SONA 2011

'Transformation' is theme of PNoy's 2nd SONA
President Benigno Aquino III's second State of the Nation Address (SONA) will focus on transforming society and changing the mindset of people towards government, a Palace spokesman said on Monday. 
Speaking to ANC, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President's speechwriters worked on the SONA for about a month, with the President checking about 6 drafts. 

He said the Aquino administration remains committed to fulfilling the President's campaign promises. 

"It's transforming society, changing mindset of people. It's not enough that we hasten the process of business applications, or we improve this part of the road or correct corruption in the past. It's really fundamentally changing minds of people, attitude towards government...to impress upon people that this government is working for you...and that there are opportunities everywhere," he told ANC.

Lacierda said the President will also talk about "inclusive growth", which means that the poorest of the poor will not be left behind as the country moves forward. 

"While there will be massive infrastructure spending, we're going to generate job employment. This will also benefit the poor, investing in people through conditional cash transger, Philhealth, education and housing. These are the things we're going to do right now," he added.

President Benigno Aquino III acknowledges the roadblocks that he will be facing in the next five years of his term, but remains confident that the welfare of the people will come out of it unscathed.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Aquino said: “Only God knows where we will end, so I have to make sure whatever I do, I can say with a straight eye that I did, based on the discernment that was afforded me by my conscience…I’m here not to benefit myself but to benefit the people who dare to dream with me.”

He said he can only put his confidence in the “security services that are provided me.”

Nonetheless, Aquino recognizes the criticisms hurled against his office that started since he got the mandate to replace an unpopular government.

“Now anything I do, the minority opposition who will really try to make the biggest issue of any small incident, even if there’s no issue they will try to make an issue out of it and why? They just want to go back to their previous system,” he said.

He said his biggest accomplishment so far is changing the people’s mindset that the country can still move forward.

“Let us focus that we have 6 years, we have already done with one year, in the next 5 years we have to have that transformational change that will produce such a momentum that anything that comes after us will have to continue it,” he said.

Partisan politics, absentee leader

Aquino dismissed rumors he is playing partisan politics, in behalf of people who put him in position.

He said he chose his people with the end thought that they could push the country forward. He said these people know his expectations of them.

He recalled telling career diplomats of his reasons why they were placed in posts abroad. “I told them let us not forget, the only reason you’re there is to protect our people and if you are found wanting you will be recalled faster than possible if it is possible, if you are not ready, if you’re not even aware of the conditions prevailing.”

He said there is one ambassador who “got so intimidated by the situation [in the Middle East]…he did not even venture to go or have his staff go to where the Filipinos were located.” He did not name the ambassador.
Aquino also readily answered the rumors about the divisions within his government, the so-called Balay-Samar factions. At the end of the day, there is a style of managing a team, he said.

“I don’t call for numerous Cabinet members, I [don’t see the point of having the entire Cabinet] sit in meetings that are not their concerns,” he said.

He noted his Cabinet men and women are placed in clusters so they could address problems that really concern their respective agencies. “[They] can exhaust the issue and come up with a consensus that everybody can live with and actually believe in a more efficient way.”

Poverty, population

Aquino said he already knows what he intends to do with his term: erase corruption and poverty.

He did not take a strong swipe this time against his predecessor, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but mentioned only a generalized plan.

“Can I just say there is a blanket pursuit for all those who did wrong…those who are involved where we have the evidence to warrant the filing of the charges will pursue, and that will be soon.”

The goal of ending poverty relies on quashing corruption and providing education to Filipinos, he added.

He reiterated his position for the Reproductive Health Bill, despite strong criticisms from the Catholic Church.
“My contention is collectively, society and government has failed and we need to remind everybody that the child you bring in, you have a responsibility, therefore, they are working for their best interest, meaning the couple’s interest and the family’s interest will decide what is optimum…,” he said.

SONA as political theater
The State of the Nation Address (SONA), like all presidential speeches, is political theater.
Sometimes, a president will use human props such as "Mang Pandoy" in the 1992 SONA of President Fidel Ramos, and the "bangkang papel boys" in the 2001 SONA of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Others use catch phrases and soaring rhetoric.

But whatever tools he employs, a President's SONA must not only be inspiring but must also be able to set clear directions, not just for the Congress he is mandated to address at the opening of its regular session every July, but for the entire country as well.

Last year's SONA, Noynoy Aquino's first, came on the heels of his phenomenal rise to power from son of a beloved democracy icon to reluctant president.

This is a reason perhaps why the euphoria that permeated the speech seemed so strangely familiar, forgivable though because it had been only 2-and-a-half months since the election and the bruising campaign that came before it.

In his speech, Aquino said: "Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad. Sa unang tatlong linggo ng aming panunungkulan, marami po kaming natuklasan...Sulyap lamang po ito; hindi pa ito ang lahat ng problemang haharapin natin. Inilihim at sadyang iniligaw ang sambayanan sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa."

Aquino's opening words set the tone for the rest of the speech.

For the next several minutes, it was a litany of the sins of the past administration, from mysterious grants of huge amounts of calamity funds to a favorite hometown province that didn't need it, to perks for the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) top officials, to extra-judicial killings that went unsolved for so long.

And then the promise to go after the guilty and not a vow not to be like them.

"Sa administrasyon po natin, walang kota-kot, walang tongpats, ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin para sa taumbayan lamang," he said.

The President did not have difficulty in making people believe in that promise. After all, he did campaign on the strength of his integrity.

But he might have had difficulty in some other things he promised to deliver on his SONA such as a promise to establish a Truth Commission, which eventually got shot down by the Supreme Court, and a promise to set up public-private partnerships.

But every President's challenge is to make good on his word.

After all, it isn't the applause at the end of the SONA that will count especially for this president who succeeded in taking the people's expectations to extraordinary heights, and who most probably knows that he needs to deliver big time and not just go after the sins and the sinners of the Arroyo administration.

Analysts to PNoy: Go beyond exposés
Experts weigh in on what Aquino's second SONA should be
During President Aquino's first State of the Nation Address (SONA), he brought us folksy feel-good slogans designed to resonate with the masses.

What should we expect from the second SONA?

ANC's Twin Macaraig talked to three experts in the fields of communication, management and governance who shared their thoughts on what the President should say.

Those who support him, like Ad executive Yoly Ong, say rhetoric isn't enough.

"He should enumerate, clearly and quantifiably, what has been achieved so far. Then he should roll out his plans for the next 5 years and restate the vision, because a lot of people are saying until now: where is the vision?"

BusinessWorld columnist Rene Azurin, on the other hand, says it's not so much about the vision, but what the President has set his sights on.

"If you are trying to evaluate the performance of an executive, you compare what has been accomplished relative to what he said he intends to accomplish. In case of Aquino, we don't know that 'cause he has not specified, what key result areas he was going to address, and what goal he set for himself," Azurin explained.
UP Professor Prospero de Vera agrees that the President should set tangible goals, but he believes he can be forgiven when he falls short.

De Vera cited, for example, President Aquino's pronouncement that by 2013, the Philippines will no longer import rice.

"Our recent history shows we've never been self-sufficient in terms of rice production because we've neglected our agriculture. The growth of the population was simply too fast. And the capacity of our diminishing hectares cannot produce enough rice for our country. But it's good that the President commits to it, because it means he takes agriculture modernization seriously."

De Vera says addressing agriculture modernization is just one of the ways the President can give meaning to the message, "Kayo ang boss ko." Another is by solving the problem of high unemployment.

"Employment figures have not improved, there's a threat that many OFWs will not be able to find jobs because of what's happening in Saudi Arabia. So I think this is what we, if we are indeed his boss, should be looking at, how many jobs, are your programs creating for the large number of unemployed?"

For Ong, "Kayo ang boss ko" also means the President should want to hear what Filipinos have to say.

"He has to listen and create feedback mechanisms where he can where he can filter constructive suggestions from those that are just brickbats. He should pick out suggestions that came from the people and actually address and credit the people for making those suggestions and see to its conclusion."

The two concluded that the President should let the people know where his "daang matuwid" is heading, and not use his speech to hit back at critics like he often does.

"I don't think the SONA should allow more than 10% of the time to talk about the sins of the past because the SONA should talk about the present and the future," said Ong.

"He (Aquino) must go beyond exposés and criticisms. It should be that cases are filed, people are actually sent to jail, and, most important, that policies that promote transparency and accountability are enacted like the Freedom of Information Law," added de Vera.

PNoy cites gains from credit rating upgrades
President Aquino on Monday boasted of the upgrades in Philippine credit ratings in his first year in office, noting these would help reduce the country's borrowings costs.
In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President said the upgrades were a reversal of the rating downgrades during the Arroyo administration.

"Kung dati napako na ang bansa sa mababang credit ratings, itinaas ng Moody’s, Standard and Poors, Fitch, at Japan Credit Ratings Agency ang ating ranking, bilang pagkilala sa ating tamang paggugol ng pondo at sa malikhain nating pananalapi."

"Ang mataas na credit rating, magpapababa ng interes sa perang inuutang natin," he added.

Aquino said the government has saved P23 billion more in interest payments during the first four months of 2011 compared to the year before.

The amount, he added, is enough to cover the benefits of 2.3 million poor Filipinos under the Conditional Cast Transfer (CCT) social welfare program until the end of 2011.

"Sa isang taon palang po natin, apat na beses na tayong nabigyan ng upgrades," said Aquino.

PNoy urged: Bring justice to massacre victims
Filipino journalists based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) want to hear something concrete from President Benigno Aquino III’s 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA) that will ensure the speedy delivery of justice to families of victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
"People yearn to see concrete measures (on the case filed against suspended ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan)," said Ares Gutierrez, Filipino Press Club (FPC)– UAE president and copy editor at Gulf News.

"Sa ngayon, parang may doubts that the government is conniving with the Ampatuans," Gutierrez added.

Ampatuan recently revealed former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's invovlement in electoral cheating in Mindanao during the 2004 elections.

The exposé, corroborated by fugitive former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Hasim Bedol, was seen by some quarters as a move to cover up Ampatuan's alleged complicity in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

"I believe kaya sinuportahan ng mga tao si Noynoy noong nakaraang eleksiyon, is because one of his campaign promises was to pursue justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. The victims' families were very vocal in supporting him, expecting that under his administration things will run faster," Gutierrez added.

"Nothing has happened. Walang direksyon, puro motherhood statement," he said. "Dapat ipakita ang pagtahak sa 'daang matuwid,' hindi baluktot na daan."

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, former FPC-UAE president and senior reporter at Sharjah-based Gulf Today, said the Aquino administration should ensure the speedy delivery of justice to erase doubts that the government is codding the Ampatuans.

"This is a test case for the Aquino government," says Xpress chief reporter Jay Hilotin.

"Let us not get sidetracked by the circus going on. Let the wheels of justice take its due course, keeping in mind that justice delayed is justice denied," Hilotin added.

Hilotin also said that the media should be discerning in taking Ampatuan's recent revelations so as not to lose sight of what happened in Maguindanao 2 years ago, which went down in history as the worst day for Philippine journalism.

At least 34 journalists are known to have died in the massacre.

PNoy: Carpio-Morales is new Ombudsman
Despite strong opposition from several groups, President Benigno Aquino III has appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to take the helm of the much-criticized Office of the Ombudsman.
He announced her appointment during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

This was heavily applauded by the people at the gallery.

In Filipino, Aquino said: “When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government. I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty.”

In a separate statement, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacañang believes that Carpio-Morales has unquestionable integrity and independence.

"We have consistently emphasized the need to have an Ombudsman who shall act for and in the interest of the Filipino people, one who shall not let Garcias and Bolantes go scot free without answering to the people,” Lacierda said.

In his SONA, Aquino also emphasized the government’s need to run after the corrupt.

“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption,” he said.

Rumors of the retired justice's appointment had been swirling since last week.

Carpio-Morales, who was an apparent shoo-in from the very start, was the one who administered Aquino’s oath of office.

She bested 3 others shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council: Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Gerard Mosquera, and former Justice Secretary Artemio Tuquero.

Sources said Carpio-Morales and Mosquera were the only ones interviewed by Aquino.

The public had awaited the news on the next Ombudsman, who now has in her hands the responsibility of cleansing the office of allegations of corruption and politics.

Former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, tagged as an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was impeached by the House of Representatives for supposedly sitting on important cases. She later resigned.
Critics say, however, that a similar bias could be exercised by Carpio-Morales, this time for Aquino. They also raised the issue about her age. She's 70  years old.

Carpio-Morales joined the judiciary in 1983 as Presiding Judge of the Pili, Camarines Sur Regional Trial Court. 

In 1986, she was transferred to the Pasay Regional Trial Court. In 1994, she was appointed to the Court of Appeals.

Finally, she was elevated as 151st member of the Supreme Court on September 3, 2002. She retired in June.

PNoy: PH may file sea dispute case before UN
President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippines may bring the dispute over the West Philippine Sea, or the South China Sea, before the United Nations (UN) International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
In his State of the Nation Address, Aquino said “we do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours.”

He insisted “our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue.”

"Wala tayong balak mang-away, pero kailangan ding mabatid ng mundo na handa tayong ipagtanggol ang atin. Pinag-aaralan na rin po natin ang pag-angat ng kaso sa West Philippine Sea sa International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, upang masigurong sa mga susunod na pagkakataon ay hinahon at pagtitimpi ang maghahari tuwing may alitan sa teritoryo,"  he said.

China, however, has rejected proposal to settle the case before the UN.

He said to ensure security, the country is investing on modern equipment for the armed forces.

“Soon, we will be seeing capability upgrades and the modernization of the equipment of our armed forces. At this very moment, our very first Hamilton Class Cutter is on its way to our shores,” he added.

Palace asks leaders to rally behind PNoy’s goals
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa has asked government leaders, both administration and opposition, to rally behind President Benigno Aquino III’s “blueprint for development.”
In a statement, Ochoa said: “The President has made it clear that while we have made gains in our efforts to address the concerns of our people, we all have to work together to ensure the fulfillment of the President's vision of a government that puts our countrymen's welfare first.”

He said the administration is one “that will govern conscientiously, use its resources wisely, provide jobs and economic opportunities for our people, protect the environment, and secure our borders.”

He said the Palace, in turn, will continue to listen to their calls “because cooperation is the key to getting things done and moving our nation forward.”

PNoy going the right way, says Erap
Former President Joseph Estrada on Monday said President Benigno Aquino is doing the right thing by veering away from the path of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo.

"Well, he's going the right way - the path that we need to go after corruption. Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap," he told ABS-CBN News Channel. 

Asked what he expects Aquino to say in his 2nd State of the Nation Address, Estrada said the President should address food security and the problem of peace and order in the country aside from his continued campaign against corruption. 

For his part, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Aquino should be given more time to implement reforms. 

"He has inherited a lot of problems. He has to be given more time to produce results. I believe his 2nd year will  be better," he said. 

He said he wants the President to answer how he will provide jobs to overseas Filipino workers who are coming home due to political tensions in the Middle East.

PNoy's 2nd 'revolutionary' SONA
President Benigno Aquino III was the first to deliver a State of the Nation Address (SONA) entirely in Filipino last year. On Monday afternoon, the public should again expect an address entirely in the national language.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Manuel “Manolo” Quezon III said the president’s speech entirely in Filipino shows how “revolutionary” he is.

Past presidents have delivered theirs in English. Some used snippets of the local language.

What’s in an address anyway? Quezon explained “as a nation, we are very keen on body language, everyone is looking if he's tired, jolly…”

He said the important thing is that the message is put across. Aquino does not want “complicated and flowery statements,” he said.

He said the address today will not be long nor short. “He does not like long but he is never going to make a speech brief for the sake of brevity.

He will make a speech as long as it needs to be or as short as possible.”

Last year, Aquino’s speech was composed of 3,500 words. This year will likely average around 4,000 words.

The longest speech was that of former President Joseph Estrada, with 6,000 words.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s average is 4,000 words. “It got shorter and shorter throughout the years because she was not communicating anymore.”

“You have to look at the facts, and you only have an X amount of time, you can’t describe everything,” he said.

Quezon also said the speech has to be a pep talk of sorts. “You don’t want to face the country and say ‘we’re doomed.’”

He said, however, that Aquino will also be admitting mistakes. “He will be direct about why certain things are the way they are and how they can get better [through the help of the public.]”

What celebs, VIPs wear for SONA 2011

Politicians and celebrities made a fashion statement in this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA) held on Monday afternoon at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
Actress-turned-lawmaker Lani Mercado wear a barong by award-winning Filipino designer Rajo Laurel, while Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera don a gown made of white silk mesh with a yellow ribbon, a symbol closely associated with President Benigno Aquino III's parents, at the left chest.

Former Akbayan party-list representative Risa Hontiveros, who wore a hand-painted tapis (a single piece of cloth worn as a garment) last year, arrive the Batasang Pambansa wearing a "modern take" on Filipiniana attire by local designer Joel Acebuche.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, meanwhile, attend the SONA in a barong inspired by one of his pet advocacies, the Freedom of Information Bill, which still remains pending in Congress.

Last year, he wore a statement barong that renewed his call to stop political killings in the country.

Despite the emergence of new designs each year, the classic terno (primarily composed of a blouse, long skirt and a shawl) remains a mainstay in the so-called SONA red carpet.

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay wear a black and gold terno by Josie Ronario, while Lanao del Norte Rep. Aliah Dimaporo don a hand-painted piña blouse and sequined malong (tube skirt) by Patis Tesoro.

Among those who stood out in last year's SONA are Jinkee Pacquiao, wife of boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, who wore a pink terno with crystals and beads by Pepsi Herrera; Audrey Tan-Zubiri, former model and wife of Senator Miguel Zubiri, who came in a simple pink terno by Inno Sotto; and celebrity mom-turned-congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez who donned a blue terno with embellishments by Randy Ortiz.

Those whose gowns looked "inappropriate" were Hontiveros and senators Pia Cayetano and Loren Legarda.

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