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Philippines: Reactions to the 9th State of the Nation Address

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave her 9th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 27, 2009. The SONA has traditionally served to present an appraisal of the president's performance and lay down her plans of action.

The recent SONA is supposedly the president's last SONA before the 2010 elections. As the president gave her speech, thousands braved the rains to join protests presenting the real state of the nation outside the Congress and all over the country.

For many, the SONA cannot be separated from the scandals and crisis situations that plagued Arroyo's administration and the fears that the president will seek power beyond her term.

The full transcript of the SONA at tonyocruz.com. The following is a sample of the varied responses to the speech in the Philippine blogosphere.

Vernon Go gives the president a passing grade:

I wanted her to be balanced in resenting her State of the Nation Address like mentioning the negatives and the positives but I guess that is not her style. But I give her a passing grade for she did what she can as president, while inheriting the previous problems of the administration that she took over, and facing challenges & problems such as the bird flu, H1N1 Virus, OFW problems abroad, natural disasters and the global economic & financial crisis.

Femme Power asks if the SONA is based on fact or fiction:

Is the economy really doing good as the President confidently stressed? Or is the country’s economy just lucky to be sustained and fuelled by the OFW’s billion dollar remittances? Who among them are giving the real statistics and the real state of the nation? Are the figures reported by the President factual or are they, like what her critics say, merely works of fiction?

For The Construct, the real state of the nation is not reflected in the president's address:

…the true state of the nation is in every Filipino. Your nation is only as good as how your life in it is.

Unless Arroyo has some big announcement (snap elections, Martial Law, or Con Ass), I can only expect it to be more of the same – a speech from president trying to quantify her successes through numbers and qualify them with anecdotes. Some would say, the real SONA is on the streets – the cold hard facts of life compared to the more than optimistic view of an unpopular president.

Ako Mismo reflects on how the president will be remembered by history.

She knows that her administration will not be remembered fondly — hence the repetitive assertion that she brought progress at the expense of popularity — and did her best to expound on exactly what she did and why she did them. She’s justifying all her political failings with the economic progress she has made. Ever the professor, she came with all the numbers and figures she needed. Ever the politician, she came with the human props she helped emancipate. But were they enough?

For A Filipina Mom Blogger, the recent SONA was no different from Arroyo's previous SONA's.

She says “I did not become president to be popular” but I can’t help thinking all the statistics and progress report she is spewing are all embellishments or the creative work of fiction from her speech writers.

This sentiment is supported by data from a series by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on

the failed promises, the statistical inconsistencies in government economic data, and by all indications, the illusory growth that nine years of the Arroyo Administration leave as a legacy to the Filipino people.

According to the PCIJ, the claims of economic growth by the Arroyo administration are “overstated, and based on inconsistent data sets. The National Statistical Coordination Board admits as much.”

Far From Neutral Notions cites data from the IBON Foundation:

“The last eight years of the Arroyo administration have resulted in record joblessness, deteriorating quality of jobs, falling household incomes, increasing poverty, fiscal crisis, unprecedented debt and debt service, social service cutbacks, and deeper Philippine underdevelopment.” Particularly troubling: “In 2006, the net worth of just the 20 richest Filipinos – including close Arroyo allies Lucio Tan, Enrique Razon, Jr., Eduardo Cojuangco, Enrique Aboitiz and others – was P801 billion (US$15.6 billion), which was equivalent to the combined income for the year of the poorest 10.4 million Filipino families.”

Contrary to Arroyo's promise of creating 1 million jobs a year, A Radical's Nut reveals that

Under the Arroyo administration, the country has been experiencing its worst jobs crisis, which has been further aggravated by the wave of massive displacements due to the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. Unemployment rate since 2001 has remained at more than 11% per year with about 4 million workers jobless every year. Annual unemployment rate under the Aquino to Estrada administrations was between 9 to 10% while the number of unemployed was between 2 to 3 million a year.

Isang Panata assails the president for stating only the positive side in her SONA.

126 na palakpakan ang nangyari. Malamang ay talagang maraming naganap na palakpakan dahil mayorya sa Congressman/Congresswoman ay ka – alyado ni Arroyo. Kahit siguro magpose o ngumiti o mag bad finger siya sa harap ng marami ay magpapalakpakan pa rin ang mga kongresista. Sinabi niya na siya ay ‘napaparatangang ginagamit ang kanyang kapangyarihan para sa pansariling kapanakanan ng walang ebidensiya’. ASA. Hello Garci? NBN ZTE Scandal? Extrajudicial killings? CHA CHA? Marami pang mga naganap at nagaganap na skandalo sa kanyang panunungkulan.

126 applauses happened. Perhaps many applauses really occured since the majority of Congressman/Congresswoman are allies of Arroyo. Maybe even if she poses or smiles or raises the bad finger in front of everyone, the congressmen would still be applauding. She said that ‘I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my position for personal profit.’ Really now. Hello Garci? NBN ZTE Scandal? Extrajudicial killings? CHA CHA? Many other scandals occurred and are happening under her rule.

Third Wave blogs about how it feels to be stuck while history happens.

I’m working while history is being made outside. I’m stuck inside the concrete walls of my workplace while people outside harangued and protested against the glaring rottenness of this administration. I’m finding a living while I am supposed to be involved in this very important milestone in my country’s history.

Adarna's Attic looks into the Arroyo administration's legacy of bribes, betrayal and blatant corruption.

The government has lost its moral ascendancy to govern due to the long list of scandals, electoral fraud and corruption issues that have mired its rule. The Arroyo administration has long ceased to perform as a role model government for the youth. It has caused the widespread disillusionment among young people and has been a disappointment to the youth's desire to instill reforms in government.

Pinoy Observer thinks that the system is the problem and not the president:

The problem really is we expect Mrs. Arroyo to churn out miracles after miracles, when we all know that it is this decaying democratic system that is causing the prob­lem. How can you do good things when the very system prevents or hinders you from actually making it? We expect Arroyo to drastically change things when we know even then that this is impossible under a decrepit system.

Mong Palatino, Kabataan Partylist representative in the Philippine Congress and GV Southeast Asia editor, contends that it is the president herself who benefits from and is the number one defender of a corrupt and oppressive system.

Halos isang dekada na si Gloria Arroyo sa Malakanyang. Isang dekada na ring nagtitiis at lalong naghirap ang ating bansa. Para po sa aming henerasyon na naging bahagi ng Edsa Dos, ang nakalipas na siyam na taon ay parang bangungot. Bakit ang People Power president ay naging “halimaw sa banga”? Imbes na pagbabago, imbes na kaunlaran, ang nasaksihan natin ay ang kabaligtaran. Kung mayroon mang pagbabago, eto ay ang pagdami ng mga tagong yaman ng First Family; kung mayroon mang pag-unlad, eto ang pag-unlad ng kabuhayan ng mga kroni ni Arroyo.

Isang insulto sa mamamayang Pilipino ang nilulutong con-ass ng Kongreso. Hindi tayo mangmang; huwag nila tayong lokohin. Ang con-ass ay pinasa para sa kapakinabangan ni Arroyo. Walang ibang layunin ang Kongreso kundi bigyan ng legal na batayan ang hangarin ni Arroyo na manatili sa kapangyarihan habambuhay.

Gloria Arroyo has been in Malacanang for almost a decade already. Our nation also bore the brunt of hardships and suffering for a decade already. For our generation who became part of Edsa 2, the past nine years is like a bad dream. Why did the People Power president become a monster? Instead of change, instead of progress, what we see is the opposite. If ever there is change, this is the increase in the hidden wealth of the First Family; if there is progress, this is the improvement of the lives of Arroyo's cronies.

The con-ass being cooked in Congress is an insult to the Filipino people. We are not ignorant; they can't fool us. Con-ass was passed for the benefit of Arroyo. The Congress has no other aim but to give a legal basis to Arroyo's aspirations to perpetuate herself in power all her life.

The D Spot asks if the 2009 SONA is Arroyo's last.

Will she promise that this will be her last SONA? (Remember history? She said she won’t run for the elections—and RUN she did!? Will she say “I am sorry”? Indeed she has a lot of things to be sorry for—we may see the hard infrastructures—roads, bridges, airports, schools, etc. that she has been so proud of. How about that which we cannot see? Has her regime made people less poor? Has there been more food on the table of each family? Has her regime made people more educated?

Political commentator Mon Casiple blogs on the unsaid implications of Arroyo's SONA:

By stating that “I never expressed the desire to extend myself before my term,” she left open the possibility that she may do so in the future. By singling out each major presidentiable for snide remarks, she indirectly put herself in the ring with them. Considering that she cannot run anymore in the 2010 elections, this leaves only the possibility for charter change. She hints in the SONA that she will contend for power with them, not necessarily through elections. The not-so-subtle message of her full red gown is: GMA is ready to fight!

The SONA definitely is not a swan song, nor is it a unifying call, nor one of a legacy speech. It sounds like a campaign speech, a call to arms, or an act of throwing down a gauntlet. Is this simply a way to ward off the image of a lameduck presidency or a preparation for a real move towards a strong-woman rule?

MLQ3 sums the SONA in 3 brief sentences:

1. Don’t count me out.
2. Cha-Cha is a go.
3. we will mobilize vs.certain presidential candidates.

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