SONA 2023

[OPINION] New Philippines for SONA 2023?

Tony La Viña

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[OPINION] New Philippines for SONA 2023?

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'If BBM is serious about establishing a New Philippines, he must realize that it is more than just branding'

In another column, I just juxtaposed our expectations from the SONA last year and what has transpired in a year under BBM’s leadership. I also mentioned the new campaign they launched called “Bagong Pilipinas” with the grand plan to help Filipinos achieve their dreams through a dependable government. However, “Bagong Pilipinas” (New Philippines) sounds eerily similar to his father’s “Bagong Lipunan” (New Society) that was a just band-aid on top of his administration’s atrocities.

The question then is, what would it really take to make a New Philippines? Based on the People’s Summit’s One-Year Assessment, here are things the Filipinos hope to hear during SONA 2023 for a genuine New Philippines.

On the economy

We have been bearing the brunt of rapid inflation for a year now. These rising prices must be addressed. A higher portion of everyone’s wages are now allocated for their essentials. Additional aid for this can be through the support of the national minimum wage. While there was just a wage hike of P40, this is not enough. Contractualization should also be ended as it impedes workers’ rights to organize, bargain for higher wages, and demand for safer working conditions.

In agriculture, we are yet to see the revitalization of local agriculture despite the president as Department of Agriculture secretary. With this revitalization, a production subsidy of P15,000 should be given to farmers and fisherfolk. We must prioritize food production over the importation of agricultural products.

If we want our economy to grow, the government must also promote local industrialization and support Filipino-owned industries. This will stimulate local job creation instead of a massive export of our labor for low wages. The mass transport system crisis also should not be ignored as it has made it difficult for workers to travel to and from their workplaces.

On human rights

Violations against human rights have continued on under BBM. He has not ended Duterte’s war against drugs. Extrajudicial killings outside of the drug war have also persisted, 53 were recorded in the counterinsurgency campaign since July 2022.

There are also demands for the president to publicly acknowledge and apologize for the atrocities that his father and family committed during martial law. This is especially necessary after his family’s massive disinformation campaign pushing that Marcos Sr.’s regime was the “golden age.”

Political prisoners must be released; there are 775 as of June 23, 2023. They must also surface the disappeared and provide support for the families. In Marcos Jr.’s administration, there were already eight in the first year, 45% of the 20 under Duterte’s regime.

BBM should also resume peace talks with the NDFP and address the root of the armed conflict. Additionally, they should cease the militarization and bombing of communities. After clashes with the NPA or a counterinsurgency operation, communities in the middle of it are displaced and hurt.

Civil rights must also be respected and upheld, together with academic freedom and gender equality. All of these can be addressed if we strengthen legal remedies and institute judicial reforms in relation with  international and national human rights norms.

On good governance

For good governance, there must be transparency and accountability in the government. This has eluded us for many years. This is why there should be a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and unethical governance. This is especially important with cases such as Pharmally’s. The Maharlika Investment Fund has just been signed as well which lends itself to tendencies of corruption. 

Effective public participation on budget processes are also necessary. This ensures that the taxpayers’ money is going to the correct place. In the past year, the huge amount of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) of the President and the CIF for the Vice President were opposed but were approved anyway. These violate the principles of accountability and transparency. 

Lastly, there is a need to reform the electoral process so that it can be fraud-free. With this, we continue to push for an anti-political dynasty law and the revival of the true spirit of the partylist system which was made for the marginalized voices.

On media and freedom of expression

In the past year, BBM’s administration has evidently attempted to suppress press freedom and our freedom of expression. Critics and journalists have continuously been red-tagged. In fact, according to the 2022 Global Impunity Index, the Philippines remains as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. It was seventh in the ranking. This is on top of the massive disinformation campaign that has carried on to give the illusion that the Marcoses never committed atrocities and stole the taxpayers’ money.

The first law Marcos Jr. signed was also the SIM Registration Act which poses security risks that can potentially harm many Filipinos.

These attempts to curtail press freedom and freedom of expression must be junked if we want truth to prosper in the New Philippines.

Must Read

[ANALYSIS] SONA 2023: How to judge PBBM by his own standards

[ANALYSIS] SONA 2023: How to judge PBBM by his own standards
On foreign policy

BBM must make a firm stance on our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We must not let other troops use our land for military exercises. Instead, we saw the largest Balikatan joint exercises in Philippine history. We must also assert the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea or UNCLOS regarding the West Philippine Sea. Instead, we find our fisherfolk being aggressed by China.

It is not only our land and sea that we must fight for, but also our national wealth and resources. We are not benefiting from our mining, fishing, or agriculture. These resources are either for export or extracted directly by foreign companies. The renewed push for foreign investments have caused the encroachment of our lands, including ancestral lands, and its diverse ecosystems.

On social services

Housing has lagged behind in the past year. There are 4.5 million Filipinos who are homeless and 3.8 million who live in informal settlements. The backlog in housing has ballooned to 6.6 million which must be addressed. Instead, they deducted P2.7B in the budget for housing. With this, the budget for ayuda/aid has gotten much smaller. From P233B in 2020, it has gone down to P510M in 2023.

Meanwhile, according to the health sector, malnutrition and hunger are persistent. One out of ten households are food insecure. Medicine prices have also remained high and are continuing to rise. Fifty percent of our population continue to suffer from the lack of access to a primary care facility within 30 minutes. We also lack doctors and nurses causing our healthcare workers to be overworked and underpaid.

Lastly, the education sector is suffering through the consequences of two years of remote learning. The education budget is only 3.5% of the GDP which is far from the recommended 6% by the UN. While the schools have opened, there is a lack of preparation. There are not enough teachers, facilities, or learning materials. This has caused the teachers to bear the brunt. Like healthcare workers, they continue to be overworked and underpaid.

If BBM is serious about establishing a New Philippines, he must realize that it is more than just branding. There are many things that need to be done aside from a new logo. Addressing what we discussed in his second SONA would be a good place to start. –

Tony La Viña teaches constitutional law at the University of the Philippines and several Mindanao law schools. He is former dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

1 comment

Sort by
  1. ET

    PBBM is really serious in establishing a New Philippines for the benefit of his Political Dynasty. He will continue using his Disinformation Machinery to fool the People about his accomplishments and his Corruption Machinery to amass more wealth. What is interesting is how can his Political Dynasty continue its grip on the Presidency considering that VP Sara Duterte is very eager to the the next President of the Philippines comes 2028? Although, in fairness to President BBM, he did accomplish many things; the problems are: Are they for real? Are they what the People want? Are they really for the benefit of the Filipino People? Even if these questions will be answered well (but as always, the evaluation will be subjective and relative), what is most certain – is that the Marcos Administration’s Disinformation and Corruption Machinery will continue to run – faster, higher, stronger and deadlier!

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!