I rarely talk about political issues simply because I am not well-versed in that field but one event that I never miss out is President Aquino’s annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the biopolar responses that it never fails to elicit.
Yesterday, he delivered his 4th SONA and for most Filipinos, it serves as a gauge as to how far the Philippines have gone since he was elected as president. To us government employees, it also one way of knowing whether the outputs we delivered for the year are among those the president considers as high-impact. Last year, the response of the people in our office were overwhelming because he talked about dengue, the monorail project, Project NOAH, the SEI scholars and many other DOST projects. This year, the response was neutral to non-existent as he only mentioned about NOAH, the Advanced Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL) and the screening for suppliers project which we hardly know about.
Personally, I was also disappointed because he left out many important S&T projects and issues. He could have discussed the interagency collaboration of DILG, DepED, DOH and DOST for dengue surveillance. I was also waiting for him to mention something about S&T human resources but sadly there were none. It was evident from his speech that from the get go, Aquino has mainly viewed S&T as a support system for the other sectors and not as a key driver and indicator of a country’s productivity on its own.
I also think that health issues were severely under tackled. The expansion of the coverage of PhilHealth and setting up of several key medical facilities outside of Metro Manila were laudable. However, these do not reflect whether the most basic aspects of an efficient and effective health system (e.g. availability of clean water, proper sanitation, accessible health services, and routine disease surveillance) were addressed.
The list of the things that I wished he mentioned could go on and on. However in the course of Aquino’s speech, one important phrase caught my attention, “Hindi po sapat ang anim na taon para saugutin ang lahat ng problem Pilipinas. (Six years is not enough to address all the problems of the Philippines.)”.
The statement is reminder not only for the government but also us, the subjects, that change is not an overnight process, nor is initiated and carried out by one body alone. Likewise, the entire situation of the Philippines cannot be laid out in a mere one or even two-hour speech. SONA, in essence, is like life…parang weather-weather lang. We will either like it or loathe it. If issues we are concerned with are tackled and addressed, we pour praises but if the issues mentioned hardly touches our area of concern, we find faults and lambast both the speaker and the speech. SONA, just like any other political issue, is indeed a vicious process.
The main issue, however, is what do we do after we hear the SONA? If we think that there have been indeed improvements in the country, do we stop at recognizing those improvements? And if we are on the other side of the coin, do we stop at pointing out what Aquino and his government lacks? For both sides, I think we all know that the answer is NO. Just as I said yesterday in a Twitter post, we just start with words but we should follow up with actions and end up with outputs.
One day after the SONA, I am still wondering whether Aquino appreciates all our work. But it is also him that reminded me at it not him that we are serving but the Filipino people. I am in a sector where the outputs take years or even decades to turn into outcomes. However, being under appreciated has never stopped me from questioning whether my work is significant at all. Regardless of the field and status we are in, I wish our views could be the same and I hope nothing will stop us delivering honest and sincere efforts. And just what Aquino said, we should not stop with “Okay na” but strive for the best… the best work ethic, the best projects, and even the best way of responding and tackling an issue we are concerned about.