The online news portal of TV5
Before Tina Monzon Palma could even get a word in, I said - as one of three panelists - "Wait, I have a prediction." She looked at me surprised but noted the look of possession or repossession on my face. So did 9 million viewers.
"Noynoy will come out strongly and demand not just a vote but the passage of the RH bill if not the FOI bill as well. Great PR," I intoned with a self-importance so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Forty minutes into the SONA he hadn't mentioned the RH bill, and somewhere in the middle he said in passing—vis a vis overcrowded classrooms—that "sa isip ko, Reponsible Parenthood (the Catholic name for family planning) ang sagot diyan." In his thought, in his thought, but not in his words, madre de dios, mierda de Juana Change.
I held my breath. Was he going to go on to insist on a vote the next day and the passage of the RH bill, just as he railroaded the impeachment of Corona in Congress without any congressman having read the impeachment complaint, and without a shred of evidence not to mention any valid charges or any charges at all resembling those enumerated in the Constitution?
An hour and a half later, as Noynoy thanked everyone and his uncle, and disavowed that the second longest SONA as his but rather the Filipino people's - who are rather terse in expression like his mother was - Tina and my co-panelists were gripping the table to keep from falling to the floor with laughter.
So, okay, I fell flat on my face with my two prophecies that Noynoy would come out unequivocally and demand the passage of the RH and the FOI bills. On the contrary, he adopted the Catholic nomenclature of planned or responsible parenthood for what was originally a full-blown artificial birth control program.
I had figured he would do it because there would be no political cost to it. The Church is weak; priests can barely articulate; bishops are still trying to explain their illegal possession of Pajeros. Indeed, no voter listens to the Church. They listen only to the Iglesia ni Cristo.
As for the FOI, congressmen want to put the LGUs that elect them back again under the control of Congress by exposing the corruption that makes LGUS so powerful in elections. This will pave the path to a return of purchasing power to the national legislature.
I was wrong on both counts. PNoy totally ignored the FOI and merely mentioned as an afterthought that a conceivable - sa isip ko - solution to overcrowded classrooms is less children coming to school by nipping them in the womb.
My prophetic powers failed me. I have to hedge my prophecies now that God has impaired my talent in that department. But as the best speechwriter this country has ever had let me say that the SONA was not a speech by any stretch of the imagination.
A speech has a theme. It says something definite to start with, with the purpose of persuading its audience to believe and to act. Its language is elegant. Its pace is measured. Its temper is cool. It never stoops to insult. It marshals facts, not graphic designs; presents arguments, not threats; uses the occasional witticism; and employs as it reaches its end a series of rolling periods that pull the listener up to a level higher than the common discourse of the fruit market or prison yard so as to turn him or her around to the speaker’s point of view and enlist them as supporters of a proposition thus propounded.
A SONA is a particular kind of speech marked by formality and elegance; it is like good manners as when attending poor people’s weddings or baptisms or other special occasions dressed in one’s finest and not in an old T-shirt and pair of baggy pants because anyway they are nobodies.
It is a mark of respect for the audience, which is to say the nation, to be seen to take pains to speak to them in a formal way. SONAs are not a time to just let it rip; and let it all out; to shoot one's wad; get one's rocks off; and spill the vitriol because venomous is how one happens to feel at the time. It is not about expressing feelings, which is best done by songs and dancing, but of elevated speech.
But this was not a speech nor a SONA. It was a narrative, a just going on and on, rambling as all his SONAs have been, longer than they need to be, and not just overly detailed but in parts quite trivial in that respect.
But it is the privilege of the storyteller, which is what PNoy is on these occasions, to tell his story his way.
For PNoy that means telling as much as he can of everything there is to tell. He has found that it works for him because it works for his audience. He is a campfire talker, like FDR was a fireside chatter, though FDR did not chat at the State of the Union but rather led his nation by his words. And these speeches need not have been written by him - for FDR like Cory Aquino liked to acknowledge their speechwriters on the very occasions when they spoke.
But I know that ordinary people listen to Noynoy and like what they hear. They don't think it is a speech but he is talking their lingo so to speak.
If liking is the preeminent standard for judging a talk, this one was a success and that is all there is to it.
To be sure, the newspaper columnist who likened PNoy's speeches to Lincoln's and Kennedy's is on drugs. But they are not even bad speeches; they are not speeches at all. They are, it appears, highly effective communications and he is entitled to his style.
His talk is the longest after Marcos’s three hour but formally rhetorically self-indulgence in 1969 or thereabouts.
Yet I think Noynoy's SONA could have gone on much longer if he had explained the good things he has done for which he is unfairly taking flack rather than wasted words answering the fictitious proposition that he should "forgive and forget" a so-called "lost decade".
No one has ever asked him to forgive and forget, not least because no one can remember anyone having hurt him; not Erap who gave him the biggest pork of his time nor GMA who made him Deputy Speaker of a nonexistent locality but with all its perks.
He was referring to the preceding decade that in fact laid the firm fiscal foundations of any progress he may finally achieve by 2016. For if we are to have any faith in our future that faith must rest as much on the good that previous even if corrupt administrations did, as on what PNoy says he is going to do. The World Bank, well, anyway, the CIA, called ours one of the most resilient economies in the world since the Asian crisis of 1997. (Not least because, since repeated coup attempts kept foreign money from coming in, no foreign money went out when the Asian crisis came.) Meanwhile, with the memory of the Mexican debt crisis during martial law still fresh, the local banks just refused to lend. As a result no borrower defaulted as there were none to speak of. And that is why we can trust our economy.
It is because the roots of our stability are long and strong that whatever good PNoy does will be real and endure. If it all depended on just him, he wouldn't have any achievements to speak of because he would be starting from scratch, as Cory did, rather than from the highest growth rate in our country’s recorded history 8% which dropped to the floor 2% a year after he took office.