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 the President, 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 continue the fact-check.
6. HEALING THE WOUNDS OF EDSA
P62.93 billion remitted by the PCGG to the Bureau of Treasury for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
National Unity and Reconciliation led to the granting of absolute pardon to former President Joseph Estrada.
Funds for the CARP - Yes, FACT.
I have never believed that granting pardon to ERAP was an act of reconciliation or that it healed the wounds of EDSA. It in fact made a mockery of the judicial system because a convicted plunderer was pardoned too early and too fast.
The bigger problem is not the wounds of EDSA but the wounds that were created after EDSA. Hello Garci, JocJoc Bolante and the fertilizer scam, NBN-ZTE, Romy Neri and executive privilege, and E.O. 464 and the destruction of executive-legislative checks and balances are festering wounds that will challenge the next President.
7. ELECTRICITY AND WATER FOR ALL
41,079 or 97.85% of barangays have been energized. 70% of waterless municipalities outside of Metro Manila and 75% of waterless communities within Metro Manila have potable water.
Significant gains on electrification. Questionable success in providing access to water.
Access to potable water has improved but what "level"? First level (hand pumps, shallow wells, collected rainwater)?; Second Level (Piped water with a communal water point such as a spring system)?; Third Level (Piped water supply inside a house)?
The government's claims are difficult to validate given the sketchy and sometimes contradicting statistics on water access. A WHO-UNICEF report in 2006 stated that only 44% of urban households and 12% of rural households have water piped into their residence. The World Bank Report on Pro-Poor Services (2001) reported that only 64% of respondents had access to formal service providers.
What is clear is that we currently don't trust the quality of water from our faucets and the poor suffer more than the rich when water is inaccessible or of questionable quality. Poorer households now spend a big part of their household income on bottled water.
Access to potable water? Probably FICTION more than FACT.
8. OPPORTUNITIES FOR LIVELIHOOD AND 10 MILLION JOBS
12 million jobs created from 2004-2009.
For a healthy and productive workforce, the Cheaper Medicine Act will provide more affordable medicine.
"Unemployment" is defined by the government as those "without work", "currently available for work" and "actively seeking work".
So how would you call those who have been looking for work, failed to find one, and simply gave up and now spend their time playing tong-its and drinking on the street? They are not included in the unemployment rate.
Conditional cash transfers that put money in the hands of the poor so they can spend and make the economy move is good as a stop-gap measure. But will this now become a continuing policy of government?
Employment figures are difficult to judge given the definition, type and quality of government-generated jobs in a period of economic crisis. Plus there is no mention of job losses, especially in a period of economic recession. Both a FACT and FICTION.
Cheaper medicine law for a healthy and productive workforce - correlation is not clear, definitely FICTION.
9. DECONGEST METRO MANILA
The PNR system from Tutuban to Buendia is now operational. On going construction of the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 2, MRT/LRT Loop, C5-NLEX-SLEX link, and the Northrail-Southrail Link Phase 1 will further decongest Metro Manila.
PNR - FACT.
On-going constructions - Can not be judged until completed.
Do these decongest Metro Manila? Yes and No. The creation of rural areas with Metro Manila-like amenities is the only way to decongest Metro Manila short of restricting migration. Partially FACT, partially FICTION.
10. DEVELOP SUBIC AND CLARK.
Infrastructure development projects such as the SCTEX boosted the competitiveness advantage of Clark and Subic as prime investment areas. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport posted a 21% increase in international passenger volume in the first five months of 2009 amid the global economic crisis.
SCTEX - Definitely FACT. But has this boosted competitiveness? Then why did FedEx leave the country? The sight of boarded-up stores that used to house duty-free outlets in my last visit in Clark was truly depressing. Maybe competitiveness and increased investments is a FICTION?
You be the judge.