SONA: The Spectacle vs. Reality

We are still far from the image that the SONA wants to project--- a healthy, vibrant and developed country. Politicians should draw the Filipino people closer to them. Wearing fancy, expensive and extravagant clothing will not endear them to ordinary Filipinos.

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is the President's official report to the Filipino people on the country's existing economic, political, and social conditions. The President also uses this occasion to harp on the accomplishments of his/her administration and future plans/programs/projects for the remainder of his/her term.

There is also the grandeur, pageantry and spectacle surrounding the SONA. Politicians and their families typically wear designer clothing just to listen to the President's report. Influential people and social influencers make use of connections and flex their muscles just to get a seat in the gallery. Today, we even have celebrity directors hired to orchestrate the entire proceedings.

The images portrayed by the SONA are supposed to be indicative of the country's development. However, it showcases an extravagance that is contrary to the following realities on the ground.

Economic Realities

Based on most recent figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority:

• One out of five Filipinos continue to live below the poverty line (2018)
• One out of twenty Filipinos remain unemployed (January 2019)
• One out of five Filipino students were not able to finish junior high school (2016)

Attaining inclusive growth remains a challenge due to income inequality, and high prices of goods and commodities.

Social Realities

The Philippines is a country vulnerable to both man-made and natural disasters.

Furthermore, victims of war in Marawi City and typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas are still struggling to completely recover financially and emotionally. Rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City have been slowed down by difficulties in clearing the main battle zone; hence parts of the city remain inaccessible to residents. Meanwhile, about 26,000 units for Typhoon Yolanda victims remain unfinished more than five years after it struck parts of Visayas.

While government continues to provide support towards the victims’ recovery and rehabilitation, more effort is required to rebuild what was broken by these disasters.

Political Realities

Political dynasties continue to dominate key elective positions in government. Nine out of the twelve winning Senators in the recently concluded 2019 Elections come from political dynasties. Political dynasties are also said to have kept tight control of the abused and bastardized party-list system.

Political reforms also continue to languish at both legislative chambers. Bills on banning political dynasties, political party reform, election reform, and constitutional reform did not substantially progress in the last Congress.

While the Duterte administration has implemented a number of key economic, social and political reforms, we are still far from the image that the SONA wants to project--- a healthy, vibrant and developed country.

A little sensitivity and empathy towards people who deal with extremely difficult realities on the ground should be exercised by those participating and attending the SONA.

Politicians should draw the Filipino people closer to them. Wearing fancy, expensive and extravagant clothing will not endear them to ordinary Filipinos.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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