I have a strong feeling that the coverage of this year's State of the Nation Address (SONA) did not get high ratings even if we combine the number of viewers of ANC, DZMM Teleradyo, GMA News Channel and Aksyon TV. Television is primarily a medium of entertainment and the SONA is not as entertaining as afternoon soaps and local movies.
At any rate, here are my observations of this year's coverage of President Noynoy Aquino's third SONA:
● The preferred attire. Almost all of the males in attendance at the Batasan Pambansa wore a barong. Former President Fidel V. Ramos came in a gray outfit while party list representative Teddy Casiño had the words "Presyo ibaba" printed on his barong. The only exceptions were most members of the diplomatic corps and surprisingly, former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, who came in a dark suit.
● By air or by land? GMA News spent some time reporting on the whereabouts of the President and whether he was taking the helicopter or traveling by land. I think this was unnecessary and the reportage should have concentrated on what was going on at the Batasan.
● More violence. Last year, the protesters seemed to be kinder as there were no reported clashes with the police. This year, there were reports of 25 to as much as 90 people injured when the demonstrators pelted stones at the police as they tried to get closer to the Batasan. A GMA staffer was hit on the head and had to be taken to the hospital.
● Controversial statement on Responsible Parenthood. The President's speech, which was delivered in Pilipino in its entirety, lasted for one hour and 27 minutes. According to ANC's Tony Velasquez, it was the longest SONA in the 15 years he has been covering the event. Aquino was interrupted by applause 120 times with the longest one, lasting 30 seconds, for his endorsement of Responsible Parenthood. It must be noted that he did not call it Reproductive Health which some sectors find controversial. Although advocates of the RH Bill like Rissa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Congressman Edcel Lagman were visibly happy and gave him a standing ovation, PNoy did not actively ask lawmakers to pass the bill. In contrast, he prodded Congress to pass the sin tax bill which would generate additional revenues for his many programs.
● Reading instead of listening. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte were shown looking down at what I think was the President's speech every time there was a shot of the two of them and PNoy. This didn't look good on camera because they didn't seem interested in listening to what the President was saying.
● Not mentioned in 'thank yous.' The president made special mention of several cabinet members whom he credited for the many accomplishments of his administration. I wonder though why he did not cite DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman who implements the conditional cash transfer program that is a major concern of his administration. Of course, he thanked the entire cabinet for their performance at the end of his speech. He also thanked his spiritual advisers, Fr. Catalino Arevalo and Sister Agnes Guillen "na dumidilig at nagpapalago ng aking buhay ispiritwal lalo na sa mga panahong sukdulan ang pagsubok sa amin."
● Forgive, yes, but never forget. PNoy ended his speech with a dig at people who want him to forgive and forget the sins of the past administration. It was similar to how he concluded his speech last year: "Forgive and forget?...Ang magpatawad maari. Ang makalimot hindi. Kung ang nagkasala ay di mananagot, gagarantiyahan mo ang pagpapahirap muli sa sambayanan. Ang tunay na pagkakaisa at pagkakasundo ay magsisimula lamang sa tunay at ganap na katarungan."
● Did PNoy cut down on smoking? One of the panelists on ANC, Prof. Prospero de Vera, commented that PNoy speaks very fast when he delivers his speech. True enough, the president did speak at a fast clip so much so that he stumbled on some words. Compared to last year, however, he didn't cough as much. Has he cut down on his smoking?
● More balanced views needed. ANC's Tony Velasquez sought reactions from government officials who were present at this year's SONA. They all gave positive feedback and though I agree with their assessment, all of them were friendly to the administration. I'm referring to Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman. Vice President Jejomar Binay does not belong to the administration party but he has never uttered negative remarks against the president. ANC should have balanced the positive interviews with the opposition.