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SONA or SOCA should be delivered before taxpayers


Every year the Chief Executive of the City of Zamboanga delivers the State of the City Address (SOCA) at the Sangguniang Panlungsod or the City Council which highlights his accomplishments and most important programs, projects, and activities in all the 98 barangays during the previous fiscal year. This is the local version of the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President of the Republic of the Philippines in Congress.

We generally agree as to the necessity, relevance, and propriety of this annual Report of Accomplishments to the nation or city, but as to the venue of this very significant affair, I feel that  Congress or the legislature of any local government unit, is rather  too small and inappropriate  since this is best  and most fittingly  addressed to the taxpayers of the country. As a matter of moral obligation and legal responsibility, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, Department Secretaries, Directors of Regional Offices, Chief Executives of Local Government Units and Offices should also have their respective Annual Performance Reports to their respective constituencies, most especially to the taxpayers who are the ones paying for their salaries and other benefits.

But who are the ones attending the State of the Nation Address or the State of the City Address? Usually, those who have been given special invitations and passes are the only onesenjoying the rare privilege of attending this annual official function whose expenses are borne by the taxpayers. And the worst part about this yearly tradition is, it becomes an exclusive occasion for the rich and the mighty to show off their most expensive attires and jewelries. So the SONA or SOCA always turns into a fashion show.

So that the SONA and SOCA will really serve its intended purpose and delivered to the right audience, it should be held in the most spacious venue available so that it can accommodate the biggest number of people, most especially the taxpayers. As it is being done, the speech of the President or the Mayor is mainly addressed to the Members of Congress or Sangguniang Panlungsod .  Why principally to the legislators when they are themselves obligated to have their own report of accomplishments. They should deliver the SONA or SOCA rightfully to the taxpayers representing the different sectors of the community.    

The SONA or SOCA should have two major parts: (l) the delivery of the SONA or SOCA and (2.) open forum during which the taxpayers will be given the opportunity to ask questions or raise points of clarifications about the speech. The Chief Accountant and Auditor should be present to help the President or Mayor explain how the budget was spent and what projects had been accomplished. Only then will the SONA or SOCA become truly useful and meaningful to the people. The presence of the Media is very vital during this open forum.

Strictly, if we really base it on the structure of our political system, on the national level, there should be three top national officials who must render to the taxpayers full disclosures of how their respective branches of government performed and disbursed their budgetary allocations. These are the President, the Spokesman of both chambers of Congress, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This should also be the case in all local government units. It seems we have been doing the wrong things since time immemorial. The taxpayers are the lords, masters, and employers of all public servants. So it is just right and proper that the servants should render accomplishment reports of all the monies that their masters (taxpayers) have paid them for their services. The sad thing about Philippine democracy is: The masters (taxpayers) who are the lifeblood of the government become slaves instantly after election. What a political tragedy and an ideological paradox!

By Clem M. Bascar

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