Major Philippine dailies published last July 13 the “Katuparan ng Pangako sa mga SONA ni Pangulong Gloria”. It was not stated whether or not the publication was a paid advertisement but the fact that it bears the presidential seal, there is more likelihood that the same came from Malacanang.
The publication presented in bullet points the accomplishments of the Administration based on the targets provided in the States of the Nation Address delivered by sitting-president Gloria Arroyo from 2001 to 2007. These include the alleged realization of the basic needs of the Filipinos such as food security, housing, employment, health and nutrition, and education; the institution of tax reforms; the implementation of land reforms; the giving of aids to various sectors; the improvement of the transportation system; the promotion of peace and security; and the creation of Super Regions.
The publication, according to our insiders in Malacanang, was to mitigate the impact of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing Gloria Arroyo’s negative 38% Net Satisfaction Rating – a new record-low rating for Philippine presidents since 1986. Second, the publication was also designed to prepare the mindset of the public for the 2008 State of the Nation Address slated in July 28.
But contrary to the expectations of Malacanang, the publication is raising more questions and creates intellectual restlessness rather than provide answers and mental sedative to calm the nerves of the people. First, the present food security crisis, though global in nature, reveals how poor the Arroyo Administration managed the agricultural sector. Instead of investing both money and efforts in activities and that will increase agricultural yield and lower the prices of food products, the sitting president encouraged importation thus making the country dependent on the pleasure of countries producing staple products like Thailand, Vietnam and even the United States. In addition, the present administration also failed to catch big time rice smugglers despite the creation of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Task Force (PASG). Those that Malacanang presented are the apprehended small-time members of the “Mosquito Gang” which therefore enhances the speculations that some members of the First Family are engaged in rice smuggling and are thus being protected.
Next, despite the government’s airs of job creation and employment, jobless persons are still a record high. During the Ramos Administration, unemployment rate was recorded at 7%. This increased to 9.5% during the Estrada Administration then to 10.1% in 2002 under the administration of the sitting president. Worse, the figure rose to 11.3% in 2005. Though the percentage of unemployed dropped 7.8% last year, the absolute count is still worrisome as this simply means 2.9 million Filipinos are jobless. Besides, the figures only decreased when the government re-defined unemployment to mean “those without work, those currently available for work, and those seeking work”. The previous definition does not include the third criterion – that is, “those seeking work”.
Third, poverty incidence also increased from 24.4% in 2003 to 26.9% in 2006 according to the National Statistics Office. Self-rated poverty, meanwhile, is at 52% last November 2006 which increased to 53% in February last 2007. Thus the question: Where are the gains that Arroyo is boasting?
On peace and security, the Philippines remain to be the world’s second most dangerous country for journalists. The first is Iraq. Of the 97 journalists killed since the fall of Marcos, 63% of these are done during the Arroyo Administration. And this included the still unresolved killing of Legazpi City radio broadcaster Rowel Endrinal. So the questions: Which peace and security? And for whom?
To top these, the publication also failed to showcase Arroyo’s anti-corruption efforts. The sitting-president had been announcing a battle against corruption since 2001 as an assurance that there will be no repeat of Estrada in the field of governance. In her 2003 SONA, sitting president Arroyo even assured the public that she will try to investigate the issues on corruption particularly on the military. But then, even at least the allegations of the Magdalo Group, until now, everything remains unanswered. Worse, she and her family were even involved in the ZTE scandal which rose to unprecedented infamy in the post-Marcos period – far worse than the Estrada plunder issue. Which explains why her satisfaction rating is also the worst in history since the time of Aquino. To note: Ousted President Estrada’s lowest satisfaction rating is only positive 5% in December 99 and March 2000.
Come July 28, Mrs. Arroyo will once again present her SONA – well massaged and carefully crafted. And once again we’ll hear the songs of development blending with the rhythm of the thunderous applause from her supporters. But mind you, we’ll miss the most important sonata in her presentation – REALITY. ###
(This article will also appear in the column, The Sidelines, in the newspaper, Albay Journal.)