choreographed cabaret to show that she makes the news and influence the sphere of public opinion. smokescreen to make people talk about it rather than talk about “the” issues at hand.

    anyway,sayang lang ang buwanang buwis na binabayad ko. hmph!

  5. Ingles man o Tagalog, I thought the portion of Arroyo’s address that she sounded most sincere was at the end when she shifted to the vernacular. The “ako’y nakikiusap..” plea for help, I’m sure, summoned emotions.

  6. Jackryan,
    Yes, it was watching – especially in these troubled times. The Philippines is a crucial link to terrorism because of our location and demographics. You’re fooling yourself if you dismiss that rationale. A working Philippine government is also important to this region’s stability.

    The SONA is just a SONA. It was not the venue to address all the issues hounding GMA personally and politically, not a venue for her to defend herself. But wasn’t it mercifully short??

    Erap and his command of language..mmmm..ahem..

  7. Jojo: I’d like to get a copy of the Caouette dissertation. I’ll email you my address.

  8. I have no problem if FVR becomes Prime Minister. But first he has to win a seat in Parliament and convince the MPs to elect him. One thing is against him though, his age. The PM should be a much younger man or better yet a woman. The nice thing about a cabinet system is that there are no constitutional age criteria for office. As long as you meet the basic age requirement for election as MP you can be PM.

    In a cabinet system, the executive is collective. That means more responsible governance.

  9. jojo,

    i’m interested about that paper on the Left. can you email me a copy? salud!

  10. “Yes, it was watching – especially in these troubled times. The Philippines is a crucial link to terrorism because of our location and demographics. You’re fooling yourself if you dismiss that rationale. A working Philippine government is also important to this region’s stability.”

    Nahhh. That observation stems from the perception that we are that important in the world stage today. Maybe those with direct interests in our country did bother (i.e. US, China, the ASEAN region) but the whole world? You must be kidding 🙂

    “The SONA is just a SONA.”

    But it is the President speaking, and in an annual tradition that has become inextricably linked to the presidency. So, it cannot be dismissed as just another address. The perception that it is so reflects what most Filipinos have come to think of the event – so much so that they did not expect the President to tell them about the true state of our nation anymore.

    “But wasn’t it mercifully short??”

    Indeed it was. Because she deliberately skirted the issue which most Filipinos wanted to hear about and level with us. Instead, she chose to dwell on charter change which, for sure, will give her embattled presidency a breather but which will not guarantee a way out of the mess we’re in. Because at the end of the day, I think it does not matter whether our system is presidential or parliamentary. It is more about the values and moral grounding our elected leaders have that will enable them to move our nation forward.

  11. I basically agree with MitaMS. The SONA is what the person delivering it wants it to be. The anti-GMA forces were hoping she would commit political hara-kiri and wash her dirty linen in public. They didn’t get their wish, and now they’re belly-aching and fault-finding, to the minutest detail. And, yes Mita, it was mercifully short. It didn’t give the rabble rousers enough time to make a spectacle of themselves in the streets. Thank God that is over and we can mercifully have some peace and quiet for at least a week or two. Perhaps the next episode will come when the Supreme Court decides on the EVAT.

  12. Cabs and Ikong, is it ok if I send the file as email attachment? It’s rather huge…but not that big enough to convert it into a zip file

  13. Jack, I don’t rely on mere perception. I check the news online from different newspapers each morning on my pc. First thing I saw was on SF Chronicle…then CNN World, then the Denver Post. I wasn’t shooting from the hip when I said the world was watching. Yun lang nabasa ko…I dunno who else featured the SONA. If I really did a search, I’m sure I would’ve found more…

    Honestly Jack – whoever paid attention to the SONA in the past the way we are doing now? We’re putting meaning to words that were said and not said. Manghuhula na tayong lahat. All I know is in the SONA, she proposed change to the political system and maybe it’s time we give that some serious thought and stop focusing on personalities. Let’s shift the debate naman for a change…

  14. Jo, Domeng is a friend of mine too. Is he in the Philippines now or still in Canada? We had a conversation at the time when he was still making his dissertation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a copy of it. I would be happy if you can provide me a copy of it. If you can please send it to my email.

  15. Cabs, Ikong, JackRyan 69 and Sam, send me your email addy at [email protected].

    Sam, small world! Doming is a good friend and he was just in Pinas for a couple of weeks. He’s back in Montreal now…

  16. jo, send me copy of the dissertation on the communist left. wonder whether your friend was able to catch the entirety of debates based on the accounts of the thesis and counter thesis.

    Does it covers succeeding splits in the late 90s and beyond the RA/RJ thing…

    Wondering whether you are or you are related with PN Abinales. 🙂

  17. MitaMS

    This is what I heard and read.

    “Now is not the time for divisiveness, and while there’s no avoiding partisan politics, there can be a determined effort by all sides to limit the collateral damage on a country poised for take-off.”

    “Over the years, our political system has degenerated to the extent that it is difficult for anyone to make any headway yet keep his hands clean. To be sure, the system is still capable of achieving great reforms. But, by and large, our political system has betrayed its promise to each new generation of Filipinos, not a few of whom are voting with their feet, going abroad and leaving that system behind.”

    “Perhaps we politicians have done our best; But maybe our best is not enough, given the present system. Perhaps we have strained the present political system to its final limit.

    The other message to send is that we will address the burden that the other Philippine story imposes on our anticipated take-off. I refer to the story of how our political system has now become a hindrance to our national progress.”

    My take on this? an insult to my intelligence (tho non exixtent at the moment) ang pagkakaintindi ko she blames gloria resign movement as a hindrance to everything she wants done. She was talking about lot of hindrance and betrayal kahit na sya lahat ang me kagagawan.

  18. sona speech or no sona speech, it doesnt erase the hello garci tapes and the excesses of her husband and his cohorts.

    i agree that at least another country apart from ours was watching. the protest were given more weight though than her speech. some american acquaintances have remarked that the “philippine president seems to be a goner”. but that’s their perception based on a choice tidbit given them.

    56=1$ na. i hope she’s not waiting for 100=1$.

    gma’s mean spirit showed when she broke protocol by acknowledging a former president before the current senate president. gantihan na. certainly not a criterion for greatness.

  19. re the wiretapping: has it already been discovered who or what group did it?

    even if the president has already owed to speaking with a comelec official, i’m still bothered that government officials are being wiretapped.

    speculations anyone?

    get well mlq3!

  20. damn all those gov. corrupt officials..
    and mag react guilty!!!!!!!!!

    hindi kayo makareactoh….!!!!..!!!?

  21. mga government official na corrupt ang nag papahirap sa ting bansa!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ang mag react guity!!!!!

  22. To solve everything in disarranged what we just need is to make God smile in our daily lives as simple words but as difficult to do!a challenge for us.This is the hidden reality tha we should not deny.

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