A plea to President Noy before his SONA

Buena Bernal
I am not asking for the absolute eradication of our country’s problems, Mr President. My plea is rather simple: I plead that you remember who you are and why you are here.

BUENA BERNALPhilippine history is highlighted by the 1986 People Power Revolution. We Filipinos have internalized our identity based largely on that narrative.

As a first-grader in 1996, I was exposed to a Philippine History textbook that started with Lapu-Lapu battling at Mactan in defense of our territorial sovereignty; it ended with the installation of Corazon Aquino as president, suggesting to my juvenile mind a fairytale format with a happy ending.

The overthrow of despot Ferdinand Marcos was understood by my 4-year-old self as a victory for the Filipino people.

At least that is how I remember my grade school history lessons to be, which speaks of either my selective appreciation of Philippine history or my teacher’s bias on certain lessons. Or perhaps, Grade 1 history textbooks were really framed that way.

Even today as a journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas, I am privy to the musings of professors – themselves media practitioners, who every now and then allude to the year 1986 in recounting the travails of our country’s press freedom.

To many, the Edsa Revolution laid the groundwork for understanding Philippine politics. We are now more than fully aware that abuse and monopoly of power can be countered through the collective voice of the people.

In 2009, the memorial service of former president Cory Aquino found Filipinos once again in the streets walking alongside unfamiliar faces. The whole nation mourned, not only the untimely death of an icon, but also the moribund state of the country. There was a clamor for a new brand of leadership in government.

That moment when the Filipino people started looking at President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as a redeemer of a nation reeling from the corruption of the previous administration, is probably how history will recount his rise to power. The challenge in the here and now is how he will want that narrative to end.

Unfinished business

There is much work to be done. The economy may have experienced rapid growth in the year’s first quarter, but consistency is key along with ensuring that economic growth is felt on the ground by your ordinary Juan dela Cruz rather than by a select elite.

Infrastructure is on a roll, but there remains a need to include debt reduction in the executive agenda.

To date, the Philippines is notorious for not being able to comply with the minimum international standards required in the fight against human trafficking.

The extrajudicial killing cases that the President inherited from the previous administration remain unprosecuted.

Furthermore, genuine agrarian reform has to be met before the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer) law expires in 2014. President Aquino ought to be true to his promise to distribute all lands under the coverage of CARP by the same year.

There is a lot of talk and a seeming consensus that the realization of genuine agrarian reform is the perfect complement to the President’s unique rise-to-power narrative.

A presidency that is the result of a people’s campaign, an unplanned candidacy, and a landslide win all largely driven by the death of Cory Aquino (during whose term the first CARP was enacted into law), will best end with the full implementation of that program.

Presidents are not judged on a curve but by the ideal standard of what the law mandates. Saying “We’ve distributed more CARP-covered lands than previous administrations” is different from “We’ve distributed all CARP-covered lands as mandated by law.”

My plea

I am not asking for the absolute eradication of our country’s problems, Mr President. My plea is rather simple: I plead that you remember who you are and why you are here.

Remember the overwhelming trust the Filipino people gave you when they shaded that circle beside your name in the 2010 election ballot.

Remember also that portion of this society you have proven yourself to by now. Those who, like me, did not vote for you in the last elections, but have all the confidence in you today. Our hope is that you will follow through with your promises.

Remember the majority of Filipinos whose poverty we are mere spectators of. Remember that these people, said a man whose name you bear, are “worth dying for.”

Staying true to one’s identity requires remembering. So in crucial moments of decision-making for the country, of issuing directives for action, remember who you are and why you are here, for it is said, there is power in identity.

Filipinos, by virtue of a dominant historical narrative, view your parents as heroes. Right now and in the last years of your presidency, you have an opportunity to be one yourself. – Rappler.com

Buena Bernal is a senior journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas. She was a Rappler intern and continues to contribute stories and think pieces.


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