SONA omissions and misinterpretations | Inquirer Opinion
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SONA omissions and misinterpretations

“Wangwang mentality” or “wang-wang culture” (WWC for short) will be remembered as one of the more inspired catch-phrases coined during the P-Noy administration, and I give it full credit for this coup. Certainly it is more catchy than “considering oneself above the law,” and it  immediately evokes one of the least desirable characteristics of this society: special privileges for the politically or economically powerful.

This focus on eliminating the WWC is certainly one of the two things I liked about P-Noy’s 2011 SONA, giving continuity as it did to the “Tuwid na Daan” that was last year’s theme. The other thing, truly impressive, is his statement (fulfilled) that he was submitting the 2012 budget to Congress the next day. I don’t recall any other president that has done this, particularly since there is a month’s grace given between the SONA and the budget submission.

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What about the rest of the 55-minute-or-so speech? Like his first-year’s performance, the score it would get, if a score was being given, would be “NI”—Needs Improvement.

Not because, as some critics have complained, it did not have a vision. A country rid of the WWC is plenty enough vision for me.

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P-Noy was in effect restating his vision of good governance, maybe not elegantly but certainly in a more evocative manner.

And not because, as others have caviled, it had no roadmap. The administration has a roadmap in its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011. What was wrong with the SONA in this respect is that it never even mentioned the roadmap, which has given rise to the suspicion (mine) that the President and his men don’t give it any importance at all, which would really be a pity. In other words, WWC is another way of describing a very pernicious aspect of  baluktot na daan, so when P-Noy talks about getting rid of it, he is restating his vision of good governance—maybe less elegantly, but certainly more imaginatively. So don’t anyone say that P-Noy’s SONA had no vision.

Neither can Aquino’s SONA be criticized for not providing a roadmap. The SONA is not the occasion to present a roadmap, since it has already been presented in the government’s  2011-2016  Philippine Development Plan (PDP)—all 337 pages of it (409 pages if one includes the list of acronyms, the glossary, the index and the Social Contract with the Filipino People).

The SONA’s shortcoming in this regard is that it mentioned nothing about the PDP—which has given rise to the unpleasant suspicion that the President and his speechwriters either did not know about it or did not think it was important. Either way, it would be cause for (major major) worry.

Finally there can be no quarrel either with the statistics (by themselves) mentioned in the SONA. P-Noy did not commit the mistake evident in other SONAs where some figures seemed to have been taken out of thin air.

So then, where’s the beef? What was missing from the SONA? For one, some of  the figures presented were  incomplete, others misinterpreted—which not only led to wrong pictures, but also to leaving P-Noy wide open to justified criticism, and worse, the possibility of losing credibility with his “bosses” and therefore their trust and confidence. Focusing only on the positives when the negatives are sure to be pointed out sooner or later is extremely short-sighted. Relatedly, there is also the matter of some amount of intellectual dishonesty involved.

The biggest shortcoming of the SONA was that it never mentioned the targets that had been set either in the PDP, or in the Social Contract, or in his campaign promises, or even in his previous SONA. This would have allowed his “bosses” to better evaluate his performance. Anecdotal evidence does not hold a candle to measuring performance against a set metric.

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Some examples of incomplete/selective data presentation: One is the  mention that the April employment figures showed an increase of 1.4 million jobs over the previous April; but no mention of the underemployment increase of 2 percentage points (underemployment is an indication of poor quality of jobs).

Or how about his omitting to mention that the Bureau of Customs had not only failed to increase its collection effort by 0.1 percent of GDP, as targeted, but actually reduced its collection effort by 0.06 percent of GDP? Or omitting to mention that the Public-Private Partnerships, which he regarded (in the 2010) SONA as the answer to our resource problems, failed to take off as scheduled?

Example of misinterpretation:  The 15.6 percent increase in palay production that P-Noy adverted to was attributed to increased yields due to more irrigation, better seeds. The more obvious reason was an increase in the area planted to rice, and a difference in weather conditions. More proof:  The yield per hectare in 2011 was the same as that in 2009.

Were the above examples indicative of intellectual dishonesty? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is sure: there is absolutely no basis for his stating, toward the end of his SONA, that “We have put an end to the culture of entitlement, to wangwang.” He rates an NI in that area, particularly when it comes to his KKK—who seem to have been the cause of some of the blackest eyes his administration has received, but who seem to enjoy kid-glove treatment from him.

But who knows? Maybe next year, P-Noy will have come to his senses—and report to his bosses that defending his KKK was more trouble than it is worth, not only to the country, but to him.

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TAGS: Aquino, featured columns, opinion, SONA 2011, wangwang culture
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