State of the Nation Address 2011
The 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA) is the second report of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on the achievements of his administration and the current situation of the Philippines from July 2010 to July 2011. It was delivered on 25 July 2011 after the opening of the 15th Congress at the Batasang Pambansa Complex. The SONA was presided by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Expectations are high on Aquino's SONA as he has gained trust from majority of Filipinos, both rich and poor. According to the latest Pulse Asia Survey, his popularity ratings as of June 2011 is 71% from the 80% ratings at the time he started his term. According to political analysts, 71% is still a high rating for a two year period despite a slight decline.
Communications secretary Ricky Carandang said that as of the press briefing four days before the SONA, all key agencies have submitted their respective reports and the template for the draft speech has already been produced. A meeting was held days prior to the delivery of the President's SONA to put together the templates ang go over the accomplishment reports.
For the transcript of the 2011 SONA, visit The Philippine Online Chronicles
Aquino started by looking back on his promise during his inauguration speech that Filipinos would do away with the use of the wang-wang (siren). He said that this gesture has become the symbol of change “not only in our streets, but even in our collective attitude.”
He embodied corruption, abuse of authority, and traditional politics to the wang-wang as he mentioned specific instances of irregularities during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, most notable of which is the P1 billion worth of coffee spent during the previous Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation administration led by Efraim Genuino.
Highlights of his speech included the following:
- Fewer hungry Filipinos since self-related hunger has gone down from 20.5% in March to 15.1% in June 2011
- Better economy that exceeded the threshold of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) Index with 4,000 points;
- Cheaper energy source since a new contract was signed for a new power plant to be constructed in the Luzon grid
- Zero-based budgeting to review programs and end many “wasteful” programs
- A more honest Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) since the patronage system which has been prevalent in DPWH has been replaced with a culture in which merit prevails
- No more over-importation of rice and ensuring rice self-sufficiency
- Better benefits for policemen and soldiers by awarding 4,000 Certificates of Entitlement to Lot Allocation
- Willingness and readiness to protect Philippine territory in the disputed Spratly Islands with the acquisition of a Hamilton Class Cutter that will be deployed in the West Philippine Sea
- Proper implementation of “The Anti-Traficking in Persons Act” signed in 2003. Seven years after its implementation only 29 traffickers have been convicted but in Aquino's one year of presidency, 31 human traffickers were convicted
- More jobs since the unemployment rate in April 2011 has gone down to 7.2% from the April 2010 unemployment rate of 8%
- Health program for the poor and identifying beneficiaries through the National Household Targeting System to make sure that the families who will benefit from PhilHealth are those who really need it
- Synchronizing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao election with the national elections and postponement of its elections to avoid the corrupt practices of some candidates because of their desire to return or retain power *Stewardship of cacao and coffee trees by informal settlers thus investing in the environment and in the people
- Development of the monorail system which could potentially provide a mass transport solution that is cheaper than the current cost of mass transit systems
- Appointment of new Ombudsman former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
He ended his speech by hoping to put an end to crab mentality and the culture of negativism instead “uplift our fellow Filipinos at every opportunity” and praise if we see something right. Lastly, he thanked his "Bosses," the Filipino people “for the change that is now upon us”.
Aquino drew various responses from lawmakers who attended the SONA. According to Aquino's partymates Belmonte and House majority leader Erin Tanada, Aquino's message was well articulated and can be “easily understood.” Boxing champ and Sarangani congressman Manny Pacquiao noted Aquino's agenda and specific projects for the poor, like job creation and housing, as the expected change in the President's term.
Minority senator Pia Cayetano praised Aquino of being sincere in his fight against corruption; however, she stressed that the President still lacked in “concrete actions” and solutions in solving the country's woes. Meanwhile, former president Joseph Estrada said that Aquino needs more time in “restoring faith in the government.
Contrastingly, Negros Occidental congressman and brother-in-law of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that Aquino's second SONA was “full of soundbites and lacking in substance.” For his part, Anakpawis congressman Rafael Mariano commented that Aquino was silent on land reform in his SONA.
Thousands of activists trooped to Commonwealth Avenue in front of St. Peter's Church in protest against the Aquino administration. Groups under the Freedom from Debt Coalition, and the Partido Lakas ng Masa slammed Aquino's economic policies encapsulated under the Philippine Development Plan, which reaffirms the neoliberal policies of the Arroyo administration which resulted to underemployment and high prices of commodities.
Meanwhile, youth groups Sanlakas Youth, and Youth Against Debt described Aquino's first year as a “State Of No Accomplishment” as a play of the acronym SONA, as the President allegedly failed in prioritizing education. The youth groups demanded the government to fund at least six percent of the country's gross domestic product on education.
In a separate rally, groups under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan described Aquino's SONA as shallow and a “running story of illusion and imagination.”
Clergymen were also divided in rating Aquino's second SONA. According to Msgr. Esteban Binghay of the Archdiocese of Cebu, Aquino's SONA was “very good” but for Fr. Jerry Oblepias of San Pablo City, the SONA was “good in form but [with] no substance.” Meanwhile, Fr. Raul Matienzo of Calamba City remarked that Aquino did not mention the Hacienda Luisita land issue.
Celebrities led by presidential sister Kris Aquino praised Aquino's second SONA on microblogging site Twitter. According to the younger Aquino, his brother did a “great SONA” while composer and singer Jim Paredes described the SONA as “inspiring” and “uplifting.”
Filipino-Americans living in New York have mixed reactions regarding Aquino's speech. Some of them who are not convinced, especially the members of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), held a protest in the Woodside community a day before the SONA and wanted to hear the real SONA since many people are still suffering from lack of education, food and support. They also said that he should be doing projects for the migrants in the United States.
On the other hand, leaders of the US Pinoys for Good Governance said Aquino should be applauded for his efforts of creating new jobs. The unemployment rate went down as well as the self-rated hunger. Some were also pleased in his commitment to defend the Philippine territories particularly the Spratly Islands. They added that protecting the said island and its oil is a must so its oil revenues would erase the need for the Filipinos to work abroad.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended Aquino's speech, saying that it is meant to be “feel good” to “change the attitude of Filipinos.” He added that Aquino deliberately veered away from bashing Arroyo in his SONA to change the Filipinos mindset “from a lot of negativism.”
Lacierda said that Aquino no longer has to mention about the controversial Reproductive Health Bill and the Freedom of Information Act in his SONA as he has “adequately expressed his support” on these measures.
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