The dissection of the President’s State of the Nation address is well underway.
The biggest thing about the President’s speech is that it marked the end of the Arroyo presidency as it once wanted to be; it marks the end of an effort to provide ideological underpinnings to her administration. The dream of a Strong Republic, one that I felt had great merit, but which scholars such as Jojo Abinales believes the President never fully understood, and thus never enthusiastically backed, is well and truly dead. Her speech marks the end of what every president dreams of: a period during which one builds a legacy, and makes a mark on history. Yesterday, the efforts of President Arroyo to define her term by her own standards gave way to the desire of the political class to redefine and redraw the rules of the game, to insulate themselves from what they fear most: a public and people turned immature, incoherent, undiscerning and indiscriminate by their leaders’ failure to make life better for the people. She no longer leads, she merely goes along with the wishes of the party machine. Newsstand calls it a hollow victory.
Overlooked has been Jose de Venecia’s original inclinations toward the French model, which even he has apparently dropped in favor of a purely parliamentary state of affairs: as he said during one of his long, rambling interviews before the President’s speech, “we will have five year terms! no more elections every two, three years!”
For me: Federalism, yes! Indeed, it seems to me Federalism is the one and only suggestion really cheered by both the politicians and the public, at least those present in the Batasan. It is the one idea that many on both sides of the political aisle find meritorious.
Personally, I believe we cannot abandon the presidency: the reason the presidency has failed in recent years is because the present Constitution fails to provide a mechanism for candidates to receive solid, and unquestionable, majorities instead of pluralities. We are not a pluralistic culture. We only respect numbers, and overwhelming numbers, at that. No president has managed a majority since 1969 (even Cory Aquino’s assumption of power required a revolution). We have lacked leaders with a solid national mandate for 36 years.
Federalism gives to the provinces a greater control over their destiny, and reduces the scope of a national government increasingly unprepared and ill-equipped to respond to local needs in a timely manner. A president under a Federal system would have his duties restricted to foreign affairs, national defense, world trade and inter-state commerce and regulation. That is more than enough, and it is less that what presidents must attend to, now. These things, incidentally, are what presidents like to attend to, anyway. Federalism could limit the expenses for an upper house, by reestablishing the regional basis for senate seats, as practiced from 1916-1935. Again, this is due to my personal view that people like having a bicameral legislature, because they instinctively prefer some sort of balance; but I don’t think people would object to the secretaries or ministers of state coming from the lower house (which is something our politicians dearly wish, and which is born out by the presidential habit of plucking out appointees from the legislature, anyway).
In the pundit roundup in the papers, and in the blogosphere, we have:
Concerning the State of the Nation, Godofredo Roperos says the fact the government is still working is the most important news of all; Expectorants delivers his own State of the Nation prescription; PCIJ reports few surprises in the President’s speech; Unlawyer remarks the President’s closing slogan sounded a lot like Marcos’s New Society slogan; Jove gives a fascinating roundup on his network’s stories on the true state of the nation, as well as background on the speech itself (Rigoberto Tiglao told me last night at ANC that “the President wrote most of it,” which was the party line on such speeches in the past); Punzi was not amused by the cheering; Howie Severino focuses on the floral and botanical symbolism of the event; Edwin Lacierda call’s the President’s proposals a Hobson’s choice (an apparently free choice that is no choice at all); Miron usefully provides links to yesterday’s other important speeches, the Speaker’s and the Senate President’s, and says the speech worked in setting the agenda; 2T says the mountains labored, and brought forth, a mouse; Gari takes a look at the speech from the point of view of an activist; Newsstand finds its language quite tentative.
When it comes to impeachment, the Inquirer editorial comes out strongly in favor of it; Patricio Diaz is in favor of it, too; Bel Cunanan takes a dim view of the impeachment complaint; Dong Puno says the President’s legitimacy has to be resolved; Paeng is unhappy over the way Federalism has become joined at the hip to the President.
Elsewhere, Connie Veneracion opines on the Filipino family and politics; Juan Mercado complains of too many people wanting to save us; Alex Magno points out something the President hinted at in her speech: the efforts of Jose de Venecia to secure debt relief. As Magno explains,
Already, the de Venecia proposal has earned the endorsement of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The prime minister indicated that his government will support the proposed debt conversion scheme once it is brought before the Paris Club.
The essential element of the de Venecia proposal is the conversion of 50 percent of the outstanding debt of the 100 highly indebted countries into a financing program for MDG projects in the developing world. Instead of an outflow of debt service funds from the developing countries, the equivalent amount will be converted into equity in MDG-related instruments. The creditor banks and governments will own the equity resulting from the conversion Ã¢â‚¬â€œ although the developing countries, when they can afford it, could buy back the invested equity.
The fund will be used for reforestation, mass housing, irrigation and post-harvest facilities, hospitals and health care programs, schools and computers, clean water projects, infrastructure, ecotourism and other wealth creating projects such as mining, land reclamation and the development of natural resources.
Republika, which seems a promising new blog, takes a look at blogging; And in the comic(s) relief department, check out Bulletproof Vest’s GMA Komiks.