“(Right-sizing) may send shivers down the spines of the incompetent and the ineffective, but first steps need to be taken”
As expected, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first State of the Nation Address was dignified, well-delivered, and focused.
His inaugural address inspired, though that was obviously written for him. Nothing wrong with that; inaugural addresses whether here or elsewhere, are long on rhetorical flourish, written with an eye to a plenitude of quotable quotes.
The first SONA was different. It was obviously written by the president himself. None of the oratorical bombast; just facts, facts and more facts.
Few lines will make it to quotable memory. Our newspaper captured the best: “We will endure.” Which is both a statement of fact (we Filipinos have always endured hardships) and a call to sacrifice.
One can dispute his final statement, coming from “heart, mind and soul” that the “state of the nation is sound.”
His economic managers assure him of the macro-economic fundamentals, which are better than many countries reeling from externally-induced and internally-wrought crises.
But while these are assuring enough when placed in comparison with others, the ordinary man has never felt as insecure about his future, nay, survival, as ever.
We admire the president’s 19-point legislative agenda, presented to Congress on its first day, not in piece-meal fashion, but as part of a comprehensive plan intended to address most of the long-standing inefficiencies of the economy and the lack of poverty-alleviating priorities of the past.
Sure, some of these had been written in the published policy platforms of his presidential competitors in a campaign where he chose to be silent. But he had the humility to recognize in his inaugural address that he agreed with many of the issues and solutions presented by his rivals.
Right-sizing an otherwise multi-headed hydra which is our top-heavy bureaucracy was on top of his list. About time, indeed.
It may send shivers down the spines of the incompetent and the ineffective, but first steps need to be taken. We spend far too much for far too little service to the taxpayers who bear its brunt.
The National Land Use Act, which a former senator, Orly Mercado, first introduced in the Senate as early as 1990, has languished in the bowels of a Congress of landlords and real estate “developers” ever since.
Re-introduced by many other legislators each time a new Congress re-opens, it quickly “lies there…and dies there.”
Will it pass this time, under the leadership of a president with an electoral majority never before experienced in these benighted isles since Ramon Magsaysay?
The condonation of ARB land transfer payments to the Land Bank was also proposed by a presidential rival during the campaign. So was digitalization of government transactions and processes.
The emphasis on implementing the national ID, long-coming and long deserved legislation but sluggishly implemented, was right on the dot. And many more.
Then vice-presidential candidate Doc Willy Ong, in his abbreviated campaign stump speeches, proposed regionalizing specialty hospitals, even as he acknowledged the vision of the president’s mother, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who pioneered in these.
As we have said earlier in this piece, no politician has a monopoly of good policy, and parallel minds can think of similar plans. It is in the implementation of sound policy where this nation and its leaders, always falters.
Some have criticized the president for omitting the issues of corruption, of human rights, of the peace process, the autonomous regions, even that impractical but nice-sounding (to Sen. Robin Padilla) shift to federalism.
But first things first. “It’s the economy, stupid,” as Bill Clinton famously and successfully mouthed.
There are equally important social and political issues that must be addressed to this writer’s mind, and soon enough, while the president’s popularity is yet un-swamped by the minutiae of the economic crisis, and while the public’s patience is yet wind beneath his wings.
But that’s grist for another article.
The question, however, in many minds is whether all the promises can be supported by ways and means.
At a time of looming worldwide recession, and saddled with an enormous debt burden, with inflation difficult to tame by mere monetary tools, the wherewithal may indeed be chancy.
But, as the president has said, “we will endure.”
Kaya ba? “Kakayanin” is the optimistic description of many among us who can only hope, pray, and aspire.
In the fashion extravaganza that our legislators and other top officials annually indulge in, where dressing-up can cost these people six-figure amounts charged by designers, not to include the jewelry, the “bling-blings” and the eight-figure gold watches, one has to admire the current First Lady.
In contrast to many, Atty. Liza Araneta Marcos was dressed simply and tastefully, with an understated elegance that speaks volumes about the need of the times—austerity, and in her husband’s word— endurance.