Sunday, August 03, 2014

A work in progress

This is my column today, August 3, 2014.


There were a number of things about the President’s fifth State of the Nation Address last Monday that I felt needed to be rebuffed and refuted – such as the government’s tall tale about quick, effective, and compassionate response during the Yolanda crisis – but I must say that overall, I found this SONA a much improved effort compared to previous ones.  If the President continues with his hopefully newfound stride, the nation should see the rise of Benigno S. Aquino, the statesman and President of all Filipinos. 
Of course the President highlighted the supposed achievements of his administration.  What leader in his right mind would deliver a report card that is short on accomplishments?  I am surprised that many people still find this part of the annual SONA objectionable.  I have no doubt that the figures and dates the President cited were all accurate; just that the interpretation of some of the data was clearly skewed and there was lots of reframing done on certain issues.  I am sure that anyone looking for lies in that speech would find them; truth is not always absolute, particularly when viewed in the context of political conflicts.
For example, and this has been pointed out with more emotions by the other victims of Typhoon Yolanda, the President’s version of the government’s response after the supertyphoon was woefully inaccurate.  It’s been eight months since the supertyphoon and the government still does not have an approved and implementable blueprint for the rehabilitation efforts – that’s how slow the government has been insofar as delivering assistance to the victims is concerned.  Just imagine how much worse it was during the first few days and weeks after the supertyphoon when all systems were down!  The government may have been able to bring in three C-130 planes the day after Yolanda reduced many parts of Leyte to a rubble, but that doesn’t mean people got what was on those planes immediately.  If it was true that enough reinforcements arrived immediately, then Tacloban City could have been spared from the fatal blow that finally sent it gasping for breath – massive looting and lawlessness.
There were many other things that the President chose to gloss over, or totally leave out from his SONA.
But like I said, this SONA was far more acceptable in terms of the kind of image that it conveyed about kind of a President or leader he has become, or is becoming.  
For once, the President did not come across as a whiny, spoiled brat that demanded recognition and compliance.  He did not use the SONA as a platform to demonize certain individuals and institutions as in the past although he did throw the occasional punch directed at his perceived enemies and critics.  And more importantly, he tried to speak directly from the heart.  Am not really sure if the last part created a change of heart among his most ardent critics, but I know that many people were moved by his attempt to show a more human side of himself. 
Of course one swallow does not make a spring, but I think the President deserves the benefit of the doubt.  He has barely two years in office and there remains so much to be done.  If he spends more time listening to the real needs of the people and responding with more empathy, he will be remembered both for the reforms he has made and for certain leadership traits.  
I have said this many times in the past and have been crucified for saying thus, but I will repeat it again now:  It had become easy for us Filipinos to find faults in whoever is sitting in Malacanan Palace and we’ve become so good at replacing Presidents.  I have always kept the belief that every President who placed his or her hand in the Bible and recited that sacred oath on his or her first day of office was driven by sincerity and the desire to serve and make a difference.  This President, despite the many human frailties, has admittedly tried very hard.  He’s a work in progress, but then again, so are we and this country.

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