What allies, critics expect from the President's SONA

Jonathan de Santos
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

While President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address speech is still under wraps, allies and critics alike have already weighed in on what they expect him to say.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday, said he hopes Aquino "will touch on the economic direction of his administration and the problem of security," amid PH's growing row with China over Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

Enrile said, however, that Aquino should focus on the over-all security of the Philippines. "Scarborough is only a part of that," he said.

This was a sentiment echoed by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., president of the minority Lakas party. "He has to be clear on our stand and have concrete plans of action that will address the impending problems involving trade, tourism and national security. This will have a great impact not only on our national territory, but also on our economy," Revilla said.

Revilla is also "hoping against hope" that the President will push for a nationwide wage hike and will discuss how the government will address unemployment. "At the end of 2011, there were still 2.8 million who had no jobs, at gusto nating malaman kung ano ang plano ng pamahalaan para sa kanila," he said.

Senator Loren Legarda meanwhile said Aquino should focus on protecting the country against the worst effects of natural disasters. "How can we achieve our collective aim for economic development and deliver the benefits our people long deserve, when every passing year, disasters -- such as flash floods and landslides from stronger typhoons and heavier rains -- claim countless lives and ruin our communities and livelihoods?," she said.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, senior deputy majority leader at the House, said the President's SONA will likely highlight economic achievements and its progress on making government more transparent. She said she hoped Aquino will endorse passage of the Reproductive Health bill, which the House has been debating since May last year.

Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, also from the House majority, said the SONA might touch on the country's progress in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

"The SONA will be about sustaining the right and straight path, and also about patriotism, all meant for our nation’s progress," Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado said.

It isn't all praises for the SONA though as militant group Anakbayan issued a statement on what it expects the President's SONA will say.

"For sure, he will hype up the so-called ‘record-breaking performances’ in the Philippine stock market and the recent $1-billion loan to the International Monetary Fund while conveniently omitting any mention of the record-breaking number of unemployed and growing ‘wage gap’ in the country," Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said.

He said although the Philippines' wealthiest have gotten richer, the gap between them and the poor has been growing.

"In the past two years, the combined net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos more than doubled from $23 billion to $47 billion. On the other hand, living wages have lagged even farther from the daily cost of living," he said. He said the living wage in Manila is now at P426 against a daily cost of living of P1008.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it also expects the President to talk about the government's economic achievements. "These, however, are far from the stomachs of the people and are not real indicators of the health of the economy. Aquino may score pogi-points with the foreign banks and investors, but that dooesn’t mean the people are well off under his leadership," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr said.

Citing Social Weather Stations data, Bayan said the hunger has averaged 20 percent, or around 4 million families, and poverty has averaged 50 percent--around 10 million families--in Aquino's two years as President.

Bayan, and the groups under it, plan to hold a parallel “SONA ng Bayan” (People’s State of the Nation Address) next Monday but Quezon City has yet to issue a rally permit as of this post.

“What is Noynoy, the PNP, and Q.C Mayor Bautista so afraid of? If they truly believe that they are as popular as they claim, then they have no reason to fear any form of criticism against the government,” Crisostomo said.