The President's State of the Nation Address
(SONA 2004)
House of Representatives (July 26, 2004)

Thank you Mr. De Venecia, Vice-President Noli de Castro, President Fidel Ramos, Senate President Drilon, Chief Justice Davide and the justices of the Supreme Court, honorable members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, his Excellency Archbishop Franco and the Excellencies of the diplomatic corps, members of the cabinet, commanders of the Armed Forces, officers and members of the Philippine National Police, fellow workers in government, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Angelo de la Cruz is home. We did it! Congratulations to the Filipino people.

Samakatwid, ipabatid sa lahat, mula sa pook at panahong ito sa bawat pilipino, saanman naroroon...

You have a government -- indeed, you have a country -- that cares. Your life is held more dearly than international acclaim. And you have a president who is your friend.

Why was Angelo de la Cruz saved? Because I stuck to my oath. Since I first became president in 2001, my declared foreign policy focus has been to protect the vital interests of the nation, including our eight million overseas Filipinos.

And I cannot apologize for being a protector of my people.

The difference of a few weeks, for a pullout already decided on, could not justify sacrifice of a human life.

Sacrificing Angelo de la Cruz would have been a pointless provocation; it would have put the lives of a million and a half Filipinos in the middle east at risk, by making them part of the war.

Wars are for combatants. As I speak soldiers are being held hostage by communist insurgents but they don't expect to be released except by the compassion of their captors or a military operation.

We have been fighting the longest running communist insurgency in history. We have been coming to grips with fundamentalist terrorism long before 9/11.

As the leader of the nation, I say in behalf of the Filipino people to the world: we are strong and principled believers in democracy. Four generations of fighting Filipinos have ceaselessly struggled against totalitarians and terrorists, for our freedom, for the freedom of our people and the people of the world.

We have fought the enemy, and taken as good as we gave-- not from a safe distance but in close quarters. Bataan and Corregidor, Korea and Vietnam, East Timor, Kosovo, Liberia, to name a few.

When I opted to save Angelo de la Cruz, I was reflecting whether one life should be sacrificed for no pressing reason or saved by accelerating an ongoing pullout.

I did not sacrifice policy to save a human life. I applied policy for that purpose. The Philippines has no policy that demands sacrifice of human lives.

Ask yourselves this: if Angelo dela Cruz had been sacrificed, what would change-for the better in Iraq today?

Having saved one Filipino from a painful and pointless death, we must seize the unity we attained to improve our government and save our economy.

Pinapangako ko ang isang bagong direksyon: mamamayan muna. Ang taong bayan ang pinakamalaki nating yaman. Ngunit madalas, kaunti lang ang atensyon na binibigay sa kanilang pag-unlad. Di tuloy matawid ang agwat ng mayaman at mahirap. Di tuloy mapa-abot sa lahat ang biyaya ng demokrasya.

I want to create economic opportunity at home and abroad. I don't want just one or the other. I want both.

But it can only be done with-focus, with energy, and with a common purpose to do that which still lies within our power: put our economic house back in working order before it finds itself beyond hope of repair and doomed to share the fate of failed nations.

We made a headstart in the last three years; we must take bolder steps forward in the next six.

Inflation is under control. The ordinary housewife has been buying her rice and fish at stable prices.

New investments, foreign and better yet domestic, were made. Three million more of our people found jobs in the last three years compared to half a million in the three years before that.

Malaki ang pag-unlad sa pangunahing pangangailangan-- malinis na tubig, health insurance, tirahan, paaralan, aklat.

We beat down crime, we are breaking up the drug and kidnapping syndicates, we are mopping up the stragglers. The people are safer in the streets, in their homes, and in their places of work.

Every government in the world is at war with its own corruption; we have made lifestyle checks a lethal weapon, and adopted procurement reforms to take the fight forward.

Thanks to many of you, I emerged from the last election with more votes than any previous president.

As a further sign of the people's overwhelming support, they gave me a huge majority in congress, and among the local governments.

This is a new day, with a new direction, and a renewed confidence in what we can achieve together.

I am determined to prove that this tremendous show of faith and confidence is well deserved.

The season of bitter partisanship is over; the season of service is upon us all, majority, minority; opposition, administration.

In my inaugural address, I laid down a 10-point agenda for the next six years -- not utopia but something practical we can achieve and accomplish on time.

What I did promise was that my term would be the irreversible turning point.

Ipinangangako ko iiwanan na natin ang ligalig at alinlangan.

At the end of my term, the question will not longer be whether we can compete but where else in the world shall we take an indisputable competitive advantage.

The next six years we hope is when we finally get things right.

Is there something about that goal we cannot all agree on? Is there a reason we cannot all work together?

All that's needed is to clear away a couple of obstacles, as I intend to do with five key reform packages: (1) job creation through economic growth, (2) anti-corruption through good government, (3) social justice and basic needs, (4) education and youth opportunity and (5) energy independence and savings.

Tough decisions will have to be made. It's going to be tough love from here on. It must be tougher on those who've had it easy than on those who've had it tough already.

Humarap din sa problema ang mga karatig bansa.

Ang kanilang sekreto'y pagkakaisa ng mamamayan, suporta sa liderato, at sakripisyo ng bawat isa.

We must bear the pain and share the pain to enjoy the gain together.

Those with more must sacrifice more; those with less are already living lives of self-sacrifice.

Maraming magsasabi: matagal na silang nagsa- sakripisyo. Ngunit hinihingi ko sa inyo: konti pang sakripisyo.

We must wait with patience for the reforms to work. In the meantime, we must work more productively because world competition is keen and we want the jobs not only to come, but to stay.

Our most urgent problem is the budget deficit. Sometimes it's unavoidable; but chronic deficits are always bad.

Sometimes stamping out deficits too vigorously can slow down growth. But ignoring them can kill the economy. It sends the wrong signal that we don't understand our fiscal predicament and will not help ourselves. This will drive away investments, exacerbate the deficit and hurt job growth.

Chronic deficits drastically reduce government's ability to make those infrastructure investments that business needs to grow and create jobs.

Chronic deficits mean undertaking less social services that private charity will never provide but without which social war is inevitable. This is a sure fire formula for national failure.

So! We must raise revenues, expand government services, yet cut costs -- all at the same time. It boils down to right priorities.

The beauty of the fiscal problem is that all the solutions are known, though applying the right ones is tricky.

All the solutions require: toughness on the part of government, cooperation on the part of business, patience on the part of our people, and active support on the part of congress.

All the solutions require profound, even personal changes. Politicians will need to focus on the job at hand rather than on their prospect of re-election.

The worst offender yet the hardest to pin down is corporate corruption. Businessmen must adopt an attitude of tax acceptance not tax avoidance. They must stop trying to outrun the tax collector. They must recognize that only a fiscally stronger government can create a more congenial business environment: greater security, better infrastructure, cheaper credit, more business.

My administration will undertake reforms to raise or save P100 billion. I ask congress to pass eight revenue measures that will collect P80 billion more.

Alam kong maaasahan ko ang mga mambabatas. Upang burahin ang deficit. Upang ituloy ang magandang trabaho. At upang itaguyod ang saligan ng matapat na gobyerno at malakas na ekonomiya.

Investments in infrastructure and energy provide the greatest multiplier effect for growth and job creation. Pag maganda ang imprastraktura gaya ng kalsada, tulay, pantalan, telepono, koryente, maraming mamumuhunan. Maraming magkakaroon ng trabaho.

We must achieve sufficient, efficient, cheap energy in the near term. We must be sure to have the capacity to meet the demands of a growing economy, so as not to choke off growth when it comes, and thereby lose the opportunities that may not come again.

To this end, Napocor power generating plants and transmission lines must be privatized but not in a fire sale. Delivering electricity to virtually an entire country as big as ours cannot possibly be worth nothing but the trouble of running it.

Napocor's transmission systems will be sold on terms that recognize the lucrative monopoly of its transmission grid. I ask congress to pass the Transco Bill that already passed the house in the 12th congress.

Our investments in social justice and basic needs are as vital to our future as fiscal and macroeconomic reforms. A nation deeply divided will not stand. And it certainly will not move forward.

Our nation is divided by social and economic faultlines. The tectonic plates may shift with unthinkable consequences.

Some say that is it cheaper to die than to get well from an illness, that it is impossible to find clean water in this rainfall country, that in this modern day and age, part of the country still sits in darkness. This is a terrible waste and a terrible shame.

Kaya ang aking agenda para sa maralita ay hanapbuhay; reporma sa lupa; tubig, gamot at koryente; pagtatanggol at kapangyarihan para sa mahina.

In fact, we will now be able to bring clean water to the entire country because during my previous term, you, congress finally passed the clean water act; because in my first days as president in 2001 I signed the solid waste act; ---thank you also for giving me that opportunity -- and because we are reforesting our watersheds.

The place to start now is livelihood, for 10 million Filipinos.

The growing industrial, service, and micro- enterprise sectors will take care of some, a thriving agri-business sector will keep more in the countryside rather than burdening a metro manila that is already cracking under the weight of overpopulation.

Land reform covers agrarian land, urban land, and ancestral domain land. I ask congress to qualify farmland as bank collateral and reform the system of urban land title ang kapangyarihan ng taong bayan ay puso ng demokrasya. Dapat kasama sila sa paghugis ng kanilang kapalaran.

Dadalhin ko ang aking mga reporma sa taong bayan. Ako'y magpapaliwanag, ako'y makikinig.

I have shown that government does care even for a single Filipino life. Now we must show that we care for the rest of the Filipino people, especially the weakest among us.

To adapt the words of Adam Smith to the information age, "the greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor seems to have been the effects of a modern education."

Economies have exhausted the possibilities of the division of labor; the way further forward now is a better- educated, more adaptable workforce.

We need to start early. And we need to maintain the highest educational standards. I ask congress to legislate an extra year of studies not by adding a fifth year of high school but by standardizing what is taught in barangay day care centers.

To expand youth opportunity, we need to focus on technical and vocational education; on strengthening english, science and technology -- and love of country. As I said in my inaugural: it is not free markets but patriotism that makes countries strong.

There is a sense in which as a society we have failed the youth in their formative years, in growing up normally and productively, in getting a good education, in learning the habits of honesty and citizenship and civic discipline.

I ask the educational system, the parents, the church and pillars of the community to help shape a new culture of honesty, patriotism, respect, discipline and service for young Filipinos.

The roof cannot collapse when the value pillars of government and society are sound and strong.

I fervently support the judicial reforms being carried out by our supreme court.

I ask congress for a law making the ombudsman's function as effective as Hong Kong's independent commission against corruption.

Bureaucratic corruption with its numerous leakages is bad. So is government incompetence. Unlike in the private sector, where the free market punishes mistakes, government incompetence punishes only the public.

We have to tear away layers of inefficiency piled on by decades of political accommodation: redundancy in the national service, waste in local governments, and pointless procedures for getting done what isn't needed anyway to secure the public welfare. Just how does paying off the health inspector banish bacteria from a dirty kitchen?

By definition, public services are what the private sector will not do except for a price the public cannot pay.

Where the private sector can do it better and cheaper, government may have to step aside. But the watchwords are better and cheaper. Where privatization only spells public pillage, government will continue to do the work.

But that's no reason to spare public services from the test of competitive performance.

We will simplify procedures to eliminate fixers.

We will downsize the government, motivate excess employees to become entrepreneurs, and increase the pay of a lean and mean bureaucracy.

I have abolished eighty offices under the office of the president. I will abolish thirty more.

I ask congress to pass a law on government re-engineering, with silver parachutes for redundant offices.

Once we have proved to our people that we have done what we can within the present structure of government, we can move on to changing the system to one that enhances our freedom and flexibility to do more. I expect that next year, congress will start considering the resolutions for charter change.

No one has a monopoly on right ideas. I am reaching out to all segments of society and all parties, be they with me or against me, to join me in those things that should be everyone's concern because they rise above politics to the level of patriotism.

I do not want a honeymoon period after which we can forget the country and go after each other again. I want a marriage not of convenience but of conviction, across the spectrum of parties and groups, encompassing the range of intelligent political, religious and economic views. I want a marriage for at least the life of this congress. I do not ask for unprincipled support because it will not hold.

I do ask for an end to unprincipled obstructionism because that always succeeds in defeating our best efforts.

Tunay nga na kahirapan at kawalan ng katarungan ang sagabal sa ating pag-unlad. Ngunit ang mga nagsusulsol sa mahihirap na manggulo ang sumisira sa ating kinabukasan.

So this must stop.

We must put a stop to that.

Every year, every president tells congress that it is the last chance for meaningful change.

This time I will say it again, adding only that past presidents were right. And that each time change doesn't happen, makes change harder and less likely to happen the next time around.

The time for change is well past due.

This time, let me say, let's just do it!

Mabuhay ang pilipino!

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.


- President's radio address, January 3, 2004
President's radio address, December 27, 2003
President's radio address, December 6, 2003
- President Bush's speech during the Joint Session of Congress
- PGMA's SONA 2003