IN just a few months, President Benigno Aquino III will be delivering his last State-of-the-Nation Address.
The yearly speech, mandated by the Constitution, is an opportunity for the chief executive to report the nation’s progress and to inspire the people toward greater achievement through a shared vision.
Being short of tangible results, however, President Aquino has used the yearly address as a way to boast about plans that are passed off as achievements, to play up economic developments not entirely of his doing, to blame somebody else—usually his predecessor—for all that ails the country, and to tar and feather his political opponents.
This President has returned time and again to this well, but this year he may find that it has all but dried up.
After five years in office, it is a pathetic leader indeed who continues to blame his predecessor for his problems, particularly since he has kept her detained since 2011 on charges he still cannot prove in court.
The centerpiece of Mr. Aquino’s envisioned legacy, an agreement to bring peace to Mindanao, lies in tatters as a result of his own mismanagement and incompetence in launching a covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of the same rebel group with which his administration is talking peace.
As a result of the Mamasapano fiasco, both the Senate and the House had suspended hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a lynchpin of the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Perhaps eager for something to crow about in his last SONA, the President is now asking Congress to set aside questions about Mamasapano and to resume its hearings and approve the BBL without significant changes by June—one month before his last yearly report.
In his mad rush to have something to show, the President would have Congress shirk its responsibility to thoroughly debate the BBL and to repair any unconstitutional provisions that his negotiators were only too eager to give away at the table.
Even if the President gets his way and his lackeys in Congress railroad the passage of the BBL by June, the move would fool nobody—and the law would certainly be challenged before the Supreme Court, and very likely be overturned.
Nor can the President crow about the infrastructure buildup during his term. To date, only seven of the 93 big-ticket Public-Private Partnership projects have been completed, giving this administration a miserable 7.5 percent completion rate after five years in office. Another 58 of the projects are described as “ongoing” – which, in the parlance of this administration, means they have yet to actually break ground and are still undergoing feasibility and other studies.
In the end, this President will have no great achievements to adorn his final report to the nation, save the ouster and jailing of his political rivals, a vindictive pursuit that so consumed his time and energy in the early years of his term that he had none left for real governance.