SONA 2009: How I think GMA will be remembered

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo just delivered her final State of the Nation Address. It was a badly written speech. I found it very incoherent and anti-climatic. It felt like it could have ended in three different points and started in two others.

Essentially, it’s a big F-bomb to her critics. She knows that her administration will not be remembered fondly — hence the repetitive assertion that she brought progress at the expense of popularity — and did her best to expound on exactly what she did and why she did them. She’s justifying all her political failings with the economic progress she has made. Ever the professor, she came with all the numbers and figures she needed. Ever the politician, she came with the human props she helped emancipate. But were they enough?

That was her last SONA. It wasn’t really about setting an agenda for congress. More than anything, it was her opportunity to tell us how she wants to be remembered. This was her chance to dictate her legacy.

So how will she be remembered?

Watching her, I could not help but notice how agitated she seemed. She was rushing her speech and even shouting at times. Her swipes at her opponents were very pointed. I think GMA will be remembered as a very unpopular, bitter president. She has been divisive despite all the work she has done, her only genuine appeal came when she said that her long working hours cannot be denied (which we can’t).

And yet, the ultimate tragedy is that when all her hard work pays off, she will not be remembered for them. She knows this. Her posture and demeanor in the speech showed it. She is an economist. Her policies, if ever all she said were true, will materialize in the long-term when the people have long forgotten her.

This was her chance to say, “In 10 years, remember the work we have done now.”

She blew it. She didn’t say it. Maybe she did, so that’s worse — we weren’t listening. She no longer got us to listen. She gave up on us the moment she gave up on her critics, because what she got wrong was that we all care for our country too. Her critics were those who wanted nothing but for her to succeed and leave the presidency with a lasting legacy.


From Bonifacio at Balintawak to Cory Aquino at EDSA and up to today, we have struggled to bring power to the people, and this country to the eminence it deserves. – PGMA, SONA 2009

Another point that left a foul taste in my mouth was when she alluded to Bonifacio and Aquino, and implied that her administration brought power to the people too.

Using history is a powerful rhetorical device that can easily sweep away the casual listener. But this just didn’t work. One will have to justify historical metaphors. Failure to do so would be as ingenious of alluding to God or some other power as justification for one’s actions.

But no, PGMA. Just no.


19 thoughts on “SONA 2009: How I think GMA will be remembered

  1. I really hope she steps down. She really has done too much damage to this country. Rather than feeling a sense of hope, I feel like I have more doubt.
    I really pray that Obama will knock some sense into her when she leaves for the states.

  2. I actually disagree, Martin. The SONA is a chance for her, or any president for that matter, to report on where the nation is, not necessarily to address concerns about her supposed bid to run for Prime Minister, or even to reiterate the legacy she will leave behind. And that’s exactly what she’s done.

    While it may be true that she was/is indeed unpopular and divisive, the fact is she came prepared with the data needed to justify her actions. We can also hardly blame her for being bitter; which person wouldn’t after all the accusations and grumblings about one’s work? This is why your line, “Her policies, if ever all she said were true, will materialize in the long-term when the people have long forgotten her”, is spot on–she is merely staying true to her stance as a president who chose to be unpopular rather than pander to the people.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s as much an issue of dictating her legacy as much as it is an admission that she’s done all that she could, and this notwithstanding, we still cannot or would not be satisfied. If we were no longer listening to her because we have become too jaded, is it her fault, or ours? History will judge her–and us–in any case.

  3. A funny thought, Sir: I do not think anyone would want to be remembered as “very unpopular” and “bitter”. I daresay she did not want to cement her legacy–not yet.

    Yes. She did give us glimpses on the issue of stepping down; but these were all vague and worthy of more suspicion. For instance, she said that efforts and measures taken would create a strong platform for the next generation; she said nothing of a next administration.

    This is parallel to the endless talk on Charter Change. We cannot deny that, in most of her SONA’s, PGMA has mentioned and urged that a change in the constitution would answer many of this country’s problems.

    In short, with her speech today, she failed to address many of the assumptions hurled recently at her. I see this as a reminder that, unfortunately, many possibilities can still be realized by the administration.

  4. @Chan — I agree that she was able to do what the SONA is traditionally meant to do, to some extent. But one cannot disassociate the president from her presidency, and she is obliged to address the issues surrounding her if only to quell the growing anxiety over her position vis-a-vis the 2010 national elections. It would’ve helped — in my mind — to state things more categorically. For if the SONA is traditionally used to set an agenda for the upcoming year, then she has left that one hanging.

  5. But this Philippine politics, Martin. Categorical statements don’t hold much water–remember the controversial “I lied” debacle with Miriam? Hehe. If integrity is the issue here, then you can expect the rest of GMA’s term not to be fundamentally different from the past years. She’s been at it for nine years, after all.

  6. True that, Chan. The speech just leaves her critics at an easier position to just keep wailing away at her without coming across as overly politicky. In a media battle, categorical statements help draw a line and part of the show is seeing who crosses it first. There’s no “he said, she said” here. Just “I didn’t say that.” Hehe.

  7. It’s funny how she kept pointing out the revenue measures she took when just a day before, BIR released figures showing they failed to reach collection targets by about 11 billion I think.

    But more than that, I’ve wondered how she got into power in the first place. No charisma at all! 14 buckles throughout the whole speech. She even forgot the name of the Badjao she called, coz at one point of the speech, she wore glasses to read off her paper. Speech badly written, and badly delivered. Her most candid and sincere moments, the times it seemed she was telling the truth, was when she was striking at her critics.

    Funny funny SONA. Wasted an hour’s worth of programming. Wowowee can do better.

  8. She’s the Best President! I salute her as a human being,as a Leader and as a President.KUDOS for the 2009 SONA!!!

  9. President Gloria did well in her SONA. I admire her for being a strong person and for doing great things for this nation. Many of her critics would say that her SONA was a big lie, but for me it was all true. I personally saw what she did for our kababayans who are suffering from poverty.

    I admire her also for making our economy strong inspite of the global crisis. I thank her also because after the SONA, prices of shares of stocks of many corporations increases.

  10. Hi guys. Im high school student, and we need to make a title in GMA 2009 SONA, can you suggest some to me? One of my friend says ‘Pasiyam’,what can you say?

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