July 26 is the President’s State of the Nation.
In keeping with the occasion, ANC, a responsible news channel, is devoting over 10 hours to the event. This is more than was allocated by all networks to the Pacquiao- Hatton fight. Either ANC knows something we do not know or Monday is a slow news day.
For in truth SONAS are not much fun. To prove I do my own stunts, I actually read last year’s SONA. Even after ignoring the two dozen clichés and the hubris, it was painful.
This year’s SONA promises some buzz if the pre-announcements are to be believed. Apparently we will be made privy to the biggest indiscretions of the GMA Government. We kind of know about them but it always makes for high drama when it comes from the top official of the land. He has the inside dope and is not one to lie to us.
Unfortunately we will not have the benefit of such meaty disclosures for the next five years. Unless we can devise ways to make it more audience friendly, the SONA could well become an endangered species which would be a sorry matter. Here are some ideas to jazz up the event:
1.Have a pre-SONA, red carpet event hosted by Kris – Politicians’ and generals’ wives are always complaining how their husbands never take them anywhere they can display their jewelry, so this would be the perfect setting. Movie stars would also be invited but most of them are already in Congress so few outsiders would need to come. If nothing else, it would attract the youth, an important political constituency.
2.Produce a teaser- Two weeks prior to the event, a SONA preview would be released with hints on the new economic initiatives, the latest scams uncovered and the persons to be excoriated in the speech. This should generate substantial interest.
3. Establish annual awards for deserving public officials -This would encourage audience participation and good governance. Like American Idol, the winners would be voted by texting. Some possible categories: Most Unpopular President Living Or Dead; Most Arrogant/Corrupt Official, Most Lazy Congressman/Senator, Fastest Growing Family Dynasty. Anybody who wins 3 years running would be excluded from future voting.
4. Have presentors as in the Oscars – For tomorrow we could have Kris Aquino introduce Gloria, Mikey Arroyo present Noy, Estrada present Binay. How cool would that be.
5. Have a contest- There is nothing like a competition to generate public interest in an event. Here is an idea: For one peso the public could buy a numbered SONA form which would read as follows:
“My Dear Countrymen,
Last year was another fabulous one for the nation.
Thanks to me, the economy grew by ___%, unemployment increased by ___% and inflation by ___%. Our national debt rose to P____ trillion, our budget deficit to P___ billion. The peso ended at P___/$.
Next year will be even better.
Contestants would fill in the blanks and mail them to SGV one month prior to the next SONA. The idea is to match your numbers with the final ones in the President’s address. Public officials would be barred from participating due to insider information. First prize is P1 million. Second, a dinner with Kris at the restaurant of your choice. Third, a dinner with President Noy AND ex-President Gloria.
The correct string of numbers would also be the Lotto Grand Prize winning number.
The idea has several merits: 1) It would force contestants to listen to all of the President’s speech if they wish to know the outcome. 2) It would encourage Filipinos to study up on the economy. 3) It would be a revenue measure for the Government. If successful the contest could be held monthly following the release of the official economic statistics. 4) It would somewhat alleviate poverty. 5) It would kill jueteng. I see it already: “ Guess Your SONA: A Lottery With Social Value”.
The SONA is too important an occasion to waste or to allow to wither for lack of public attention. If properly packaged the SONA could revive the interest of the Filipino in the political process, narrow the budget deficit, give the underprivileged a shot at fame and fortune, provide an alternative to localized gambling, and generally just be lots of fun. And all of this without detracting from the seriousness of the affair.