GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 29 July 29) – The President’s Fifth State of the Nation Address yesterday afternoon, July 28 – 1 hour and 34 minutes – is five pages (letter-size) shorter than the 2013 SONA (23 pages). Compared to any of the previous four SONAs, the fifth is better organized.
This time, however, the President looked somber. SONA No. 5 may be divided into three major parts – the first, more than an hour long, the President presented the gains of his administration, opening with the benefits from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP); the second, his commentary on his critics; and, the third, his peroration, an affirmation of the good he had accomplished and of his resolve to do more.
The President’s recital of his accomplishments must have impressed his audience who are mostly from Luzon; but his television audience from the Visayas and Mindanao could have been depressed. All those infrastructure developments are in Luzon – mostly in the Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Clark-Subic industrial zones. The Visayas was featured for its rehabilitation from calamities – the earthquake (Bohol) and Typhoon Yolanda (particularly, Leyte). Except for the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City, nothing was mentioned about Mindanao.
The President sounded more enthusiastic of the Mindanao peace process with the Moros in his SONA No. 4 than in the No. 5. Then he said “Peace is within reach”, talked spiritedly about the progress of the negotiation, asked the Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the end of 2014 once the Bangsamoro Transition Commission had drafted it. This time, what he said was virtually a rehash of press statements about the present status of BBL draft from the Palace and his Peace Adviser’s office.
Following are what he said:
The conflict ended with the signing of the CAB: “Matapos ang mahabang panahon ng hidwaan at napupurnadang negosasyon, naibalik na natin ang tiwala. Pruweba po nito: Noong nakaraang Marso, nilagdaan na ang Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”
(After many years of conflict and off-and-on negotiations, we were able to restore trust [of the Moros]. Last March, we signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.)
He relates the CAB to the ARMM: “Pero simula pa lang ito ng ating pag-usad sa landas ng malawakang pag-unlad sa Mindanao. Wala pong makakatangging napag-iwanan ang ARMM. Gusto po nating bigyan ng pantay na pagkakataon ang lahat ng Pilipino, kaya nga dapat may boost up, para naman maka-catch up ang ating mga kababayang nasa laylayan. Halimbawa, sa budget na imumungkahi natin para sa 2015, 5.17 billion pesos mula sa budget ng DPWH ay nakalaan para sa imprastraktura ng ARMM.”
(But this is just the beginning of our slow and challenging endeavor to extensively develop Mindanao. No one can deny that the ARMM has been left behind. We want to give all Filipinos equal opportunity; so we have to help our very poor countrymen to catch up. For 2015, P5.17 billion from the DPWH budget has been allocated for the ARMM infrastructure.)
On the status of the BBL: “Kasalukuyan na po nating pinapanday ang panukalang Bangsamoro Basic Law. Humihingi po tayo ng pang-unawa sa ating Kongreso ukol rito. Mahalaga pong maging masusi ang paghimay natin ng bawat probisyong ilalatag. Sa abot ng ating makakaya, isusulong natin ang isang panukalang batas na makatuwiran, makatarungan, at katanggap-tanggap sa lahat.”
(At present, we are still forging the BBL. We are asking Congress to understand this. It is important that we carefully examine the details of every provision laid down. Within the best of our ability, we will submit a proposed bill that is reasonable, just and acceptable to all.)
He speaks with uncertainty. “Kung maisasabatas nga po ang Bangsamoro Basic Law bago matapos ang taon at maisasagawa ang kinakailangang plebesito, mabibigyan ng isa’t kalahating taon ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority para ipakita ang positibong pagbabago. Kung maaantala naman ito, natural pong iikli rin ang panahon para mapatunayan na tama nga ang landas ng kapayapaang tinatahak natin.”
(If the BBL can be passed and ratified in a plebiscite before the end of 2014, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will have one and a half years to show the positive change. If the passage and the plebiscite are delayed, the time to prove that we are on the right path of peace will shorten.)
His somber tone and his final appeal showed how he had been hurting. His somberness visibly infected his audience. Their applauses sounded short and subdued but came out alive and long when the President was ending in a fighting mood in his peroration.
His penultimate paragraph: “Ang transpormasyong tinatamasa natin ngayon, ay magagawa nating permanente sa gabay ng Panginoon. Hangga’t buo ang ating pananalig at tiwala, at hangga’t nagsisilbi tayong lakas ng isa’t isa, patuloy nating mapapatunayan na, “‘the Filipino is worth dying for,’ ‘the Filipino is worth living for,’ at idadagdag ko naman po: ‘The Filipino is worth fighting for’.”
(The transformation we are enjoying now we can make permanent with God’s guidance. As long as we have strong faith [in God] and full trust and confidence [in each other], as long as we are each other’s strength, we will continue proving that [quoting his father] “the Filipino is worth dying for”, “the Filipino is worth living for”, and I may add, “The Filipino is worth fighting for”.)
Note: While the above is the penultimate paragraph of his prepared speech, he did not immediately end here. He had a few minutes of ad lib (he was observed to be looking down at his notes) before finally ending.
[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]