Archive for SONA

It’s Everybody’s Concern

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

It’s turning out to be one of the most awaited events of the year. Media networks are all geared up for their coverage, the internet is buzzing with chatter about what might and might not happen, and people are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for them in the coming years.

Some attendees probably prepared their wardrobe weeks in advance, more concerned with what they will wear to the occasion rather than the substance of the proceedings. Indeed, the event has been likened to a movie industry awards night, with reporters and photographers waiting along the sidelines of the red carpet jostling to throw the question “Who are you wearing?” (a question about who designed the outfit) and capture a photo worthy of a spread in the papers.

Even the ordinary Filipino seems to be more interested, compared to years past. I was surprised to read some Twitter messages from students and working people alike expressing their disappointment that a holiday was not declared making it impossible for them to watch the event. Quite unlike previously when either the people were indifferent or even questioned why a holiday had to be declared.

I remember a story told to me years back by one of my dad’s staff. She was rushing to work when a friend asked her why she had to go to the office even if a holiday was declared. My dad’s staff said, “I’m going to the SONA”. The friend said, “Ok, I’ll go with you”. She said, “I’m sorry you can’t. It’s by invitation only.” The friend, flabbergasted, said, “By invitation only? What kind of sauna is that?”

There was a time when people could care little what the SONA was all about, content with only reading about it in the papers the following day. Not only when reports began to give extra focus on who wore what made by whom did the masa take enough interest in news about the SONA, perhaps due to the Filipinos’ fondness of celebrities.

But now, with the overwhelming confidence in President Aquino’s leadership, it seems that the people’s interest in what he has to say about the country’s state and what he intends to do about stems from genuine concern.

Technology has also made it easier to monitor the SONA, with social networks in the internet serving as public information tools. Increased accessibility through wireless broadband and live streaming has given those with access to those facilities the ability to view the proceedings live over the internet. Of course, those who are still dreaming of such connectivity have the old reliable transistor radio to rely on.

The SONAs of the past president has always been a show and tell spectacle, not unlike those presented by celebrity storytellers to kindergarten students. Whether they just wanted to show their powerpoint skills or they thought that the people could be mesmerized by the show, it basically led people to take the SONA as just an entertaining event rather than a government’s presentation of what is in store for them.

But it seems with the new President’s first SONA, the people genuinely want to hear what he plans to do for the country. With the overwhelming and unquestionable mandate that he has, much is now demanded from him.

After listening to the SONA, the people should not be left with a feeling of having just been treated to an interesting report from the President. More than just having their eyes opened to anomalies of the previous administration and presented with a smart program of government, the SONA should give the people a feeling of ownership of the challenges faced by President Aquino. The fight for the country’s future is not the President’s alone. It is a shared responsibility between all who would like to see this country move forward.

The Opening of the 2nd Regular Session of the 14th Congress

Posted in Governance, Inner Thoughts, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2008 by Ruffy Biazon

At ten o’clock this Morning, July 28, 2008, the Second Regular Session of the 14th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines was simultaneously opened in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Much of the public discussion regarding today’s even is focused on the President’s State of the Nation Address, or SONA. A choral competition of criticisms and praises has preceded the SONA, which I think is like putting the cart before the horse. I’d rather comment after I hear what the President has to say.

But today’s main event is actually the opening of the Second Regular Session of Congress. The President’s SONA is a consequence of the opening, and she is a guest at the House of the People. The significance of the opening of the session is that the Filipino People, through their elected representatives, are going to exercise their sovereignty and determine the how they are going to be governed through the laws and other measures that will be produced by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

For me as a legislator, the opening of session is the marching order for me to fulfill the duty vested in me by the constituency who voted for me and the Constitution which governs my actions as a public official.

Soon after our session as convened this morning, the Speaker of the House, Prospero Nograles, delivered his opening address to the members of the House. It was his first address during an Opening of Regular Session since he assumed office some time February of this year, therefore I was eagerly anticipating what he was going to say.

I am one who puts premium to word of honor, and give value to what I and other people say. As public officials, the words that come out of our mouths should be held against us, under the principle of accountability. No rhetorics or double talk, just plain truth and commitment.

I appreciated Speaker Nograles’ address. He was quite clear with regard to the direction that the House should undertake within a prescribed time frame. He imposed on the House specific, enumerated measures that he would like congressmen to work on and pass by the end of 2008.

There is nothing more desirable in a leader than getting clear and concise directions. At least everyone is tuned to the same objectives and the progress is measurable because of the time frame given.

If there’s one thing that I can say about Speaker Nograles during his first few months in office, he is a man who is decisive and takes accountability for his words. One of the examples of this trait was his handling of one of the controversial bills before the House of Representatives. During an executive session tackling the matter (the proceedings of which I can’t disclose because of the rules on executive sessions), he gave everyone a chance to state their cases for or against, but when a consensus could not be arrived at by the body, he made the decision and assumed responsibility for that decision.

He did not struggle with double talk, evasive rhetorics and hide behind the curtain of Congress being a deliberative and collective body. When push came to shove, he showed he had the guts to exercise his leadership role.

So as he was enumerating the targets of the House of Representatives, it allayed any doubt as to where the Second Regular Session will take us. At least the course is charted and the timelines drawn.

But what gave me a fresh hope for the House is the Speaker’s statement that the House of Representatives will assert its role of oversight. In the recent past, Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, became a lame duck in the attack against its independence and duty to oversee the workings of the Executive Department. When Executive Order 464 undermined Congress’ role of oversight, the House of Representatives meekly succumbed to the challenge, not raising as much as a whimper to counter that issuance which was abused by Executive Department officials in order to evade and avoid speaking in congressional inquiries.

With the Speaker’s assertion of this congressional duty and right, I was given a reason to be optimistic that there may be a chance for genuine reform in the House and in government.

After the Speaker’s speech and the opening session ceremonies, we adjourned in order to prepare for the afternoon’s Special Joint Session of Congress to hear the President’s SONA. For sure, the media will highlight the impromptu fashion show, owing to the fact that many who attend the SONA dress up for the occasion. Then it will be followed by the courtside commentaries on the President’s speech.

I hope that in the wake of all the glamour and glitter, the pomp and circumstance, and all the brouhaha of this event, the Filipino People will receive the appropriate attention they deserve, and that us public officials, we in government will be able to deliver the goods to an already suffering constituency.