PNoy's longest SONA is short on key policy issues

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Jul 22 2013 10:06 PM | Updated as of Jul 23 2013 06:10 AM

MANILA - It was President Benigno Aquino III’s longest State of the Nation Address (SONA) so far, and maybe the longest post-1986.

Despite a close to 2-hour State of the Nation Address, two analysts still found it short on key policy decisions. They said it lacked depth on issues that mattered to his overall theme of “inclusive growth.”

Aquino's first SONA in 2010 ran for close to 40 minutes, his second ran for 53 minutes, and his third ran for around one hour and 30 minutes.

Aquino’s fourth, which went on for around hour and 43 minutes, was replete with “melodramatic” clips, University of the Philippines sociologist Nicole Curato noted.

“It felt like it was crafted for foreign investors, he’s doing a cheerleader role, but in terms of him playing an elected official to his bosses, it had melodramatic clips that [do not] affect us in real life," she said.

UP political analyst Jean Encinas-Franco also noted the “long, boring” speech that did not dig deep into issues that really mattered.

For instance, there was no discussion on how he would generate jobs for Filipinos, she said. “There was not anything about job creation, rights of labor.”

She said Aquino reiterated too much on the conditional cash transfer program even if it can't solve poverty.

“Let us be reminded that the budget for the [CCT] is from a loan from the World Bank…It’s not the end all and be all to end poverty," she said.

She said the “melodramatic” spiels were “ok” since it was in response to the “teleserye” culture of Filipinos.

“He took note of the framing of the nice people [such as the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo], I have no doubt about that, but we needed the institutions," she added.

Curato, on the other hand, noted the murky message of Aquino.

She cited, for example, how a “big chunk of the SONA went to honorable policemen and how police should have better pensions. So what’s the underlying message here? Is it more of taking care of them to push them to do better jobs, or was for morale boosting?”

Aquino talked about the government’s inability to purchase equipment for those in the military. “Does it mean we can’t afford to protect ourselves?” Curato asked.

She said this is where the SONA referred to the country's allies instead of the people. “Is it sending a message that we need external allies? It’s reflective of who he’s talking to really in his SONA.”

The international group Human Rights Watch, meantime, noted that Aquino did not talk about human rights at all.

“We are dismayed that President Aquino, in his State of the Nation Address today, chose not to talk about the continuing culture of impunity in the Philippines. We are disappointed that he did not take the opportunity to communicate to the military and the police that they will be held accountable for human rights violations,” the group said.

“President Aquino’s failure to denounce abuses against outspoken activists, environmentalists, clergy and journalists sends the wrong message to abusive security forces and corrupt politicians,” it added.

Curato also cited the lack of discussion on “sustainable political reforms.”

She said Aquino did not talk about the need for a freedom of information bill or the anti-political dynasty bill despite the call for these laws.

She said Aquino can’t just rely on his Cabinet officials “whom he glorified in his SONA.” She said he should make sure that his supposed programs will be sustainable even if he is not anymore in office.