SONA 2022

[OPINION] A Marcos’ 1st SONA: Is there hope under all the mistruths?

Tony La Viña, Bernardine de Belen

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[OPINION] A Marcos’ 1st SONA: Is there hope under all the mistruths?
'Whether we like it or not, this SONA is important'

Newly inaugurated president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be delivered on the 25th of July. Everyone’s waiting with anticipation; whether that anticipation is with hope, anger, or grief, it is anticipation nonetheless. This SONA is even more important given that we did not hear the newly elected president share his platform when he was still a candidate.

Now let us make this clear, a Marcos victory and restoration is not easy to accept. We have seen how Martial Law victims are affected by the son’s candidacy and triumph. On top of that, we have observed how he has evaded both accusations of unpaid tax and presidential debates. Most of all, we have witnessed him and his family invest in machinery spreading disinformation, mistruths, and historical distortion. Throughout (and even years before) Marcos Jr.’s campaign, we have seen them take over new media to “clear” their family’s name. On Tiktok and Youtube especially, there are vloggers and content creators dedicated to deliberately bending the truth to restore the belief that Marcos Sr.’s time was the golden age of Filipino prosperity. Another article from Rappler exploring the different faces of Marcos supporters shows that some of them used to think that the Marcoses were “bad,” and that their opinions only changed after spending time on social media and watching pro-Marcos content. 

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While some Filipinos remain haunted by the violence of the Marcos dictatorship and the Marcoses remain affluent from their ill-gotten wealth, netizens have been made to believe that this same family is the way to the golden era of abundance.

This becomes even more frustrating when we think of how journalists and activists have fought against disinformation even during Marcos Sr.’s time. While “fake news” and “disinformation” appear to be new concepts, Marcos Sr. has used his propaganda machine long before to keep Filipinos thinking that he is the Messiah leading them to paradise. Censorship then led to disinformation, while now, information overload does. 

Aside from this, we have seen the failure of our election system as many VCMs failed to function properly on election day. Voters from different areas were forced to stay past voting hours just to feed their own ballots into the machine. From problems during election day alone, there was already a lack of transparency and accountability.

However, no matter what we say, no matter how hard of a pill it is to swallow, Bongbong Marcos has been inaugurated as president. Again, this is not painless to say. There are too many unhealed wounds behind the victory that remain untended. But we must accept this to move forward. As of now, we need to face the big picture. As Marcos Jr. is preparing to deliver his first SONA, we are dealing with multiple crises simultaneously. Globally, we are experiencing a food crisis, an energy crisis, and a health crisis as the pandemic rages on. We are already experiencing the effects of these crises as inflation has reached the country’s shores. Furthermore, the climate emergency is seen to worsen as we are not doing enough to respond to it. Locally, we are also experiencing turmoil; violations of human rights have risen in a volatile political climate whether it be through the drug war or red-tagging.

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All of these issues pose a threat to our safety as a nation and as citizens. Therefore, whether we like it or not, this SONA is important. And we can only hope that it contains plans that prioritize us Filipinos. So far, there seems to be a few small but meaningful opportunities under this presidency that we can take. And hopefully, the SONA addresses these as well.

First, with a new chief executive in place, we can hope that the violent war on drugs Duterte has imposed will be transformed completely. Marcos Jr. has already mentioned that the drug war must be done “within law.” Newly appointed National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos has also proclaimed  that red-tagging must be stopped under the Marcos administration, which will hopefully lessen the violence against activists and people from the basic sectors.

Additionally, as Marcos has appointed the Cabinet members, we can see that this Cabinet is the least militarized in comparison to other post-EDSA I administrations. There are also excellent appointments and nominations, including in energy and environment where we are seeing the best tandem ever. This means that there is more opportunity for the secretaries to utilize their expertise based on the department they are assigned to. It is important for us to have brilliant and independent minds under a Marcos administration and a volatile political climate. With one of these cabinet heads being Marcos himself, we must expect him to truly lead us to a better place when it comes to food security. Otherwise, why would he take the position of Department of Agriculture secretary himself? It is the same with Vice President Sara Duterte assuming the position of Department of Education secretary. More than two years of the pandemic has made students suffer with distance learning. We must expect the Vice President to dedicate her time for the betterment of the education system instead of focusing on the implementation of mandatory ROTC.

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While these small and meaningful opportunities are open for us to seize, it is also important to remember that they remain hanging. They remain opportunities until they are realized. We can only work, fight, and hope that these promises and potentials we see under all the mistruths can grow into something more. While it is important to hold onto hope, it is important to remain vigilant, especially with all the deceit that is spreading around. Moreso, the economic managers of the cabinet, while capable of being independent, are still neoliberal. This means that we must continue to hold them accountable and ascertain that their plans are inclusive of the poor and the basic sectors. Because after all the mention of these meaningful opportunities, where are the genuine and concrete plans to make life better for the Filipinos? What do we really need from our leaders at a time of multiple global and local crises? –

Tony La Viña teaches law and is former dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

Bernardine de Belen recently graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a Creative Writing degree. She has just joined Manila Observatory as a research assistant.

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