Now that Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III is officially a lame duck president in the aftermath of a devastating Supreme Court ruling that rendered his financial brainchild, the notorious Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional, what can we expect him to “report” to Congress on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) this month?
Well, we know one thing President BS Aquino will not do. He had promised not to humiliate Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr during his speech. This was after Revilla’s wife, former starlet Lani Mercado threatened to boycott the affair which is scheduled on the 28th July. On that, Revilla can rest easy in his prison cell.
Aside from that, the no-brainer items to “report” this year are:
(1) His dubious achievements in that usual way that he traditionally reports them in the SONA
There is a long enough list of “economic gains” BS Aquino can mouth off. But reciting lists is easy. The hard part is establishing convincing causal links between BS Aquino’s governance and movements in those economic indicators. After all, it remains hopelessly debatable as to whether those movements resulted from initiatives mounted during Aquino’s watch or from groundwork laid during his predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.
Nonetheless, the economy has been chugging along fine and the Philippines, based on crunched numbers alone, is said to be the regional legend at the moment. But much of these gains continue to be stimulated by government spending (thanks to the now-defunct DAP), remittances from the country’s army of overseas foreign workers (OFWs), cash dole-outs to the poor, and investments in casinos and malls.
But expansion or increases in productivity and production capacity, the industrial capital base, and public infrastructure have contributed very little to the value of the nation’s economy. These would have otherwise spurred growth in the economy of the sort that creates employment in a manner that can likely be sustained beyond President BS Aquino’s term which ends in 2016. Unfortunately, President BS Aquino had focused on the easy economic stimuli rather than the more visionary groundwork.
(2) The ‘framework agreement’ he brokered with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) granting the Bangsamoro people ‘autonomy’
This was the initiative that, if things had gone according to plan, will have won President BS Aquino a Nobel Peace Prize — or so the President and all his men hoped. Unfortunately negotiating with terrorists and keeping out of the loop a key Mindanao Muslim faction, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) may render this “achievement” null and void. The MNLF happens to be the only Islamic group in the Philippines officially recognised by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). MNLF leader Nur Misuari, has been sitting in the OIC under an “observer status” since 1977 and is, in principle, the acknowledged representative of Filipino Muslims and, by transitivity, the Bangsamoro people.
(3) Noynoy’s War on Corruption
The centrepiece of President BS Aquino’s pitch to his ‘Boss’ (the Filipino people, he claims) is his zero-tolerance regard for corruption; the Daang Matuwid (“straight-and-narrow”) and Kung Walang Kurap Walang Mahirap (“where there is no corruption, there is no poverty”) doctrines which he bannered during his campaign. This year’s posterboys of this campaign to eradicate corruption so that, as the logic goes, poverty may be fully eliminated in the Philippines, Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile are now in jail on unbailable charges. Unfortunately, the scorched-earth approach the President and his henchmen used to achieve this had backfired, turning the the gun on their precious DAP slush fund.
Now, in all ironies, President BS Aquino stands — accused not just of pork barrel thievery but using it to bribe ‘senator-judges’ during the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
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It is hard enough stammering through a SONA armed only with a list of dubious achievements. But what is really hard is having to face fellow (alleged) crooks, look them in the eye, and explain that your “anti-corruption” initiatives have cost them the whole point of being a member of Congress.
Indeed, sentiments of the broader public can easily be ignored. After all, that’s politicians’ Ethics 101. Make like you are the voters’ best friend during elections then largely ignore them after you win. But Senators and House Representatives that you need to face and schmooze with at every turn in your efforts to govern the land, are another. That’s the Philippine President’s SONA this year — a literal meeting of criminal minds. Allegedly, of course.