GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 25 July) – In the morning of July 22, reports in the national media were critical of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, who was to deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address in the Batasang Pambansa (Congress) at four o’clock in the afternoon. Did that irritate the President? If not, it did his spokesman.
The presidential spokesman, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, addressed the critics over radio dzRB: “Let’s just wait for the SONA to be delivered and you yourselves can listen and understand the intention of the President in his upcoming SONA.” (The Philippine Star, July 22, 2013: Palace tells critics to listen first to SONA.)
After the President had delivered his SONA – one hour and 45 minutes, the longest; but substantial, said deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte – one thing was cleared: Aquino and his critics had no quarrel. It was a matter of looking at the whole glass – not just at the filled half or the empty half.
Let’s look at samples of his critics’ pre-SONA criticism and his SONA recitals.
ONE: The economic growth has not been felt by the poor; the elite have gained more from it; the business groups want to know how this can be maintained, improved and translated to better income and quality of life of Filipinos.
The critics have acknowledged the economic growth – 6.8 percent and 7.8 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 respectively. However, they cited statistics and concrete figures from NSCB (National Statistical Coordination Board) and private research organizations to show that poverty still exist significantly. The President by highlighting the efforts and funds used in addressing poverty and the plans to do more showed he had no quarrel with his critics.
By trumpeting the economic growth, he unwittingly showed that the good economy has not significantly benefited the poor and, indeed, the elite have gained more. If it did in terms of more employment, higher wages and lower prices of goods and services, there is no need to appropriate more and more to fight poverty.
His was silent on the third concern coming from business groups.
Two: Corruption still exists –negating his “daang matuwid” or straight path fiat.
Critics praised the President for prosecuting corrupt officials of the past government starting with the “big fishes” but noted his softness on the corrupt in his government. In his SONA, the President berated some bureaus and agencies and announced the dismissal of its top officials – foremost among them, the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Immigration and the National Irrigation Authority. His stern warning to the corrupt in his government belied “softness” but admitted alarm over creeping corruption.
However, he made no mention of the scandals in the use of the “pork barrel” or PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), the latest in the headlines, the JLN P10-billion scandal, involved a score of senators and House representatives. It must be his way of admitting that the matter involving Congress is too delicate to handle. In fact, the PDAF appropriation is as usual in the 2014 budget despite calls to abolish it.
There are many more recitals in the SONA of accomplishments which show how the President has addressed problems in his government. Not all critics may have been pleased and satisfied; but their criticisms should not be taken by the Palace as outright negative. As critics should be discerning so must the Palace be about critics and criticisms.
There are actually two kinds of critics – the adversarial and the negative. The first acknowledge the good things government has done then show what have not been done and what could have been or should be done. The second dismiss outright what have been done as nothing and condemn government to nothingness – incapable of doing anything good.
Unfortunately, the Palace – not only under Aquino III but all others in the past – tends to consider adversarial criticisms as negative. This was showing in the displeasure of Secretary Lacierda we mentioned earlier. When adversarial critics see the glass half-empty it does not mean they don’t see it half-filled; they only want government to fully fill it. Instead of being peeved – hurt with the pang of negativism – the Palace should take note, appreciate, and welcome adversarial critics as partners in good governance.
Concerning President Aquino’s last SONA, the national media and the critics – with the exception of the very few indisputably negative – were not only fair but appreciative. One paper enumerated 65 good points for readers to readily appreciate the long SONA; in another paper, a columnist known to be anti-Aquino balanced the achievements with problems still unsolved. The business groups, while appreciating the accomplishments, still maintain that the President should have discussed his economic policies.
We see that adversarial critics have no quarrel with the President as the President has no quarrel with them. From adversarial criticisms, the Palace can and must see what needs to be done to fully fill the half-filled glass. (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)