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.