President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday delivers what Malacañang describes as a “truthful and inspiring” State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of Congress.
In his third report to the people, the President is expected to define his priorities for his third year in office and list his accomplishments in the past year.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President finalized his speech last Saturday and is “good to go” for today.
The President will deliver the speech, which has gone through 10 revisions, in Filipino.
Lacierda refused to dwell into details of the address, although it is expected to zero in on the President’s efforts to further spur economic growth.
“Expect a truthful and inspiring SONA. It will be an edifying SONA for the people, for government workers, for all of us,” Lacierda said over government radio yesterday.
He said the President no longer practiced his SONA before the cabinet because Aquino has gotten used to delivering speeches before the public.
Lacierda said the proposed national budget for 2013 will be presented to Congress tomorrow.
“He has always been truthful. He wants to inspire our fellow countrymen to join him in working for a better future,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
There was speculation whether the speech will touch on the graft cases filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the renewed tension with China in the West Philippine Sea.
A few weeks ago, the President gave a preview of his SONA, highlighting the gains of his government such as the 6.4 economic growth in the first quarter 2012 as well as credit rating upgrades obtained by the country.
He also likewise highlighted the conviction of Corona in the Senate impeachment trial as part of the reforms in having a fair and truthful judiciary.
More than 6,000 policemen will be deployed in Metro Manila today, most of them at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.
Director General Nicanor Bartolome, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), expressed satisfaction “with the security plan and the preparations that the NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) have been doing.”
Bartolome said he also instructed the regional commanders in Luzon to place on standby their Civil Disturbance Management Units to serve as backup.
The military is also ready to deploy 400 anti-riot soldiers to reinforce their police counterparts.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo, Jr., PNP spokesman, said several areas have been designated for pro and anti-SONA demonstrators.
“Unless there is a last-minute change, it was agreed that protesters will only be allowed near the Ever Gotesco area,” said Cerbo.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) - National Capital Region (NCR) will assign 31 firetrucks and nine ambulances to specific areas in Metro Manila today.
“The deployment of the BFP’s resources is part of our contingency plans for any eventualities that might occur during this significant activity,” said BFP NCR Chief Supt. Santiago Laguna.
Eighteen firetrucks will be stationed in areas near the Batasan.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) will hold a “People’s SONA,” near the Batasan.
Among the groups joining the event is a delegation of 100 fisherfolk leaders.
Yesterday at the Binangonan fish port in Rizal, members of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis partylist, Koalisyon Kontra Kumbersyon ng Manila Bay and Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) handed out leaflets describing Aquino as president of the domestic and foreign elites and extremely anti-poor head of the state.
The Pamalakaya leaflet lists Aquino’s “wrongdoings” in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay and said Malacanang has approved 54 major development projects on the 94,900 hectare lake under the controversial Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
In the House of Representatives, congressmen urged the President to turn his attention on internal peace and security, environmental protection, agriculture and economy.
Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said he is counting on the President to reveal his “new programs on the economy, and peace and order, including efforts to deal with rebels.”
He said the Aquino government should not get tired of forging peace in Mindanao to spur growth and development.
Assistant Majority Leader and Davao Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano wants to hear the President talk about the promotion of agriculture sector.
“Consumer spending is strong if our farmers have money. Majority of our people are farmers. Our growth rate was up because farm gate prices of our commodities were up,” Albano said.
Assistant Minority Leader and Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II is counting on the President to put to halt illegal mining in the country.
“The government should focus not only on illegal logging but make a bold step in stopping illegal mining. And this is where Secretary Paje failed,” he said.
House Deputy Speaker and Zamboanga City Rep. Maria Isabelle Climaco said the SONA “should chart targets that have yet to be legislated, and point to us the government’s thrust and priorities.”
During the third regular session, Congress is expected to attend to the pending key measures in the legislative mill, including the Anti-Trust law, highly divisive Reproductive Health (RH) measure and the sin taxes bill.
In an interview, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan wants to “hear the real state of the country” and cautioned the President against boasting of economic growth.
“I don’t want to hear about the economy growing because the poor do not see any palpable change in their situation of impoverishment,” Ilagan said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Communities, agreed with Ilagan as asked Aquino to “tone down on breast beating about impeachment, but stay the course against fighting corruption.”
Maintaining that the government should stopped its dole-out strategies, Agham party-list called on Mr. Aquino to “invest in sound programs with long-term impact on the economy, instead of institutionalizing mendicancy.
Baguilat, Ilagan and Palmones urged the President to certify as urgent the passage of key measures, particularly the RH bill, which has been under the period of plenary interpellations in the House since May 17, 2011.
Palmones, along with Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, expects the President’s “categorical support” for the passage of RH bill.
The Makabayan partylist in Congress, headed by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino is pressing Aquino to “veer away from United States tutelage and earnestly pursue our national sovereign interest” in the West Philippine Sea.
“We should not allow the United States into the conflict because it may further escalate. This matter is best settled between China and the Philippines through diplomatic means and using the international conventions. We do not need another bully like the US in our backyard,” Casiño said.
Anakpawis partylist Rep. Rafael V. Mariano said that instead of following US dictates, the President “should work for genuine agrarian reform and ensure the speedy distribution of land particularly that of Hacienda Luisita.”
ACT Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio also cautioned the President against pursuing security ties with US, saying that it would mean more US covert operations in the country and more human rights violations.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan also agreed with Tinio, citing violations committed by members of the US troops during the joint military exercises between the two countries. —with additional report from Aaron Recuenco, Czarina Nicole Ong Marvyn Benaning and Charissa M. Luci
By GENALYN D. KABILING