Tomorrow is the biggest non-event of the year.
I refer to the constitutionally mandated, annual rite of hubris and self-congratulation known as the State of the Nation Address.
The TV networks are devoting over 10 hours to the occasion: Either they know something we don’t or they are starving for programming. They promise a commercial-free SONA, an oxymoron since the event is just one huge plug for the Government.
Barring last minute surprises, the President’s speech should pretty much go as follows (Note: This has been mercifully edited from the 20,000 word final version and 100,000 words suggested by his Cabinet):
“My Dear Countrymen.
The year gone by was simply awesome.
Despite the mess left by my predecessor, thanks to me, GDP grew by __%, employment by __%, and inflation was contained at __%. We outperformed economies in the Western hemisphere and those in the Sahara sub-continent.
We were able to reduce our budget deficit by P ___ billion by refusing to sign any checks. As a result international rating agencies have upgraded our credit. The peso is strong.
My honest Government saved P __ billions by sourcing second hands from E-Bay and canceling overpriced contracts entered into by the past Administration. We will eventually prosecute those involved. At the very least, at their option, they must resign or return half of what they stole.
Admittedly some children are hungrier today than last year but that happens when kids grow up.
Crime has significantly dropped. Only 20 journalists were murdered which compares favorably with Russia and Kazakstan. Carnapping is on the rise but only because more people are leaving their vehicles unlocked. We should nail the Ampatuans within my term if not my lifetime.
Internationally, we had some bad patches but nothing a little ass licking could not solve. We screwed up with the Luneta hostage business which put our Hong Kong OFWs and the three Filipino drug mules at risk. We went on bended knees and did not attend the Nobel Peace awarding of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo; which saved our OFWs if not the three drug dealers.
We own the Spratlys and will defend our sovereignty to the last American soldier. However, we are also prepared to share ownership with China and others if asked nicely.
Next year should be another good one.
In sum, you are in great hands. Thanks to me, again, you can finally be proud to be Filipinos.
P.S. Despite all I have done, I continue to be unfairly criticized for my dating habits and adult toys; but I can take these like a man.”
Notwithstanding the media coverage, SONAs have customarily failed to attract an audience. The only aficionados are Cabinet secretaries anxious to hear how often the President cites them on national television.
Here are some recommendations that may help spice the event:
1. Have a pre-SONA, red carpet event to be hosted by Kris Aquino- This will not only attract the younger set but also allow wives of politicians to showcase their “rocks”. These ladies complain their husbands never take them anywhere they can display their (ill-gotten) wealth.
2. Promote audience participation- Filipinos will be asked to twitter how many times the following will be repeated in the speech: Awesome, increased/grew, corrupt, predecessor, past Administration, I/me/my, second-hand sports car. Winners will be given a free shooting lesson by the President.
3. Have presentors- There should be celebrities to introduce VIPs e.g. Erap could introduce Binay, Lacson present GMA, GMA the President. Willie Revillame would host.
4. Have an opening act- Just as Gloria trotted out those poor street kids, this year’s SONA should open with real, hardship stories by struggling Filipinos: Rico Puno could talk about “Life As A Shooting Buddy of the President” or Lito Alvarez on “How To Cheat At Golf Without Really Trying”.
The SONA is the bedrock of nation building, a report card on how wonderfully the Republic is faring. Unfortunately, the event suffers from banality and lack of creative content.
Yet it need not be so. With a little imagination and marketing, it can be the cornerstone of democracy that it deserves to be.