Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Time to get to work

(This post is also ante-dated. I was on blog leave for two weeks)

I was at work when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered her seventh State-of-the-Nation Address before Congress last Monday. I had to content myself with listening to the President’s address on my cellular phone’s built-in radio while going about work.
Apparently, not many people bothered with what the President had to say in her annual address to the nation as well. Based on what I saw on the late night newscast, the number of protesters at Commonwealth Avenue was significantly less this year. Even the media coverage was significantly low key. (Incidentally, I noted a very welcome development this year. For a change, there was hardly any feature on the President’s attire. Not that I find it frivolous; just that an inordinate media attention was focused on this in the past as if the State-of-the-Nation Address was a fashion event.)
Aside from the usual nitpicking and sourgraping from the usual suspects, even the post-Sona comments were subdued. Most of the comments had to do with what the President did not mention in her Sona. I found this line of critique very amusing. The President’s address cannot possibly cover everything. She cannot possibly accommodate every person’s pet advocacy. The level of importance we attach to certain issues is dictated by our own subjective preferences.
So if we were to sit down to make a list of things the President did not mention in her Sona, I am afraid one week’s worth of listing will not be enough.
Which is why I will acknowledge my bias: I am a human resource management practitioner and for the longest time, I have been advocating that this government should acknowledge that our only source of lasting competitiveness is our people.
Most of our natural resources are going or are already gone. Technology and financial capital can be easily sourced today. What we have in vast quantities is knowledge. We should be focusing on developing our human capital because that’s the one major resource that we can leverage on.
Thus, I am elated though that for the first time in a State-of-the-Nation Address, human capital and knowledge were finally mentioned.
“In today’s global economy, knowledge is the greatest creator of wealth,” the President said. “We have spent more on human capital formation than at any time in past. Why? If the government of the people is not for the people, it is a mockery of democracy.”
While the President was delivering her address, I did a quick survey among people I know if anyone else was listening. It seemed no one else was. I called some friends in other offices to check if a radio or television was on and if there were people who were monitoring the events at the opening of Congress. The results were the same; some didn’t even know that it was that time of the year again.
I posted a query in one e-mail group, basically asking people to comment on the seeming general indifference to political events, in particular, to the State-of-the-Nation Address. I got some interesting reactions.
While there were some caustic comments about the irrelevance (“nothing new will be said”) or the hypocrisy (“it will just be a parade of peacocks strutting the latest fashion statements”) of the event, most of the comments were quite insightful.
The comments can be summed up in this reaction from a manager at a manufacturing plant in Laguna: “It’s not that we don’t care because we do. But we each have our jobs to do just as Congress and government have theirs. It is time to leave them alone and trust that they will do their jobs properly just as we expect them to leave us alone to do ours as well.”
And that, I think, is a valid reflection on the real state of the nation; in particular, the state of mind of a significant percentage of the Filipino people today.
I think it is safe to say that many among us are bone weary of the heated confrontations, the backbiting and squabbling, and the power struggle that’s been a constant fixture in our lives in the last few years.
After sending a very strong message with the results of the senatorial elections, I think that many among us do want to take a break from politics at this time to see what the government and our politicians will do in response to the message. I know I do. I haven’t been writing about politics lately because quite frankly, I think that at some point, our leaders must be allowed to do their jobs without columnists and critics looking over their shoulders all the time.
Call me naïve and gullible, but this administration has barely three years left. I think the President and her people are determined to make sure that she and her administration are remembered for some major achievements that counterbalances the negative impact of Hello Garci and other embarrassing controversies. It has helped, of course, that there has not been a major scandal directly involving the President or members of the First Family since the impeachment threat last year.
Thus, I agree that many people now want to leave government officials to focus on more constructive efforts toward fixing the problems of the country.
Thus, I do not share the disappointment that others feel toward the opposition senators who coalesced with administration senators to elect Senator Manny Villar as Senate president. I do not necessarily think that a senator’s independence is automatically compromised just because he or she has voted with a senator from the administration party. As our Supreme Court justices have proven, one can still be independent-minded even if one has been appointed to the post by the current President.
I think that this country has more serious problems than the political divisions in the Senate. It is about time that our senators stand for something bigger and loftier than their political squabbles.
So yes, to a certain extent, I agree with the President: It is time to get out of the way of each other’s work. Put another way, it is time to get some work done.

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