Anatomy of a SONA

Posted at 07/21/2012 9:44 PM

On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III will deliver his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The first two SONAs were principally a laundry list of GMA’s ills. Two years into his term, this one should be a more meaningful narrative of where we are and where we should be going.

A SONA is a distillation of voluminous inputs from the line agencies all hoping to survive the drafting and redrafting (last year’s SONA had 16 makeovers) but ultimately it is the President’s handiwork, his personal statement to the people.

So while a SONA is traditionally a report card on the country and a chance to recognize one’s team; it could also be an occasion to inspire the people. Rather than just an ode to one’s achievements, it could also be a pulpit to set a vision for the nation.

The theme of the last two SONA’s has been “Daang Matuwid.” The President will probably expand on this vision and ask Filipinos to unite in safeguarding the reforms so far undertaken. The nation can only permanently change if people come together and make their leaders more accountable for their actions.

The President will use the SONA to present the achievements of his Government. We can expect references to:

  • The detention of GMA.
  • The unseating of ex-Chief Justice Corona.
  • The growth of the economy, the rise in the stock market, the strengthening peso, and the fall in the hunger index.
  • The improved fiscal position of the country and its credit re-rating.
  • The influx of foreign investments. We are the darling of the investing community.
  • The new thrust in tourism.
  • The agricultural turn around particularly in rice.
  • The increased environmental awareness, the new mining law and the anti-logging ban.
  • Responsible parenthood and the RH Bill.
  • The culture of transparency and honesty in Government.

The President may use the SONA to cite certain of his Cabinet members for a job well done. Many of them wait with bated breath for such credit on national television. Here are some who may be called upon:

1. DOJ Sec. De Lima- Leila may be recognized for taking on the Supreme Court in the GMA TRO. She has been a real trooper to the President despite the earlier rejection of her recommendations in the Luneta hostage case and the Stradcom/LTO affair. Her gumption has earned her the respect of her boss and the public and she could well be rewarded with a SC appointment or a Senate seat in 2013.

2. DOF Sec. Purisima- Cesar should be mentioned for securing a credit re-rating for the country.  He has had to balance fiscal austerity versus growth at a time of weak demand.

3. Energy Sec. Almendras- Rene is arguably the best manager in the Cabinet and the President’s new go-to guy on executive issues. A trusted class mate of P-Noy, he is touted as the next head of a revitalized Presidential Management Staff, a counter to the political operators in the Palace.

4.Tourism Sec. Jimenez- An advertising man, Ramon understands tourism is about marketing and execution. It is starting to work.

Despite its achievements, P-Noy’s Presidency is still not out of the woods. His popularity, while high by any standards, is declining. Our economic progress is not fairly shared with the masses, the Scarborough business is challenging our sovereignty, the weak world economy is threatening our markets, and the political season will soon be in full swing. With GMA and Corona out of the way, the President will be made answerable both for the good and the bad in the balance of his term.

The President might use this year’s SONA to revive the spirit of May 10, 2010. The message should be simple: That the next four years is critical for the nation we want our children to inherit; that this Government will set a table at which all will have a seat, rich and poor, educated and not, old and young; but that ultimately every Filipino must be accountable for his own journey, for the leaders he chooses, for the values in his life, and for the nation he want his to be.

Monday’s SONA could be the start of this call to action and awareness.

Anatomy of a SONA

Posted at 07/26/2013 9:16 AM

Every President has a SONA template. This way he does not have to reinvent the wheel year after year. This is President Aquino’s template:

Set the stage- Check. The President establishes the proceedings with the question: Why are we here? His answer in the past was because GMA put us here. That practice, however, has worn thin since he increasingly owns his outcomes. This year the President alluded only once to the sins of the past. The 2013 answer: Because the Filipino wants change.

Roll out the accomplishments (or if you have it, flaunt it)- Check. A SONA is as much an ode to a President as it is a report card of his people. Cabinet officials kill to have their stuff included and Presidents allow it as a small reward for their labor. This explains the length of SONAs: This year it took an hour to lay out the litany of Government achievements. Compounding this, the President likes to display his command of the minutiae of governance. Thus he talked about the Bangsamoro peace talks and the investment grade; but he also explained the economics of the MRT fares and classroom books. The President, noticeably, omitted reference to the stock market, the urban real estate boom and other bounties of the rich, things 99% of his audience know nothing about.

Praise your staff- Check. In this segment the President recognizes special members of his official family. Like the Oscars, Cabinet officials eagerly await the nominations. This year the President cited Secretaries Singson (the President’s pet, he has been hailed in every SONA), Jimenez (another favorite), Luistro and Albert del Rosario. The latter was saluted for his derring-do in Libya but it was really a message to China that the President is backing Sec. Albert’s strong position on the Spratlys (Del Rosario, incidentally, was caught on TV with a translator’s headset raising speculation he either (a) sought to bond with his foreign ambassadors (b) wanted to hear the Presidential praise right (c) is not conversant in the vernacular or (d) was testing his noise-cancelling device).

Trot out Filipino heroes- Check. Here the President recognizes ordinary Filipinos who in their daily lives exemplify the values he wishes to espouse. President Ramos was the first to adopt this with Mang Pandoy. This year the President cited Niño Aguirre and police officers Edlyn Arbo and Felipe Moncatar. Borrowing from the advertising industry, the President also presented video testimonials of citizens who have benefited from the Government’s many poverty programs.

Deliver the Year’s Message- Check. This year’ homily was opportunity, personal accountability, trust, duty and national transformation. In the past it was blame it on the girl.