‘Mini-SONAs’ for P-Noy
Posted July 28, 2010 05:01:00(Mla Time)
Philippine Daily Inquirer
IN THE days leading up to P-Noy’s first State of the Nation Address and even till today, I’ve been getting open letters and position papers bearing the thoughts and wishes of various interest groups on what President Benigno Aquino III should put in his list of priorities.
Child’s rights advocates want him to speak up for children and put their interests at heart. Anti-smoking advocates want him not just to quit smoking but to go after tobacco firms. Gunless Society advocates want him to extend indefinitely the Comelec gun ban in force during the campaign and elections. Environmentalists want to know how he plans to address global warming and other “green” issues, the more detailed the better. Women and reproductive health champions want to know his stand on not just the RH bill but on sexual and reproductive health and rights in general, including sex education. Bishops want him to fully commit to promoting natural family planning (only) and to scuttle the sex education initiatives of the DepEd. Militants want to hear him explicate his stand on agrarian reform, specifically what he wants done to Hacienda Luisita. Bus and jeepney drivers want him to scrap the pending SLEX toll fees. The party-list Agham, which advocates for science and technology in the country, wants him to raise the salaries and provide benefits for the country’s meteorologists. And Facebook habitués want him to marry Shalani now na!
This is a dizzying menu of advocacies and matters crying out for attention, and these are only those left out by P-Noy in his SONA. If he had even tried to squeeze these and other topics in his address, we would probably still be listening to him as the legislators and other guests wilt in their Filipiniana finery.
So what is a newly elected leader, one who rode on the crest of a wave of anger, disappointment, hope and dreams, to do? How can he—should he—try to satisfy every single sector and interest group now clamoring for attention? And how can he address legitimate concerns and urgent problems without straining our patience or boring us to tears?
* * *
HERE’S one suggestion:
Instead of cramming every concern and advocacy into a single landmark speech, P-Noy could go on a speechifying binge (I’m sure he doesn’t lack for invitations or opportunities) outlining his personal and official stance on issues and priorities of governance. He could talk health before health professionals; gender equality and reproductive health before a gathering of women and gender advocates; the environment and steps to mitigate its worsening state before groups working on the various aspects of environmental protection; agrarian reform before farmers’ groups. You get the drift.
Parceling out his thoughts and positions in such “mini-SONAs” not only allows P-Noy to concentrate public attention on one issue at a time, it also gives him—and his advisers, Cabinet members and speech writers—the chance to focus on policies that may not be “top of mind” for him at the moment, as well as to work out the subtleties of his thinking on various social issues.
As the President has said, he is no superman, and it may be too much to expect him to have developed fully formed opinions and complete programs on a wide range of concerns. But he has had a taste of this during his campaign where he relied (or I hope he did) on advisers to help complete his platform and develop sound bites before different audiences. Now is the time to complete the foundations laid by his campaign advisers and start putting up the scaffolding and structures needed to complete the promises articulated during the campaign.
But first the public must know exactly where he stands.
* * *
DESPITE the many sectors he left out in his SONA, P-Noy found the time and attention for media. Prefacing his words for the media by stating that “together with our rights and freedoms is our duty towards our fellow citizens and the nation” (English translation is my own), the President appealed to “our friends in the media” that “you police your own ranks.” He appealed for members of our profession to “live up to the basic principles of your vocation: to give clarity to important issues; to be fair and truthful, and to elevate the level of public discourse.” He reminded us that it’s every Filipino’s duty to hold every elected official accountable, but appealed to the media to “move from interference to participation” because, he remarked, “the interloper has endless complaints while the participant takes part in (seeking) solutions.”
I’m of two minds about his message to the media. It may be too much of him to hope for some sort of cooperation from our profession because in the first place the media do not exist to help people in government solve their problems. Instead, we are here to observe and report; and not just to keep watch but to scrutinize and investigate, to ferret out official misdeeds and instances of graft and corruption, and to point out mistakes and missteps.
There are countless NGOs and protest groups that exist only to point out the weaknesses of government and officials. But only the media have the resources and, dare I say, the skills to do this 24/7. The same NGOs and protest groups in fact rely on the media to publicize their efforts, which would be useless without the public airing the media give them.
We are all for nation-building, and indeed dream the same dreams that launched P-Noy on his road to the presidency. But keeping a critical eye on government is the way the media can best serve our fellow Filipinos and the nation. Keeping true to our calling as impartial observers, reporters and commentators who tell it like it is the best way we journalists can do our duty as citizens.
Copyright 2013 INQUIRER.net and content partners. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.