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Fourth Sona

Said to be the longest State of the Nation Address delivered by President Aquino at 102 minutes, Sona 2013 focused more on what his government has been able to accomplish in the last three years rather than dwell on a list of gripes about the unchangeable past.
For me, the main message simply was that change has been possible, changes have been made, but that true and sustainable change remains in our hands — each one of us.
For all the facts and figures, the reams of data it must have taken to craft that speech, what I got was the message that it is the Filipino nation as a whole that will bring this country forward — not one leader, not even if his whole Cabinet were like the paragon that is Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario. President Aquino made this clear by directing the limelight on those ordinary people who exemplified the ideal of the new Pinoy — one who recognizes his role in the overall scheme of things, who chooses to act on his destiny and not simply wait for it to be handed on a platter, or worse, complain without ever lifting a finger.
I realize the Sona this year, just like any year, will not satisfy everyone. Ask anyone, and chances are they would say they wished the President had talked about this or that, and that he had not mentioned this or that, but rather that one instead.
Some political analysts, for instance, said afterwards that though the Sona expressed both the President’s confidence and exasperation, it lacked a boldness that they had expected in a report midway through the presidency.
With expectations getting bigger than ever, the experts required a road map — a more detailed look at what the president hopes to achieve in his last three years in power.
Speaking of roads, one cannot think of the Aquino government and not say “daang matuwid.” In fact, in his first Sona, Aquino’s first sentences laid out this straight and righteous path he intended to take: “Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly.
“This is the straight path.
“On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation.
“This is the crooked path,” he said.
The long speech he gave last Monday assured Filipinos that his administration has continued to traverse that long and difficult road. He gave his report (and if you want the details of that, you only have to click on Google to read the entire transcript in English or Filipino), but more than that, he exhorted everyone to do their part to bring the nation’s dreams to fruition.
“Kayo ang Sona,” he said. In a sense, he did what few presidents have done, and that is to make people realize that they have a say, a role, a part in everything. Again, some may paint this as a weakness, but we must admit there is sense to that challenge, for that is what it was.
We like to believe we have our say when we vote, but that is not the entire responsibility of a citizen, is it? We pay taxes, we cooperate with our local leaders, we try to be hardworking, diligent people who only want what is best for ourselves and our families — and no, I do not mean lining one’s pockets with ill-gotten wealth, ignoring the law, abusing one’s power as many politicians had done, uncaring of the negative and far-reaching effects to our nation.
I remember the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sounding so certain when she said she would be able to bring the country to first world status in a decade’s time. We all know she had almost a decade in power, and when she stepped down, our country was not only still struggling, its people were almost shell-shocked with the blatant allegations of immense corruption.
I remember being impressed by the grand plans she rolled out on those last few Sonas when her popularity was flailing. I won’t forget, and I suspect many Filipinos won’t too, that words are one thing, and action, another. I will believe it when I see it seems a common sentiment today, and this is why the latest Sona was better received, I think.
Though it lacked even an acknowledgment of the much-discussed Freedom of Information bill, or maybe the sound of bells and gongs as one grand plan and the next was unveiled, it sounded real. It acknowledged the difficulties and the fact that all our problems will be erased by 2016. It gave credit to people who did their job well no matter how hard it could be, as well as citizens who simply opted for what is right and good. It revealed plans to continue the fight against corruption and poverty. It said a lot more, but still maybe not enough for some.
They say the speech was far longer than any other President Aquino had delivered, but for those who had been waiting years — decades — for change in the right direction, what is one hour and 45 minutes, anyway?

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