'Best ever' state address for Aquino

MANILA -- Most members of Congress and guests who attended the third State of the Nation Address (Sona) Monday believe President Benigno Aquino III has delivered his "best" state address yet.

Former President Joseph Estrada, for one, gave Aquino a grade of 80 percent after the latter zeroed in on good governance and the economic gains of the present administration.

"I'm happy to hear that the needs of the people were mentioned, also livelihood. The programs he mentioned are good, especially the thousands of classrooms he aims to provide to students," Estrada said in an ambush interview.

The ousted President added Aquino has the right to lambast his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, though indirectly.

"You can't prevent that. This is a free country," he said.

Estrada's political ally, Vice President Jejomar Binay, meanwhile, appreciated the mention of Aquino's Cabinet members in his speech.

"His vision of leadership is clear," Binay said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Aquino's close ally, thinks the President delivered the "best Sona ever."

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, chairman of the House committee on public information, said Aquino's 90-minute speech was "very comprehensive" as it covered "practically all aspects of governance."

Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles found this year's Sona specific and backed with solid statistical and research data.

"His vision for the country is clear and achievable if only we can all work together to help him make this happen. Now, we have to buckle down to work because this is our state of the nation," he said in a text message.

"It was very detailed. It gives us a roadmap to where we are going. It’s nice to know we’re all in this together," Cebu City Representative Rachel Marguerite "Cutie" Del Mar added.

Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino specifically cited emphasis on social programs, including the conditional cash transfer program, PhilHealth benefits, and education.

Sona 'lacking'

ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio, however, slammed Aquino for not mentioning a single word about the worsening human rights record under his administration.

The President, he said, also failed to mention that all government employees will have no salary increase in 2013 despite the continuously rising cost of living.

Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay, a staunch critic of the Aquino administration, said the Sona was "like a budget briefing."

"It was like a budget briefing which failed to offer solutions to the problem of Juan dela Cruz is experiencing now like rising prices of oil, electricity rates, water rates, basic commodities and transport fares," she said in a text message.

Unimpressed as well was Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who doubted specifically the unemployment figures presented by the Chief Executive.

While the number of jobless people fell slightly to 6.9 percent in April from 7.2 percent from the same period last year, Marcos said the statistics did not reflect the situation on the ground.

"There's nothing specific about moves on job creation," he said.

For his part, Senator Edgardo Angara lauded the President for giving a full menu of "positive" news about the economy, poverty alleviation and improvement of education standards in the country.

Both Senator Pia Cayetano and Marcos, however, agreed not to rate the President's speech.

"You can't make an objective assessment on this. It's very complicated," Marcos said.

"There’s always room for improvement but just like what he said, let's just focus on the positive,” Cayetano said.

Palawan Representative Antonio Alvarez reminded Tinio and Magsaysay that it would be impossible for the President to cram everything in his state address.

"The Sona is not Wikipedia that catalogues the cures to our perceived ills. But in so far as charting the nation's course, in tackling the great problems that try our collective resolve, in identifying what needs to be done, the President was able to enumerate them with clarity and conviction in the Sona," he said.

Davaoeños also expressed mixed reactions to Aquino’s state address. Not everyone was impressed.

"The Sona is delusional. Mindanao is still neglected. Aquino is in Manila 30 days a month. In Mindanao, the Ombudsman is only in Davao," said lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla.

"I would like to believe that President Benigno Aquino have done some of the promises he mentioned in his previous state of the nation addresses, especially in going after corrupt officials. But I think instead of always blaming the past administration, he must focus on reforms that would directly benefit the ordinary people," said Orly Escarilla of Museo Dabawenyo.

"Well, as usual, it's a beautifully crafted speech yet less in substance; same old stories. It's a vindictive report to the nation. He should provide funds for education, lands for the landless, more food for the Filipinos. Stop the vindictive form of government above anything else," said Mark Anthony Ventura, external relations associate of Holy Cross of Davao College.

Meanwhile, several of Cebu’s business leaders and public officials said they were satisfied with the Aquino administration’s results so far.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Prudencio Gesta said that President Aquino delivered a “very a good report of his accomplishments that is truthful and with basis.”

“I wish that he would be more categorical and specific on how to reduce power cost, now considered the highest in Asia, to attract more investors; his big plans to improve infrastructure for international airports, seaports and better roads to hit the 10-million tourist arrivals target; and the fight against graft and corruption,” Gesta said.

Cebu City Representative Tomas Osmeña (south district) said the administration’s accomplishments, especially regarding the poor, “are not enough, but it will get better.”

“Frankly, I’m impressed. And not once did he say, ‘Pakpak’ (Clap),” Osmeña also said.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said the comparison of key figures was helpful and “provided beautiful colors” to the speech.

“He was sending a clear message: take me seriously,” he added.(Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sun.Star Davao/Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)