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PNoy’s SONAs: Blaming the past, praising the present, entrusting the future


Every year, the President faces Congress members to deliver a speech on what he or she thinks is the state of the nation. Aside from being a constitutional obligation, the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) is a way for the President to tell the story of the Philippines, from his or her point of view.
 
For the past five years, President Benigno Aquino III has presented a narrative of the nation that contrasted his administration to that of her predecessor. In almost all of his past SONAs, Aquino blamed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration for supposedly being the breeding ground for corruption. 
 
Aquino trumpeted his presidency’s achievements, highlighting almost every year the country’s economic gains and his flagship anti-poverty effort: the Conditional Cash Transfer program.
 
During his most recent SONA, the President became more forward-looking, asking Filipinos to ensure that the reforms he started will continue beyond his term.
 
Before Aquino delivers his last address before Congress, let’s look back at how he presented the state of the nation during the past five years. 
 
SONA 2010: ‘Puwede na muling mangarap’
 
 
 
Aquino used his first address before Congress to expose supposed misuse of public funds committed under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. Then a newly-elected President, Aquino described as “abominable (kasuklam-suklam)” the alleged practices perpetuated by his predecessor: from excessive bonuses in state-run firms to rotting rice stocks due to improper procurement.
 
Aquino then pledged to deliver on his campaign platform to end corruption in government. He said that Filipinos can hope for change and can dream again during his presidency. He also pushed for the passage of laws for the judicious spending of public funds, and the improve the country’s justice system.
 
SONA 2011: ‘Tinutuldukan na po natin ang wang-wang’
 
 
 
Addressing the joint session of Congress in 2011, Aquino highlighted his commitment to go after corrupt officials by announcing the appointment of former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio Morales to the Office of the Ombudsman. He also committed to fight what he called as the “wang-wang” mentality in government, or the tendency of some officials to use their positions for self-gain.

[Morales has since filed plunder and graft charges against several government officials, most notably lawmakers including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada. They are accused of pocketing millions in their discretionary funds through the so-called “pork barrel” scam. Most recently, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from service of resigned PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, Pres. Aquino’s close pal, over an allegedly anomalous contract with a courier service.]
 
The President also enumerated his administration’s accomplishments after a year. Among these were stronger investor confidence on the Philippines, budget reforms and efforts to prosecute tax evaders. Also, for the first time, Aquino made a bold statement on the country’s territorial claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea): “Ang sa Pilipinas ay sa Pilipinas.”

[In January 2013, the Philippines filed a case before the United Nations’ arbitral tribunal challenging China’s massive claim over the South China Sea. Just this month, a high-level Philippine delegation went to The Netherlands to argue why the court should exercise its jurisdiction over the arbitration case. Although Beijing has refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings, a ruling on the jurisdiction issue is expected this year.]
 
SONA 2012:  ‘Ang sarap maging Pilipino sa mga panahong ito.’
 
 
 
In his third SONA, Aquino painted a rosy picture of the Philippines. He trumpeted the accomplishments of almost every department. He also boasted of how change is already commonplace under his presidency, even using testimonials from ordinary Filipinos on how the government helped improved their lives.
 
It was also at this time that the President called on Congress to pass two controversial measures: the Reproductive Health bill and the Sin Tax bill.

[The RH Law faced legal challenges before the Supreme Court, but was eventually upheld as constitutional, except for some minor provisions.]
 
SONA 2013: ‘Saan po kayo kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?’
 
 
 
Right after the 2013 midterm polls, Aquino described the administration’s majority victory in Congress as an affirmation of the way he is running the country. He also once again enumerated the achievements of each department—from solving backlogs in classrooms to providing new pistols to police officers — which he said are all aimed towards achieving inclusive growth in the country. 
 
While he criticized the past administration in his previous SONAs, Aquino this time berated three erring agencies under his watch: the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Customs and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). He said the “wang-wang” mentality persists in these agencies, and warned officials to shape up or face the consequences.

[These three agencies have experienced leadership changes over the past years. Current Immigration chief Siegfred Mison replaced Ricardo David, who resigned shortly after Aquino’s admonition. Antonio Nangel, NIA chief at the time, also quit his post. The NIA is now headed by administrator Florencio Padernal. 
 
At the BOC, then-Customs chief Ruffy Biazon resigned after being embroiled in the pork barrel controversy. Alberto Lina now heads the BOC, after John "Sunny" Sevilla, Biazon's successor, resigned in April.]
 
SONA 2014: ‘The Filipino is worth fighting for’
 
 
 
After once again detailing his administration’s accomplishments for the past five years, Aquino turned emotional in his penultimate SONA, delivering his version of words immortalized by his parents: “The Filipino is worth fighting for.”

For the first time, and two years before the national elections which will determine his successor, Aquino also told Filipinos that they have the capacity to make the reforms he started permanent. — RSJ/JJ GMA News