Saturday, July 23, 2005

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 2nd SONA

I had an impression that a lot of people are wondering what Gloria Macagal Arroyo will say and do on her second State of the Nation Address as a "re-elected" President.

Can we expect another gimmick? Oh, like the three boys from Payatas that figuratively floated paper boats laden with their fondest wishes on the Pasig River in the hopes that the President would somehow fish the boats out of the polluted river and upon reading about their wishes, grant them.

Can we expect more rosy reports on the accomplishments of her Administration? In the Executive Summary of the technical report of her 2004 SONA, Arroyo had even outlined a ten point agenda in the form of an acronym which I cannot forget: BEAT THE ODDS.

What the acronym spells out is "achieving a Balanced budget by collecting the right revenues and spending right; providing Education for all children of school-age; implementing full Automation of the electoral process; building Transportation and digital infrastructure to link the entire nation; Terminating hostilities through a just conclusion of the peace process; Healing the wounds of EDSA 1, 2 and 3; providing Electricity and water for all barangays; offering Opportunities for livelihood and the creation of six to 10 million jobs; Decongesting Metro Manila through railway and road projects and the establishment of new government centers; and, Developing Subic and Clark into the most competitive international service and logistics center in Southeast Asia" (Lifted directly from

On Balancing the budget, I guess Arroyo could be given a passing mark. But we have to remember that the definition of "balanced" gets twisted around a bit. For ordinary people, a balanced budget means there is neither surplus nor deficit.

If there is a surplus, some people could say that the Arroyo simply set the budget too high and drove the revenue collection agencies to snatch up all the money it can from the people, only to tell them later that it wasn't needed. It may seem great to have a budget surplus, but the little knowledge I have of economics and public administration says that it only means the government might have only burdened the people. IN ANYCASE, it is unlikely that there will be a surplus with the much ballyhooed E-VAT snagged at the Supreme Court and unable to produce additional revenues that will most likely fund this year's national budget that came in a few billion pesos shy of ONE TRILLION.

If there is a deficit, then the most likely charge would be the old faithful "THE GOVERNMENT SPENT TOO MUCH AND LOST A LOT THROUGH CORRUPTION!!"

Education. Arroyo's success on the front of public education, which is free education from elementary to highschool, is not measured is measured in logistics and not in the quality of the minds it produces. They're still making a big deal about having increased the number of classrooms, teachers, textbooks, and all. But a high percentage of any public highschool graduate will have the reading and math skills of an elementary level student; don't even ask me about the general knowledge they hold in their heads or how much science they understand.

There are exceptions out there, most of them graduate from Philippine Science High School or Manila Science High School. The rest of the exceptions come few and far between, being on average about less than two or three percent of the population of public highschools.

Automating the electoral process is still very much a matter of the COMELEC getting the machines it purchased for last year's election actually and not virtually ONLINE. Last time I heard, these machines where collecting dust in warehouses somewhere. Why it was mostly unused in the 2004 election beats me.

Transportation. Referring to public transportation which should assume there is a public transportation system in place, but there isn't. Whatever semblance of a public transportation system the Philippines has is pretty much the Metro Rail Transit, Light Rail Transit, and the Mega Tren; seaports; and a new international airport (NAIA3) which for one reason or another has remained closed. I won't even go into detail about the North Luzon and South Luzon train projects.

Let me talk about the Megatren and the MRT, both systems are bogging down. The Megatren slows down, stops and breaks down almost everytime it rains. The MRT is always late, because of one technical breakdown or another.

Terminating hostilities through a just conclusion of the peace process. A few days ago, the Reds have declared that they were not negotiating with the Arroyo government anymore, but that seems par for the course (such talks have been ongoing since the late 80's and nothing has come of it). What this says to me is that the Philippine communists are saying two things: one, Gloria Arroyo has no power to negotiate anything because her administration is crumbling, and two, they no longer recognize her government -- which had been their position from the start, anyway. Peace talks don't stop the killings and attacks, that the only truth there.

Healing the wounds of EDSA. Okay, first she inflicts a gaping wound on the nation's soul and then scurries over with a band-aid in hand. And if recent events are any indication of her success, I doubt she'll stay in power long enough to say she failed. Cory Aquino has asked for her resignation, along with other so called "Moral" leaders.

Electricity costs too damned much in this country and I don't care if even the remotest barangay can turn on an electric light bulb. If you asked me, they're better off without an electric bill which they can't pay for anyway because they are too damned poor! So what is the use of having electricity in every baranggay.

Opportunities for livelihood and the creation of six to 10 million jobs. After firing Cito Lorenzo, who was supposed to be in-charge of "coordinating and monitoring" the job generation program as the head of the hastily created Office of the Presidential Adviser for Jobs Generation and assigning the job to Roberto Tiglao -- who will most likely delegate it to someone elese -- what can we expect her to say? Well, she'll say that they had succeeded in generating hundreds of thousands of jobs, but is there anyway to verify this information? I've seen how they collect the data for the job generation statistics and let me say, they are nothing more than statistics -- numbers, just numbers, derived from assumptions and produced by formulas. Numbers don't lie, but they don't live and breath either.

The SWS recently came out with survey results indicating that 20 percent of the Philippine's adult population was jobless. Of course unemployment figures from the Arroyo administration will most likely be lower, all thanks to an inappropriate definition of employement. Currently, the DOLE is saying that employment is any activity that creates an income, irregardless of whether it can actually support a person's minimum basic needs and whether that person has an income for most of the year. This definition is used in countries and states with a strong welfare system, where the unemployed are given welfare money or subsidies to sustain them while they are without work. It would naturally be in the interest of welfare states (such as the UK, parts of the United States, Australia, Canada and other countries) to reduce the number of unemployed by using a definition as stated above. Used in the Philippine Context, that means beggars in the streets (there are thousands of them) and other such people are actually EMPLOYED. I could shovel horseshit in Binondo the whole day for P5.00 and still call myself employed.

Decongesting Metro Manila is still a lofty ambition, people will still flock to Metro Manila because they're practically eating dirt in the provinces.

Developing Subic and Clark. FedEx is going bye-bye come 2007. Other multinational companies are leaving. Hmmmm! If ever Subic and Clark gets developed as it should, guess which provinces benefit the most? Pampanga, I suppose.

Well, this is as much as I can say about Gloria's SONA. I may be wrong in certain aspects of my assessment. Feel free to disagree with me.

(My wife's special report on the State of the Nation Address will appear here as an entry in my blog. What's different about this piece is that it won't burden the viewer with more interviews with poor (illiterate) people mouthing stuff like "we are poorer now and enduring so much more hardships because of Gloria". She had selected interviews with the so called Silent Majority (no not Linggoy Alcuaz), hardworking people who are out there just trying to make the best out of what opportunities they have but are having a hell of a time doing so in the midst of this political noise. It will be translated from the original tagalog script and will contain a number of anecdotes.)

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