A lot of things will be different today, Monday, July 28, when President Benigno Aquino III delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA). The Philippine leader who’s had it so good in the first half of his term – impressive growth numbers, successful campaigns on reproductive health and sin tax, a culture of honest governance, a peace agreement with rebels – has basked in sustained high popularity ratings that no Philippine president in recent history had enjoyed. Many – and perhaps he himself – thought he could do no wrong.
But more Filipinos have grown either undecided over the President or dissatisfied with his performance. Recent results of public opinion surveys are a far cry from the solid numbers in previous years, when support for the President and his policies was unequivocal. Three key problems fester despite government efforts in the last 4 years: poverty, low workers’ income, and inflation. Even on the main agenda of fighting corruption, the Aquino administration is witnessing falling numbers in terms of people’s appreciation of it.
Thus when the President faces the nation today, he does so against the backdrop not only of declining ratings in public opinion surveys but also of impeachment complaints filed against him (who would have thought?), an ugly fight with the judiciary, and a looming energy crisis, among others. Malacañang said the President is unfazed and was, in fact, in high spirits last weekend as he prepared for his SONA.
But there’s an air of unease. A sense of dissatisfaction. A degree of uncertainty.
Rotational blackouts have hit Luzon since early July, when major power plants went offline for maintenance. The energy secretary fears a “red alert” situation by 2015, prompting him to ask the President to declare a state of emergency in the power sector. As far as the other sectors are concerned, there’s a lot of unfinished business. Our urban woes continue to pile up – just ask the suffering MRT rider who’s been promised more routes and more coaches since ages ago. Eight months after Yolanda, the government has yet to implement the rehabilitation plans for towns and cities devastated by the super typhoon. On the deadline to complete the distribution of lands to farmers, the government has yet to put more than 41,583 hectares of land under the agrarian reform program. In his SONA last year, the President said he hoped that a new law on the Bangsamoro region would be passed by end of 2014, but problems between Malacañang and the MILF have made this timetable difficult to achieve.
The current state of the nation reflects the reality and complexities of governance. It also reflects the price a country pays when its leaders get easily distracted by obstacles to long-term growth, and are tough on opponents but are accommodating of non-performing allies. There are also good intentions, designed to meet social goals, that probably have blinded officials from abuses that could occur along the way, as one Supreme Court justice put it. And there are political interests that are better served in 2016 yet, not today.
The President often wonders why, despite what his administration has done (including jailing 3 senators for alleged corruption), people continue to complain. He sometimes forgets that “daang matuwid” raised the bar on good governance and public expectations. And rightly so. A nation once condemned to a lifetime of backwardness now knows it can be on the world map for its achievements.
And so to shield them from the boom-and-bust cycle of the past, Filipinos are making noise and getting restless at the time it’s most needed – hoping the President they elected in 2010 would notice their dissatisfaction and act on it. Before it’s too late. – Rappler.com