By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated January 15, 2011
This year is a crucial one for the presidency of Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
Once touted as the reluctant candidate, he has, since June 2010 assumed the highest office of the land. The people gave Noynoy a huge mandate he has to fulfil in six years.
The tagline “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap’” raised people’s hopes. The public cheered when he said, ‘Dito magwawakas ang pamumunong manhid sa mga daing ng taumbayan’ during his inaugural address. He called the Filipino people his “boss” and the bosses were impressed with his decision to forego “wang-wang” thinking that for a change, we have a humble and simple President. Thus, it is not surprising that people, especially those mired in poverty would expect a lot from this once reluctant candidate.
That was during the very months of Noynoy’s Presidency. His first year in office will end in May 2011 and by then, the honeymoon will surely be over.
People have been asking whether the President is capable of leading the country. His first major test was the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis when his leadership and decision-making capacities were seriously questioned. He failed that test.
This year, people will surely start to look for results. They would want proof that his campaign promises are kept and that this President can really hack it.
There is no doubt that P-Noy remains popular and no one has questioned his being well-intentioned. However, there seems to be some change in people’s perception of him. Reports about his dating, hanging out with friends, computer games, and penchant for expensive cars (twitter was abuzz with negative comments about the Porsche he bought despite the fact that the care was pre-owned), creates an image of a happy-go-lucky bachelor President who likes beautiful women and expensive toys.
This is a far cry from the humble and simple President people appreciated early on. Couple this with misgivings about his leadership which not only persist but may have even strengthened due to his administration’s blunders, the situation is getting problematic.
I said before that two things are necessary for the country to move forward: strong and pro-people governance, and responsible citizenship. I have discussed the latter, this piece is on the former.
This year will be a year of reckoning of some sort. The President will need to show the Filipino people that he has what it takes to lead a strong government. He’s got to prove that he has POLITICAL WILL.
The presence (or absence) of political will be tested in the way Noynoy will decide on controversial issues. Will he be willing to take the flak and make unpopular but necessary decisions or will he take the path of least resistance?
I say that this year, his litmus test is the reproductive health bill.
We remember that early on into the campaign, candidate Aquino expressed support for the RH bill. When pressured by the Roman Catholic hierarchy however, he softened his position and from being pro-RH, he became pro-responsible parenthood. He has repeatedly said even after assuming the Presidency that he favors providing couples comprehensive family planning information and services.
In fact, this was part of his social contract with the people. It’s a campaign promise that we now would want realized.
The RH bill which has been languishing in Congress for 16 years is now moving fast in both Houses. At the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has been quite firm in his position that the bill will be voted on the floor. This type of decision-making enabled the committee on population and family relations under Chairman Rogelio Espina to move on the bill in record time. Hearings are now terminated and the six bills will soon be consolidated into one committee report. This is the kind of political will we are looking for.
At the Senate, the RH bill authored by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is also moving fast in the committee on health chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano. Cayetano earlier announced that the RH bill is one of her priorities and since then, she has finished two hearings on this. It will not be long before the Committee reaches the stage where the HOR is now. Cayetano, too, is exhibiting commendable political will despite the controversies surrounding the RH Bill.
How do we expect the President to show political will on this matter?
Because he is the most powerful official of the land, he can do several things to facilitate the immediate passage of the RH bill into law.
One, dialogue with the women. We are the ones primarily affected by the issue. This is his covenant with us. We will tell him the real stories why we need the bill passed and he will surely understand. While the President has been busy trying to appease the bishops by holding dialogues with them, in contrast, he has continuously ignored us, those who need the services the most. Women are the ones dying due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, not the bishops.
Two, do not allow the bill to be watered down. The RH bills in both chambers of Congress go beyond family planning. While responsible parenthood is important, equally crucial are the provisions on age-appropriate RH education; RH services such as: mobile clinics, upgrading of hospital facilities and services, training of skilled birth attendants, comprehensive and basic emergency obstetric care; information campaign, and budgetary allocation. All these will make the law truly save lives.
Three, certify the bill as urgent. Doing this will virtually ensure its passage. As it is, we are disturbed that the RH Bill might not make it to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council’s priorities. It is no. 26 of the 30 recommended priorities and our information is that only 25 will make it to the final cut. Certifying the bill as urgent is most crucial.
The ball is in the hands of the President. Fulfil your campaign promise to the women. Show the country that your political will is unquestionable. Pass the RH litmus test.