December 1, 2023

In my six years in Congress, I attended about eight State of the Nation Address and while every year we are invited and entitled to be at the plenary hall, I had no inclination to do so lately, as my favorite Chinaman would say “pale-paleho lang naman.”
The SONA is a gathering of politics-minded-individuals, with the word politics coming from poly, meaning many, and ticks, meaning bloodsucking parasites. I thought all along it was another term for alligator, as the henna tattoo of Sen. Imee Marcos reportedly shown her brother.
On D-day, the entire Batasan Complex was locked down. No entry at all except security personnel and guests required to have antigen tests. All lawmakers and their staff members were encouraged to come early for the 10 a.m. session. It’s extra strict security at the gate where security units are posted and they don’t care whether your car wears number 8 as they search every corner of the vehicle as if one was dumb enough to hide a bomb in a car with the family on board.
At the gate are metal detectors and, in the elevators, barong-clad armed men wait as if in ambush. Before the morning sessions, everyone stays in their rooms. Mine was Room 519 North Wing. If one wanted to go to use john, a Presidential guard with his canine buddy would follow you all the way to the restroom where “the future of this country lies in what you are holding now.” He would watch you pee without emotion, as if his thoughts in French – “Voulez-vouscoucher avec moi cessoir? (“Would you like to sleep with me tonight?”)
The roll call begins. Aside from watching what they wear, curious onlookers would look into what they ride in – limousines, bulletproof SUVs, and all sorts and types – would roll down the driveway and their high and mighty passenger alights.
Manong Chavit Singson tops them all with his armored vehicle. After quorum comes the fun and best part, lunch at the north wing lounge, catered by Via Mare which was always a feast.
Then at 4 p.m., the drums roll, the President arrives in a chopper and the entire nation listens to his own version of a motherhood speech.
Nothing much changed other than the fashion show.
The President made a report on what his incumbency achieved in the past year, which they say is not much. The writers flubbed when he said the prices of fuel went down as the oil companies announced an increase effective the day after the SONA. What turned out to be more controversial was the failure or as some pundits say refusal of PBBM to shake hands with VP Sara, making every lip utter that blood is thicker than water as cousin Speaker was nearby.
He sought the passage of his priority bills – the Rationalization of Mining Fiscal Regime, Motor Vehicle Users Charge/Road Users Tax, Military and Uniform Personnel Pension, amendments to the Fisheries Code, Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, and Cooperative Code.
Marcos also pushed for a new Government Procurement Law, a new Government Code, the Anti-Financial Accounts Scamming Act, the Tatak Pinoy Law, the Blue Economy Law, the Ease of Paying Taxes, the Local Government Unit Income Classification Law, and the Philippine Immigration Act. Note, no Cordillera autonomy mentioned.
One of the more memorable moments in the SONA is the unending banter among the honorables, no matter which side of the aisle they are. Some cruel, others hilarious, and that’s what you get for speaking before people whose attention span would only be a maximum of 20 minutes.
When BBM was a congressman and seated among us in the Northern Allowance, err Alliance, a joke was shared that had nothing to do with party lines. Some are dark but anyone in hearing distance would smile, chuckle or outright belly-laugh.
Why do thieves never target the homes of congressmen? Answer: Professional courtesy.
Why are congressmen like diapers? They both need to be changed regularly, and for the same reason.
There was a man arrested for impersonating a congressman and his excuse was, “but all I was doing was sitting in my office doing nothing.”
It’s more fun in Congress every 4th Monday of July and the best lesson: Don’t steal, don’t lie, and don’t cheat. Why? The politicos hate competition.