Anatomy of a SONA

by Leo Alejandrino

Posted at Jul 26 2013 09:16 AM | Updated as of Jul 26 2013 05:17 PM


Every President has a SONA template. This way he does not have to reinvent the wheel year after year. This is President Aquino’s template:

Set the stage- Check. The President establishes the proceedings with the question: Why are we here? His answer in the past was because GMA put us here. That practice, however, has worn thin since he increasingly owns his outcomes. This year the President alluded only once to the sins of the past. The 2013 answer: Because the Filipino wants change.

Roll out the accomplishments (or if you have it, flaunt it)- Check. A SONA is as much an ode to a President as it is a report card of his people. Cabinet officials kill to have their stuff included and Presidents allow it as a small reward for their labor. This explains the length of SONAs: This year it took an hour to lay out the litany of Government achievements. Compounding this, the President likes to display his command of the minutiae of governance. Thus he talked about the Bangsamoro peace talks and the investment grade; but he also explained the economics of the MRT fares and classroom books. The President, noticeably, omitted reference to the stock market, the urban real estate boom and other bounties of the rich, things 99% of his audience know nothing about.

Praise your staff- Check. In this segment the President recognizes special members of his official family. Like the Oscars, Cabinet officials eagerly await the nominations. This year the President cited Secretaries Singson (the President’s pet, he has been hailed in every SONA), Jimenez (another favorite), Luistro and Albert del Rosario. The latter was saluted for his derring-do in Libya but it was really a message to China that the President is backing Sec. Albert’s strong position on the Spratlys (Del Rosario, incidentally, was caught on TV with a translator’s headset raising speculation he either (a) sought to bond with his foreign ambassadors (b) wanted to hear the Presidential praise right (c) is not conversant in the vernacular or (d) was testing his noise-cancelling device).

Trot out Filipino heroes- Check. Here the President recognizes ordinary Filipinos who in their daily lives exemplify the values he wishes to espouse. President Ramos was the first to adopt this with Mang Pandoy. This year the President cited Niño Aguirre and police officers Edlyn Arbo and Felipe Moncatar. Borrowing from the advertising industry, the President also presented video testimonials of citizens who have benefited from the Government’s many poverty programs.

Deliver the Year’s Message- Check. This year’ homily was opportunity, personal accountability, trust, duty and national transformation. In the past it was blame it on the girl.