A feminist reading of 2012 Sona

Three Sonas have gone; three more to go. This is midpoint of the administration. By the looks of it, the work to be done is not even half way

I may be wrong or I am incredulously right. Of President Benigno Aquino’s State of the Nation Addresses, the third is both pro-woman and anti-woman.

Sona III may have high marks of achievement on three areas.

First, transparency, accountability and good governance; savings, due diligence, clear consistent rules, and a fair playing field. The vision of “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap”, and the Process of “Daang Matuwid” are diligently observed, at least in the highest levels of government. Those who do not follow are warned and punished, even impeached. Those who do their jobs efficiently and contribute to the achievements of their departments will be given performance ratings. Their yearly bonuses can also go as high as P35,000, besides across-the-board Christmas bonus. Old age and disability pensioners will also receive higher monthly pensions of P5,000 for their basic needs of water, power, food.

Second, the idea of “Bayanihan”, the Filipino translation of “convergence” or the coming together of people to collaborate, network and help each other. Thus, “It is great to be a Filipino”. Within this context, GDP grew by 6.4%, the highest growth in South East Asia; second only to China in the whole of Asia! While Good Governance is defined in terms of agriculture, food production, prices that do not fluctuate, stable wages resulting in a stronger, resilient and dynamic economy that is a defense against global uncertainty.

The Philippines has gotten positive credit rating, not just once, but 8 times. The Philippine Stock Exchange has first broken the 4,000 level not just once, but 44 times. The index hovers at 5,000; foreign investments are coming in; Japan and one British investor are interested.

There are one million entrants to the job market every year; 3.1 million jobs are produced in the past two years.

The BPO industry has employed only 5,000 in 2000; but employed 638,000 in 2011, contributing US$11 billion. By 2016, the BPO sector is projected to employ 1.3 million people and impact 3.2 indirectly, like taxi drivers, baristas, corner store and canteen owners and workers. The BPO will bring in $25 billion by 2016, expected to surpass India.  

The Philippines will export rice with a successful feasible irrigation program and assiduous implementation of certified seed, together with coconut water (that is the fad now) and coconut coir.

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program will be executed, and the distribution of lands will be done before this government finishes its term in 2016.

The tourism industry is growing from 1.8 million tourists in 2001 to 3.1 million in 2010; from 4.6 million in 2012 to 10 million in 2016.

It is fun in the Philippines.

The Philippines, although in the past and still is a debtor country, has given its first loan as a creditor country, however controversial it is.

Third, the greatest achievements of Sona III are in ARMM. No single encounter with government! Peace and prosperity, trust and faith, plus a budget of P859 billion and a yearly support of P11.7 billion have evolved to the Second Order of Change in ARMM. The leader is even called a Ghost buster.

Needs Improvement

But Sona III does not portray equity and equality of achievements between men and women, male and female. The women’s achievements are not acknowledged, marginalized and silenced. Why so?

First, the voice of the Sona III narrator is definitely male. The voices within the text are also all male. There are less than half a dozen female Cabinet members in this government; but except for DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, women are marginalized.

How can we be proud of women when our achievements are appreciated only in the context of the CCT or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program with 760,357 household beneficiaries raised to 3.1 million within two years and projected to rise to 3.8 million in 2013? The report says that 1,672,977 mothers get regular checkup; 1,672,814 children get vaccinated against diarrhea, polio, measles; 4.57 million students go to school.

Membership to PhilHealth has risen from 62% to 85%; 23.31 million Filipinos have access to PhilHealth; 5.2 million of the poorest households, and free for the poorest Filipinos. However, there is still high maternal mortality ratio, and malnourished children with stunted growth.

True universal holistic health care is defined by mosquito traps against dengue; at a time when Sonofi, a French drug company has tested Dengue vaccines in Thailand successfully.

This is the image of the Filipino woman, a feminization of poverty.

How can we appreciate women with the appointments of 10,000 nurses and midwives deployed in RH Helps Program; 30,801 nurses and 11,000 community health teams deployed with efficient targeting in 1,021 localities covered by Pantawid and 609 poorest cities and municipalities.

Where are the women who are empowered and educated to break the glass ceiling, leaders in business and politics? They are not acknowledged in this presidential speech. Did they do anything during the year that is worthwhile besides lobbying for the Reproductive Health Bill downgraded into a euphemism, responsible parenthood?

Another woman in the Sona is appreciated as witness in the impeachment trial. She is now receiving anonymous death threats, but there is no order for security and protection.

Move on with speeches

A State of the Nation is a yearly report card to the people. It contains the top three achievements of the government; summed up by top three achievements of each Cabinet member and department. The achievements of the male cabinet members are enumerated; each is individually thanked, a joke for each one is even fondly cracked.

But the women are absent, marginalized and decentered, together with the poor, the unemployed, the sick and uneducated. The youth sector is insulted. There is no face. There is just statistics.

For example: the achievement in education is drilled down to increased funding by 43.61% for state universities and colleges, and increase of 66,800 classrooms, chairs, desks and a backlog of 61.7 million textbooks.  A compelling image here is how illegal logging worth P6 million of timbre is given to communities trained in carpentry and made into chairs for public schools.

There is no face to education. How many teachers have been added to the pool; how many kindergarten schools have been put up, how many pre-schoolers are accepted into pre K-12? But the Noynoying students in the streets are insulted to take up remedial math.

TESDA seems to be more specific and concrete in its report of 434,676 individuals trained in the Training for Work Scholarship Program; 5,240 certified specialists now earning P562 a day or P11,240 a month in the TESDA Specialists Technopreneurship Program.

Second, the layout of the budget is not pro-women.

We go through the to-do list that would be using government funds – processing machines for coconut fibers, light or energy, infrastructure, roads, bridges, runways, airports, terminals, seaports, trains, bus terminals, highways all contracted with no kickbacks or favoritism, with the right process of bidding and procurement by top 40 contractors.

We go through the shopping list — canons, personal carriers, frigates, soon BRP Ramon Alcaraz will have a twin BRP Gregorio del Pilar. The only one C-130 will be joined by two more C-130. These are pathetic facts about the state of the military. To be refurbished are 21 UH-IH helicopters, 4 combat utility helicopters, radios, communication equipment, rifles, mortars, mobile diagnostic laboratories, station bullet assemblies.

There is an order of 74,000 guns for policemen to protect the nation. Incidentally, 22,000 houses have been built under the AFP-PNP housing program.

In 2013, there will be 10 attack helicopters, two naval helicopters, two light aircraft, one frigate, air force protection equipment.  

Are we trying to impress the Chinese, with their Chinese Nine Dash Line Theory, laying claim to the entire West Philippine Sea, about our inadequate military arsenal and capability to protect our rights to the West Philippine Sea?

On the other hand, the shopping list for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management consists of 86 automated rain gauges, 28 water level monitoring sensors. The target for 2013 is 600 automated rain gauges, 422 water level sensors to be installed in 80 primary river basins.

The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management has clear plans to avoid catastrophe. Project Noah has the technology to give fair warning. Relief goods and rescue services are always ready for any emergency. Sirens are used only by police cars, ambulance and fire trucks.

The narrative tone of these shopping lists is very male; the favorite toys of boys.

Sona III has two compelling and grabbing images.

On the negative side is how a past administration cheated the figures of energy for all by considering one electric wire that reaches a barangay hall, as already electrifying a whole barangay! That is similar to how the past administration solved the lack of classrooms and chairs by increasing the class size from 45 to 65 pupils; so on paper, there is no lack.

On the positive side is sustainable development through environmental protection. Trees will be planted in 128,558 hectares of forests, albeit a fraction of 1.5 million hectares of farmland. The trees, together with seeds in nursery, coffee and cacao beans will be planted and taken care of by communities in exchange for conditional cash transfer. This is a very creative and innovative idea; sacred Forests in communities hopefully connected to each other by green corridors. The communities may even get to create livelihood in terms of herbs and art and culture.

Priority is given to passing the following laws:

  • Sin Tax Bill or taxes on alcohol and tobacco; the money of which will be used for HealthCare
  • Mining Law which will utilize natural resources to uplift living conditions and ensure that the environment is cared for, while both public and private sectors receive just benefits. Is this in the context of a Green Economy and Climate Change?
  • Anti Money Laundering Law, with amendments
  • AFP Modernization Bill


The presidential speech, like Sona I and II, is bookended again by graft and corruption of the past and giving thanks to people who have helped the presidency, including his spiritual advisers. It compares foreign media optimism with local media criticism, instead of trying to get a buy in and support from local media. There is no Bayanihan spirit, or what is called convergence, with the local media.

Three Sonas have gone; three more to go. This is midpoint of the administration. By the looks of it, the work to be done is not even half way. The blame is laid on negativism and criticism.

The presidential speech ends with rhetoric on ownership of responsibility. “This is not my SONA. This is the SONA of the Filipino Nation.” What happens to the modern thought of “ownership of one’s action”. This last sentence wipes out the whole speech.

Deconstructed, the sub text is that if Dream Philippines fails in 2016, it is not mine; it is because of the negativity of the Filipino people. – Rappler.com