I have watched and listened to a fair share of State of the Nation Addresses (SONA) given by many presidents. I have even helped draft a few of them in the past. They’re all written in a way that would put a positive spin on their administration and give people hope that things are better under their leadership and that the best is yet to come.
But the kind of SONA delivered by President Noynoy Aquino every year is different from the rest. And I cannot help but wonder if his writing team is composed of teleserye (soap opera) scriptwriters or if he borrows writers from his sister Kris Aquino’s television show. Or maybe his SONA is simply PNoy’s true personality shining through. And that personality reveals a cacique mentality.
Because PNoy’s SONA always comes through as very personal to him. Like the Philippine government is a family business he inherited from his parents and governance is like leading a gang of friends, some sort of a barkadahan. And that is why he feels entitled to make a significant part of his SONA a “thank you” letter to his family and friends, naming them one by one, like he’s a beauty queen making his farewell walk. Come to think of it, maybe he views his presidency as a reign of beauty with a purpose?
I bet the framers of the constitution, when they made it a requirement for the President to report to Congress on the state of the nation, did not envision it to be some version of an awards night acceptance speech. Well, there are acceptance speeches at the Oscars that have more politically meaningful statements than Pnoy’s SONAs.
The SONAs given by PNoy are all about him. He never forgets to point out how he started out hesitant to run for president but the people begged him to because they needed him and he is the only one who can bring about change and stop corruption in this country, blah, blah, blah. He always makes sure we never forget how bad it was under the previous administration and all the mess he inherited but, look at how much he has done already! Kind of like mother, like son. And how dare you criticize him and his administration, you ungrateful people you! Don’t you know he sacrificed so much for this country? That he is the only son of national heroes? That he does not have a love life because the nation comes first and he cannot multitask?
And, sure, there are haters but there are more people who love him. You need proof? Here are the videos of people he has helped who will testify to his goodness. See how even those who did not vote for him get projects anyway? That’s how fair and benevolent he is, damn it.
He calls his constituents “boss” like one would call a waiter or a jeepney driver “boss.” I do not know if any Filipino really takes being “boss” of the country’s chief executive seriously because we all know it’s a bit patronizing and even condescending. A cacique knows pandering to the masses can let you get away with a lot of things.
He gives his report to the nation like he’s chatting with his closest friends over a bottle of beer, not making a serious presentation to his boss who pays his salary. He uses a familiar, matter-of-fact tone as if the state of the nation is not that big a deal. And he is not beyond quoting a five-year old Aiza Seguerra to make a point. He peppers his speech with patutsada (translated in English as innuendo or mockery done with insult) as if he’s the playground bully and not the president of the republic. However, he only likes dishing them but hates receiving them. Because he is actually pikon (sensitive to criticisms, easily ticked off).
PNoy seems to be focused more on perception rather than reality. He anticipates what his critics might say and has a ready quip for them already even before they can make their comments. Because he thinks people still care what he says or does. He does not know that the people are just counting the days for the divorce to be final, but the honeymoon, actually the entire marriage, is long over. But he insists there are people who want him to extend his term. Because what will happen to the “tuwid na daan” when he’s gone?
Yes, the straight path of righteousness. Or, in the case of the PNoy administration, self-righteousness. Along with the self-righteousness comes self-delusion and self-serving. They have become so convinced of the stories they tell, so sold on their own messages, they start to actually believe them. I was so amazed at how the last SONA of PNoy was so full of self-congratulations. Not a single member of his team has shown any tinge of embarrassment from that shameless public display of affirmation (okay, except the yaya, and she’s probably the only one who deserves it, too). They were all grinning and giddy and so full of themselves on public television. What’s so special about doing what you’re supposed to do? And it’s not as if you did not want the job and that you are not getting paid to do it.
Which brings us to why the PNoy administration is being described as similar to a student government. I don’t think it is about competence because there are brilliantly-run student governments out there. I think it is more about the attitude and behavior — petty, juvenile, parochial, angst-ridden, and all-about-me. It is like high school. That is probably why it is so hard to move on.