Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

SONA 2010: Notes from the Plenary
SONA 2011: Utak Haciendero

I gave my strongest applause when President Noynoy Aquino mentioned in his state of the nation address that he will step down in 2016. Better if the ‘noynoying’ years will be cut short but at least we are assured that Pnoy has no plan (yet) to remain in power beyond 2016.

There was really no surprise in the SONA speech aside from being insufferably long. Pnoy’s messaging experts, trained in the brutal ways of information warfare, employed traditional speech deception devices to obscure the real state of the nation.

Admittedly, the use of everyday idioms was effective: tongpats, kayod kalabaw, unlimited, energizer, bangkang papel, anting-anting. Pnoy would have received a passing grade if only the SONA were an event to highlight the importance of the national language. But the form shouldn’t be equated with substance. A false statement doesn’t become truthful even if delivered in a language used by the common tao. Lies can’t be hidden too by elegant infographics, creative videos, and sugar-coated promises.

The SONA 2012 show is a repeat performance of a president who believes he can trick the audience (the boss) by using feel-good statistics, motherhood statements, and provocative rhetoric against his enemies and critics. The speech is actually peppered with superfluous claims and contradictory statements. For example, Pnoy vouched for the long term benefits of cash transfers but he also said that a comprehensive evaluation of the program has yet to be finalized.

The absurd boast that the Philippines is already a creditor nation is no longer funny. It’s not something worth repeating especially in an important occasion like the SONA. Even Indonesia, the other ‘Philippines’ in the region, has nonchalantly agreed to contribute funds in the IMF bailout initiative.

Like his predecessor, Pnoy was ecstatic over the glowing reviews given by international business magazines. But how could these ‘pornofinancial’ papers remain credible after years of worshipping the mad schemes of Wall Street which led to the global financial crisis in 2008?

The president proudly proclaimed the expansion of universal health coverage yet he failed to mention the sinister plan to privatize (or corporatize) government hospitals and the recent proposal to remove charity wards in health centers. We were told that we are winning the war against dengue but Pnoy only provided us with safe statistics from select local areas.

Why cheer Pnoy’s endorsement of the so-called ‘responsible parenthood’ when there’s no RP bill in Congress? Assuming that it’s a euphemism for Reproductive Health, it’s scary that he linked it with the perceived problem of overpopulation in schools. But reproductive health should not be about population control. Bad governance, not population, is the cause of our many problems.

Pnoy exposed the quality of his administration’s disaster preparedness program when he reduced it to efficient relief distribution and accurate weather reports. Is this the reason why he vetoed the use of calamity funds for pre-disaster activities and projects in last year’s budget?

Pnoy invoked the specter of Chinese aggression in Philippine territories and he was right to rouse the patriotic sentiments of the people. It’s hoped, though, that the same nationalist fervor will be applied against visiting foreign troops (Balikatan), overstaying military stations (in Zamboanga), and the sophisticated (read: systemic) meddling of United States officials in our domestic affairs. Unfortunately, the Chinese ‘phantom menace’ is being exaggerated to conceal the heightened US political intervention and military presence in the country. We were so much threatened by the sighting of oversized quasi-military fishing boats from China in our territorial waters that we hardly gave notice to a New York Times report about the use of American drones and spy planes in Mindanao.

Pnoy merely copied the social and economic policies of his much maligned predecessor and then rebranded them as his own. He expanded the cash transfers, adopted the infrastructure blueprint of Arroyo’s super regions, and appointed neoliberal dogmatists in his economic team.

In his speech, Pnoy confidently cited the gains in the BPO sector. He also salivated over the profits that the government (and politicians) will earn from the mining industry. Alas, the economic roadmap continues to be heavily dependent on foreign-directed speculative investments. Tragic that Pnoy has no clear plan on how to stimulate local industries, revive the manufacturing sector, boost productivity in the agriculture sector, and pursue the path of national industrialization. If he does have a vision for the country, it didn’t merit any discussion in the SONA. Obviously, the government is still obsessed with labor export and the booming service sector (we are number one in hospitality services) which explains the hasty implementation of the TESDA curriculum in high school.

In short, Pnoy is a plagiarist and bad student of economics. He needs remedial lessons.

On education

Pnoy should not brag the additional funds for the education sector. No president has reduced the nominal budget of education. Furthermore, the Department of Education has always received the highest allocation among all government agencies because it has the biggest bureaucracy. The reported increase in the DepEd budget should be compared with the agency’s budget plan (P338 billion) for the successful implementation of K-12 next school year. If we use this as an indicator, then the government’s proposed budget for DepEd (P297 billion) would still be inadequate to address the needs of the sector.

The P37 billion fund for state colleges is also insufficient to meet the basic needs of public higher education. It is clearly not a modernization budget and it will hardly improve the competitiveness of local universities. It is significant to note that state colleges proposed a budget of P53 billion for next school year.

The reported budget hike won’t easily reverse the decline of tertiary education in the country. Years of underinvestment in the education sector have weakened the capacity of many colleges and a ‘cover up budget’ in 2013 won’t lead to overnight transformations in schools.

Pnoy’s rant against student protesters was unnecessary. The self-declared heir of People Power shouldn’t belittle student opposition to government policies as mere ‘cutting of classes.’ Pnoy, a Martial Law victim and self-professed activist, should know that student activists are informed and educated individuals who sometimes go to the streets because it is effective in raising political issues. Besides, protests against education budget cuts in the past two years were co-organized by teachers, school officials, and other education stakeholders.

It was actually Pnoy, not students, who first revealed the cuts in the budget of state colleges. Below is an excerpt from Pnoy’s 2010 budget message which included a brief explanation as to why he reduced the funds of state colleges:

“We allocated P23.4 billion to 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in 2011. This is 1.7 percent lower than the P23.8 billion budget for 2010. We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent.”

Curiously, in his SONA, Pnoy presented a figure of P21.8 billion for the 2010 budget of state universities. It clearly contradicted his budget message. Is Pnoy fudging data? Students should tutor Pnoy on simple mathematics and honesty in presenting government statistics.

But Pnoy’s real intent was not to simply ridicule student activists and discourage iskolars ng bayan from joining activist groups. His devious desire was to prevent the formation of stronger and broader solidarities in schools between students, teachers, and school officials since campus protests in the past two years have been effective in unmasking the reformist posturing of his administration. The special bashing which students received in the SONA exposed Pnoy’s deep hatred and irrational fear of collectives in action.

The budget hike, if true, is therefore the positive outcome of the unity of all stakeholders in public universities. The solidarity must continue until the government is forced to permanently abandon its policy of gradually reducing its role in the delivery of higher education in the country.

Conclusion

Pnoy’s recent SONA was a declaration of war against the Filipino people. He gave too much emphasis on credit rating, stock market index, and other abstract numbers but ignored to mention the plight of overseas workers, the rise of human rights violations, oil price hikes, and even the very reasonable demand for the passage of a Freedom of Information legislation.

He indulged in self-praise by presenting himself as the anti Arroyo. He grabbed credit for the positive achievements of government agencies then blamed Arroyo for all the visible and embarrassing problems of the country. He tried to conceal his arrogance by using false modesty at the end of his speech when he paid tribute to his bosses.

The situation outside Batasan was reported to be violent because of the confrontation between police and activists. But the most violent act that day took place inside Batasan. It lasted for more than an hour, broadcast live by the media, and livetweeted by netizens. Violence is the only appropriate word to describe Pnoy’s disregard for truth, reason, and democracy. Violence is the only consequence of Pnoy’s anti-poor policies. There is injustice, inequality, and oppression in the archipelago where a few oligarchs wield political and economic control. Violence is the real state of the nation.

4 Responses to “The Arrogant Obscurantist”

  1. hello po. pwede ko po ba kayong iquote sa gagawin kong report?

    juvy

  2. You hit the nail right on the head, Mong. And in style, too. Ang maidaragdag ko lang sa parting shot mo: “State violence is the real state of the nation.”

    Rey Claro Casambre

  3. Tumpak!

    Edgie

  4. I’m thankful that you continued to care, and that you’re still fighting the system, though you’re already a part of that system. It’s good to know that you have maintained a distinct voice from within the system, that not all those who were elected to a seat in Congress do more than just sit. I’m glad that you’re fearlessly voicing out my opinions, especially at this point when I already stopped to care about country that is being ruled by a vicious brat.

    Raymond Sebastian

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