President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, July 28, in front of a joint session at Batasang Pambansa at the Session Hall of the Batasan Complex, Quezon City. Attended by lawmakers, department secretaries, distinguished diplomats, media, among others, PNoy’s 5th SONA enumerated the achievements of the Aquino administration.
Connecting the people
The president highlighted infrastructure projects started and completed during his administration. He cited starting the Skyway Stage 3 project linking the South Luzon and North Luzon Expressways this year, the completion of the Ternate-Nasugbu road in Southern Luzon, and the extension of the TPLEX, which will cut travel time from Tarlac to La Union, among the many infrastructure projects that could aid investment influx.
Aside from infrastructure projects, PNoy proudly recounted the country’s improving credit ratings and continuous economic growth. Many countries have lifted travel bansident s to the Philippines and local carriers are now offering direct flights to some European nations and to U.S.A. — these according to PNoy don’t only open tourism opportunities for the Philippines, but they also signify the international community’s growing trust in the country.
Good governance is key
PNoy also boasted of good and improved governance in government agencies. More efficient bidding processes and the elimination of interactions that could lead to bribery were just some of the illustrations PNoy presented to prove his point. The Bureau of Customs and the Department of Public Works and Highways were the two agencies praised for improving governance.
According to PNoy, good governance and reforms will help in regaining the trust not only of Filipinos, but also the trust of the international markets in the government. Good governance will also enable the government to have the capacity to address upcoming problems on water and electricity supply.
Relief and rehabilitation
The president went on by thanking all government agencies, the international community, and concerned citizens who helped in the relief and rehabilitation efforts of the government during the Zamboanga conflict, Cebu-Bohol earthquake, and the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda.
Rehabilitation projects are still ongoing and there’s still a long way to go to normalize the situation in the affected areas, PNoy emphasized. Livelihood programs are being offered by the local government units (LGU) and the LGU Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for affected provinces has already been signed by the president.
Controversial and unconstitutional DAP
Among all the issues the Aquino administration is facing, the most talked about and most criticized is the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The president discussed this issue only in passing, noting the scholarships and other government projects funded by DAP.
Similar to what PNoy mentioned in his special address last July 14, he remained defensive on the issue of DAP
An emotional Aquino
Nearing the end of his SONA, Aquino included adlibs asking for continuing support from the Filipinos, and reached a point wherein he became emotional. Aquino also addressed his critics by saying that “Negative commentaries will never end, I am not afraid to go against them knowing that the Filipinos are behind me.”
Unlike his previous SONAs, Aquino’s 5th SONA focused more on the positive changes his administration has done, and detracted from controversial issues like his recent conflicts with the Supreme Court.
Aquino started the final part of his SONA saying that “The Filipino is definitely worth fighting for.” Aquino then mentioned certain personalities in various sectors who he felt could continue his good work. These personalities included artist Ogie Alcasid, ADMU President Fr. Villarin, and Cardinal Chito Tagle among others.
President Aquino ended his address to the people by saying that the Philippines will progress with or without him.
Thousands of protesters held a rally, which included a mini-program along the Commonwealth Avenue, while the SONA was being delivered. Protesters were creative in staging their rally, and included mobile stages wherein they presented speeches, skits, and musical performances.
According to online news platforms, there was an estimate of 7,500 rallyists in attendance, all coming from different groups. What they were fighting for involved issues on land reform, disaster rehabilitation, and privatization of hospitals.
Various effigies were brought by the different groups, including the “holDAPer” effigy that represented the president as the “pork barrel king.” It was burned in public along with the other effigies.
The tension between the Quezon Police and rallyists reached a point wherein the police had to use water cannons to disperse the rallyists. As of press time, the Philippine National Place says they’re willing to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights regarding the manner they dispersed the protesters, including the use of the water cannons.
The LaSallian will publish a comprehensive analysis of PNoy’s 5th SONA in our August issue.