Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Written for Bulatlat

The annual state of the nation address is a must read for all citizens who are eager to know the president’s self-rated accomplishment report and priority programs. It is also relevant for what it fails to mention or what the president refuses to acknowledge. It is both a historical document and a propaganda material that can serve or undermine the political interest of the ruling party. It is useful to monitor the country’s development, the reforms instituted by every government, and the varied excuses of past leaders as to why they failed to uplift the living conditions of our people.

Admittedly, the Sona is packed with beautifully-written lies and inspiring rhetoric. But there are few times when it can provide a glimpse of truth and this is usually the first Sona of the new president who is intent on highlighting the woes he inherited from his predecessor. Read for instance the inaugural Sona speeches of Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos.

But what is deeply troubling and tragic in the Sona speeches of Macapagal and Marcos in the 1960s is the surreal similarities of the country’s conditions during that time and the present. It is as if the social problems mentioned by both presidents have simply mutated into more sinister forms. Many of the quotes I selected from these Sona speeches are familiar because they echo today’s headlines such as corruption and immorality in high places, poverty in the rural areas, and bureaucratic failure to address the country’s problems.

Some of the Sona excerpts are interesting because they refer to issues which are no longer reported like cattle theft and pirate attacks around Manila Bay; or the vision of the government during that time (science community in Taguig). There were proposals and bold reforms that remain a dream to this day like eradicating smuggling, completing the land reform, and extending the railways to the North.

Finally, these Sona speeches validate the continuing struggle of Filipinos for genuine change. How come succeeding presidents have failed to solve the country’s decades-old problems? It is because the solutions offered by the status quo have never changed all this time. Onward with the revolution.

January 22, 1962 Diosdado Macapagal

“It is a wasted effort to steep the young in virtue and morality only to let them realize as they grow up that their elders are neither moral nor virtuous.”

“This is indeed a nation of contrasts where very few regions and communities enjoy affluence in contrast to widespread poverty in others.”

“(I propose) the creation of an Anti-Smuggling Office to eradicate smuggling activities that seriously deprive the National Treasury of due customs and internal revenue receipts.”

January 28, 1963

“The government was bankrupt…Graft and corruption had seeped into every nook and crevice of the government, both national and local. The people had assumed an attitude of cynicism, an attitude that made them shrug off corruption as inevitable.”

“As long as the President of the Republic abides by the decisions of the Supreme Court, there can be and there will be no dictatorships in this country.”

“We issued an executive order prohibiting government officials from having official transactions with any of the President’s immediate relatives.”

“Among the nationals, we took action on the following persons: 1) those who utilized organized political power to build business empires, and vice-versa; 2) those who misused public trust to amass wealth; 3) those who evaded the payment of taxes; 4) those who perpetrated smuggling; 5) those who committed copra overpricing.”

“The law can be justly merciless too, in its retribution on those who believe that they are above the law.”

“The ‘tong’ system in which businessmen made regular payments to government officials has ended…The commission of graft at the higher echelons has been virtually terminated.”

“Our pledge during the campaign was not to lower the prices but to stop rising prices…This is evidenced by our posters and radio jingles all over the country which cried: ‘Stop corruption! Stop rising prices!”

“The time has come to abolish tenancy in our farms…we must now do away with tenancy which has become the centuries-old tattoo of economic slavery and social degradation for the man who tills the farm.”

January 27, 1964

“We must increase the minimum wage while assuring a reasonable margin of profit for employers.”

January 25, 1965

“The Filipino way of life consists of three minimum elements, namely, the system of freedom, the love for peace and the sustenance of the rule of law.”

“The expansion projects of the Philippine National Railways would extend its lines by 310 kilometers from Nueva Ecija to Cagayan in the North.”

“An area comprising about one hectare of Manila Bay in Navotas, Rizal was reserved as a fisheries development center…Pier 14 was declared for the exclusive use of fishing vessels.”

“The ‘Operation Barrio Titulo’ was designed to deliver land titles otherwise lying idle in the Offices of the Registers of Deeds.”

“Considerable headway has also been made in combating cattle theft. 696 rustlers have been arrested and 1,554 animals recovered, some 81 percent of the total stolen.”

“Our (Sabah) claim has been bolstered by the written support of Indonesia and the formal commitment of Malaysia to settle it by peaceful means, particularly through the World Court.”

“(I proposed a bill) to reduce Congressional allowances to a level that would be satisfactory to the people.”

January 24, 1966 Ferdinand Marcos

“Congress is the ‘seat of reason’ and the Executive is the ‘seat of will.’ Reason without the power of will is impotent, and will unaided by reason degenerates into brute and force.”

“Election – the noble process of manifesting the mandate of the majority’s will – has been degraded into a contest of the rich and the unscrupulous. Apparently, only by a miracle, so the observers say, has the deserving but penurious candidate won in an election.”
“Our industries are suffering from being too thin in capital base, too fat in accounts receivables, too starved for credit and too drained of profits.”

“There is a very disturbing upsurge in the incidence of criminality in our country. The crime clock indicates murder and homicide every hour, theft every 30 minutes, robbery every hour, sexual offenses, estafa and falsification every two hours.”

January 23, 1967

“The crisis consisted in a bankrupt government with a raided treasury, debt-ridden government corporation, inefficient agricultural, smuggling, lawlessness, rising prices, declining terms of trade.”

“The whole year of 1966 no releases for what is commonly referred to as the ‘pork barrel’ were made notwithstanding political importunings.”

“My countrymen, we are in Vietnam because we want to survive in freedom.”
“We have a gap in agriculture to bridge. This may well be called the ‘dry gap.’

“We have proposed the establishment of an International Research Institute for Coconut similar to the IRRI.”

“It is needless to remind you of the evil effects of forest vandalism…We are destroying resources with wanton indifference.”

“Our allocation for public education is 30 percent of the total annual budget of the National Government.”

“We are no longer what we always believed we were – a nation of incompetents and failures. We have become a nation of achievers.”

“An increasing number of piratical raids in Manila Bay and the Visayas-Mindanao area has also been noted.”

“On my instructions, the Social Security Commission and the Department of Labor have undertaken a study toward the institution of an unemployment insurance scheme for the first time in the Philippines.”

“It is unfortunate that many valid liberal causes have been denounced as communistic by those among us of an authoritarian bent; and equally unfortunate that the essentially conspiratorial character of Philippines Communism has been taken too lightly by others.”

“To those who seek to overthrow the Government, we shall respond in the only language they know – the language of firmness. But to those who are merely misguided and are sincerely working to uplift the common man, we offer the loving embrace of our people in a common effort to build a just and affording society.”

“We used to pride ourselves in being a generation of fighters. Today, we are called upon to become a generation of builders.”

“Today, the great epic of national development is working itself out in terms of a thousand acts of courage and faith day after day among our countrymen, and the whole society is the theater of action.”

January 22, 1968

“All major services of the Armed Forces have been utilized in the peace and order drive, resulting in the immediate breakup of pirate gangs in the Visayas and Mindanao. The government today is coping more effectively with the menace from roving Huk bands, smuggling syndicates, carnapping groups, kidnapping, rape and robbery, hoodlums and teenage gangs.”

January 27, 1969

“The year 1968 saw the end of frustration, resignation, cynicism and indolence, of complacency, and of indifference, the chief obstacles to Philippine progress. On the other hand, the past year marked the beginning of purposive, concerted action for national progress, the beginning of our national metamorphosis.”

“In 1968, the New Filipino and the New Filipinism came into being.”

“The political structure that was erected during the first half of the century, save for a few insignificant alterations, has remained unchanged to the present day. The inefficiency and the immorality in government are partly due to this defective political system.”

“A breakthrough in rice production enabled us to export the staple for the first time in our history.”

“At the end of 1969, we expect all of Central Luzon to be a land reform area.”
“A survey in Mindanao in 1966 showed that 60 percent of our people die without ever seeing a doctor or a nurse.”

“Until 1965, the Philippines was one of the three countries in Asia with the poorest telecommunications system”

“Already in existence are 21 telegraph stations, 25 radio-telegraph stations, two radio stations, and eight telegraph-telephone stations.”

“A Department of Labor study on the ‘brain drain’ problem has brought to light the exploitation of our doctors and nurses abroad under the exchange visitors program, and the unrestricted migration of technicians and skilled workers of developed countries.”

“To help hard-pressed parents, we scrapped textbook rentals in public intermediate schools.”

“During my state visit to three neighboring countries, I also proposed a University of Asia.”

“I am gratified that despite upheavals on campuses all over the world, our students have been more responsible. They demonstrate, but peaceably; they engage in the national dialogue over important issues and they are responsive to the challenges of nation-building. And it is precisely for this reason that I have initiated the move to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18 years.”

“On April 6, 1968, we proclaimed 35 hectares located at Bicutan, Taguig, Rizal, as the site of the Philippine Science Community.”

“We welcome the new, purposeful militancy and dynamism of our youth and students. We must enlist their energies, their talents and their idealism to the cause of orderly progress and change, to the cause of expanding freedom and welfare for all our people.”

“I am creating a national youth commission which shall advise the President on youth and student affairs…I propose passage of a Magna Carta for students.”

“I propose a complete and immediate embargo on all luxury and non-essential goods. The continuous and unrestricted importation of such goods strains our foreign reserves, corrupts the tastes of our people, and diminishes our capital resources for the development of agriculture and industry.”

“We shall initiate immediately a program to remove our major military camps from the metropolitan area to new sites farther from the centers of population.”

“Political and social institutions that merely perpetuate entrenched privileges based on the accident of birth must be remolded or replaced with new ones that promote genuine democracy.”

“The democratic dialogue must be preserved. The clash of ideas is the glory and the safeguard of democracy.”

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