December 7, 2023

Our old movie house along Session Road, Pines Theater, where my late father “King Art” ruled, rarely showed Filipino films but way back in ‘74, it previewed a poignant, socially relevant movie directed by the late Lino Brocka. Its theme is about judging our fellowmen, especially the poor, the handicapped, or marginalized. It postulates being helpless against the evils of human beings. It is set in a small village where the influence of the Catholic Church and the remnants of Padre Damaso remain strong. It tackles discrimination on those afflicted with mental or other illnesses, prototypes bully fathers, nagging mothers, or materialism at its height even in far-flung places.
Eat Bulaga’s current segment “Bawal Judgmental’, actually plays up on the adage that we should not judge others on their looks, speech, or talent. The idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” means one shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its appearance alone. In life, we all know that one way or another, frequent for some, however pious we might claim to be, we rarely follow that biblical advice and get away with the best excuse, “Tao lang, sorry naman.”
As a former member of Congress, every State of the Nation Address, I get to receive a perfunctory invitation to attend and sit on the “floor” with incumbents, which is an eternal privilege given to anyone who has served in the Lower House. This year was an exception. The pandemic ruled out invitations and only 50 were invited and allowed entry only after rapid testing. The magic of television and the Internet though brought the SONA right in the living room and from the outside looking in, here is my judgment:
The SONA is supposedly the forum where the President of the Republic presents his programs, visions, priority bills, and reports to the nation of its current state. It is to be the rallying point, to inspire, to unite, and lead our people to better days. The second to the last SONA of the sitting President was quite lacking a few.
It started and ended by attacking a “yellow Senator,” which methinks has no place in a SONA. While I am not an admirer of the Senator, I am a true believer of the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression which he was exercising when he replied to a query about the oligarchs and even if Digong does not agree, he should respect his right to say so.
An omission is the President’s failure to outline a plan or roadmap to address and fight the Covid-19 and what needs to be done in the near future. An economic recovery plan for millions of Filipinos who lost income and jobs due to the crisis and the steps the government would take rein it in would have been welcome. He humbly admitted lapses in pandemic response, “difficulties” in ramping up testing capacities and that the distribution of emergency aid during lockdown measures “was not perfect,” vowing, “We will not stop until we get things right and better for you.” Of course, he thanked and we as a people are all grateful to the medical frontliners who are risking their lives to treat Covid-19 patients. His reassurance: The vaccine is “around the corner.”
After three minutes, he shifted to the old tale of being a victim of the Lopezes and ABS-CBN; hammered Drilon; praised Bong Go and the SEA Games; rambled on the economy; the Build, Build, Build program; drug war; human rights; overseas Filipino workers; Bayanihan 2 Law; tax reform; micro, small, and medium enterprises; tourism; and China and his plea with Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines in providing an effective vaccine should a Chinese company produce one.
He went on to education, government monopoly on utilities, insurgency, martial law in Mindanao, death penalty, etc. No further Covid-19 matter, which should be government’s top priority.
Ultimately, he said in jest, words to the effect, complaining of poor eyesight, “Nu haan yu maawatan, lalo syak haan ko met maawatan.” (Kung hindi ninyo ako naiintindihan sa binabasa ko, mas lalo ako.” Ay na apo! “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” (Daniel 5:25). “You have been weighed on the scales and have been found wanting.” Sigh.