The State of the Nation Address delivered by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last 23 July 2007 provided us again with a window for scrutinizing the state of governance of this country.
Ms. Arroyo projected the image of a politician fully conscious of the playing field. She knows what it takes to keep her allies loyal. One strategy is public recognition of this or that politician requesting this or that project. She played well the role of a patron or "matron" dispensing projects and funds as if these were personally hers. But at the same time, she is also trying hard to project the image of her stability and sustainability in power. In short, she is avoiding to be seen as "lame duck" president particularly because the 2010 elections is barely three years away.
On the development framework that she outlined, Ms. Arroyo must be reminded that the poverty in the Philippines is not simply an economic problem to be solved by constructing more bridges and roads. In fact, the investments she talked about will be like droplets of water in a wide parched land area. Big spending and expensive infrastructure awes an impoverished community but they never ease the suffering.
Moreover, focus on the so-called super-regions is a strategy that may eventually lead to the neglect and disregard of other more impoverished areas. And inordinate dependence on the private sector to propel growth in the selected areas may also lead to the neglect of state responsibilities.
Most importantly, the release of governmental resources must be done as part of a coherent development strategy from the national to the local level. Otherwise, such resources will be wasted or simply used as instrument for political patronage, without any clear developmental impact.
On the newly-enacted human security act, it will be better if the Supreme Court will finally step in and resolve once and for all the constitutional issues involved in the implementation of this law. Otherwise, the recommendations of the supreme court-sponsored summit on extrajudicial killings may be severely affected.
On electoral reforms, it must be noted that Congress has passed the election modernization law. The ball is now in the hands of COMELEC. But if significant reforms are not instituted in this commission, I doubt the realization of a credible election come 2010. And this will be worsened by the setbacks in the uphill battle against the culture of corruption.
Finally, talks about social services delivered by the government must be tinged with the insight that there is a need to dissociate service delivery from partisan political interest. In other words, the empowerment of an efficient bureaucracy must be a central concern for any public official who is conscious of the governments responsibility to the citizens.
The SONA is supposed to give us an idea of the national situation and the policy directions which the government will take to handle that situation. This 2007 SONA gave us a taste of what may be, and left us asking ourselves: "What respite will be given by all these plans and dreams to the suffering Filipino people ?"