by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera
The annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) by the President before Congress allows political pundits, presidential critics and allies, and the general public to look back, reflect, and try to extract accountability from the occupant of Malacanang.
As the 2009 SONA represents (hopefully) the last report of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, critics and allies have been girding for a showdown over the past two weeks on television, radio and the print media.
The battle shifted to a higher gear this weekend when the administration bought media space on all major newspapers to trumpet its SONA achievements since 2001. In an almost full-page advertisement entitled "SONA Targets Delivered" the administration trumpeted its achievements on its Ten-Point Program, amply called "BEAT THE ODDS".
How much of these claims are FACT and how much is FICTION? Let me check.
1. BALANCED BUDGET
Thirty three (33) quarters of uninterrupted economic growth amid global crisis shows a resilient economy that is better than most countries. Our stability is affirmed by international ratings agencies like Moody's.
A "balance budget", by definition, is a budget either submitted by the President to Congress (executive budget) at the opening of Congress, or approved by Congress (and the President) at the end of the year, where expenditures (the allocation of public funds) is equal to revenues (public funds collected). In short, government achieves a balanced budget when its income is equal to its expenditures.
Now how is "33 quarters of uninterrupted economic growth" connected with a balanced budget? I have no idea. In fact, I have always wondered by GMA's economic advisers included a balanced budget in its Ten Point Program given the fact that this is an impossible task given our economic growth pattern. Even the US has not had a balanced budget since 1957!!
Fact Check - FAIL/FICTION
2. EDUCATION FOR ALL
68,888 classrooms built from 2004 to June 2009
41,781 of 42,000 barangays have elementary schools
1,494 of 1,495 municipalities have high schools
1:1 book-to-pupil ratio in 18 of 20 subjects
10.86 million beneficiaries of scholarships and educational assistance
Impressive numbers but the achievements are in relation to what? For example, 68,888 classrooms have been built but what is the over-all classroom shortage? And how fast is the government catching up with the classroom lack?
And what about participation and cohort survival rates of students at the elementary and high school levels which we have committed to increase as part of the MDGs?
And what about those who fall out of the school system? How many Filipino children are "out of school youth" and what has the government done to address this problem?
If "Education for All" is claimed, then educational indicators must go beyond infrastructure data.
Fact Check - Claims are difficult to assess given the numbers. Lack of data on participation, cohort survival rates, and OSY - FAILED OR FICTION.
3. AUTOMATED ELECTIONS
All systems go for automated elections in 2010 with the recent signing of the contract with SMARTMATIC-TIM.
GMA administration can really claim this. Thank god for the intervention of COMELEC!
Fact Check - Strong potential for FACT but no passing grade until the 2010 elections is finally completed.
4. TRANSPORTATION AND DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway with 30 operational RORO ports link the archipelago making travel and transport of goods faster and cheaper, stimulating business and tourism.
The country's digital infrastructure boosted tourism, commerce, and the BPO-IT industry.
Nautical Highway - FACT. This is one of the real legacies of GMA.
But what about all the infrastructure projects enumerated in previous SONA's? Read this:
Digital Infrastructure - Interconnecting the country via NBN-ZTE deal? hmmmm...obvious FAIL/FICTION.
5. TERMINATE THE HOSTILITIES WITH MILF AND NPA
549 former rebels have been integrated into mainstream society through the social integration program.
The suspension of the offensive military operations (SOMO) against the MILF aims to provide a stable environment for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic (GRP) and the MILF.
SOMO is good but is this supposed to mean that hostilities are "terminated"? MOA-AD has been rejected.
Peace talks with NDF has stalled.