All eyes are on President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III as he goes before Congress on Monday at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City for his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SoNA) to set the tone and priorities of his leadership for the coming year.
In a “straightforward address” that will be delivered mostly in Filipino, the President is expected to inform the people he considers “his boss” about the state of the nation, including an inventory of problems inherited from the past government and his solutions to “fix the mess.”
The address is expected to make some grim assessments, including the extent of the government’s negative financial position.
The President is also expected to outline his priorities for the country, particularly efforts to stave off a runaway deficit, combat corruption, and reduce poverty in the country.
“We have to ascertain what the problems are. Therefore, these problems will point to certain solutions that would be best to solve all of these problems that we’ve already identified,” the President told reporters recently when asked about preparations for his SONA.
“If you misidentify the problem you are guaranteed to not come up with the correct solution and you will exacerbate the problem,” he added.
Mr. Aquino admitted that the problems inherited from the Arroyo government have left him “gasping for breath at what has been done.”
One of the anomalies uncovered by the Aquino leadership is the depletion of the P1.54-trillion national budget for 2010 to only around P100 billion.
“In the reverse side of that, we are very, very hopeful of the developments with regard to fulfilling the wants and needs of our state without more pressure on the GAA (General Appropriations Act),” he said.
“In terms of gaining knowledge, Monday’s SONA will really shed the truth on so many things,” said the President, who continues to hold the confidence of most Filipinos based on recent opinion polls.
“The questionable transactions and expenses were really without rhyme or reason. But the burden is now on us to fix this mess,” Mr. Aquino added.
In the past few days, the President has been working until late hours to complete his SoNA with a team of speechwriters, mostly from the Communications Group.
The President’s SoNA, which will likely be conversational similar to his inaugural address, will be 30 to 35 minutes long, said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
It will be bereft of gimmicks as the President will be frank about the “realities” facing the nation.
“We gave President Aquino the draft last night (Saturday), and I’m very sure he will go through it again and by today (Sunday), he will have finalized his State- of- the- Nation Address,” Lacierda, one of the co-writers of the SONA, said.
He said the President’s SONA will be “memorable and fighting speech” like his inaugural address last June 30 where he claimed the people is his boss. “It will be a realistic speech. It will speak of the truth. It will spell out his programs, his doable solutions. It will also spell out some of the ills of the (past) administration,” he said.
The supposed misdeeds of the past administration would comprise only “less than a third” of the SONA, according to Lacierda. He said the President will state the “realities” inherited from the Arroyo administration and “then move on to his solutions, move to the budget, and move on to the other things that he believes will wipe out corruption and alleviate poverty.”
Mr. Aquino, who won the presidency on a campaign agenda “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap,” is also expected to make a call on the people to rally behind his government, said Lacierda.
In his speech, the President will also make a case for the legislative bills that he hopes Congress would pass this session. The government will propose a P1.757-trillion budget for next year, which is 14% more than this year’s P1.54-trillion outlay, amid plans to spend more on infrastructure and social services to stimulate economic growth.
Other people helping the President write his speech are former news anchor Ricky Carandang, former columnist Manolo Quezon III, his speechwriter Mai Mislang, and Secretary Julia Abad who heads the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).
Carandang and Quezon are members of the Communications Group, which has yet to be formed officially through an executive order.
Lacierda said it was likely the President has invited his sisters and Councilor Shalani Soledad to attend his SoNA in Congress on Monday. Cabinet members are also expected to listen to the President’s speech at Batasan complex. “The President was given tickets for his own guests,” he added.
Malacañang recently said the President’s speech will be a lot different from his predecessor. For one, it will be a no-frills speech sans human props and audio visual presentation. Only the truth and facts will be included in the President’s speech, Lacierda said, denying speculations they were out to deliberately embarrass former President Arroyo.
He said the President has scrutinized the figures and other documents presented to him by the cabinet during their meetings in preparation for the SONA. “If he wants to cite figures, it’s important for him that should have basis. He doesn’t want his speech to become an enchanted kingdom,” he said.
Reconciliation with political opponents, however, will be absent in the President’s SONA, according to Lacierda. “Let me go to the broad strokes, peace process will be discussed. But reconciliation with his political opponents, that is no longer important. What we’re focused on is policy direction, what programs of President Aquino will be in the next six years,” he said.
Former President Fidel Ramos, meantime, said President Aquino’s SONA should “not be recitation of the problems of the nation – because most of those are already well-known.”
“Hopefully, he will focus more on what he visualizes the Philippines should be at the end of his watch and beyond – and, equally important, how he proposes to navigate our ship “Pilipinas” towards a better future,” Ramos said in his column at the Manila Bulletin.
Ricardo Saludo, former spokesman of President Arroyo, advised Mr. Aquino’s speech writers to “make the people the star of every SoNA.”
In his first SoNA in 1998, former President Joseph Estrada claimed that Ramos administration left the national coffers bankrupt, as he unveiled plans to revitalize the economy and fight the spate of crime in the country.
Then President Arroyo, in her SONA in 2001, divulged her efforts to create jobs, improve education, provide housing and food security to the people. These programs were taken from wishes of the three children from Payatas, Quezon City also now known as “Bangkang Papel” kids, whom she presented in the SONA.
Before she ended her term, then President Arroyo said she was turning over a Philippines with a strong and stable economy after inheriting a nation in political chaos and economic disarray in 2001. (source: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/268789/sona-fix-mess)