Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III succeeded in making our people hope again, dream again for a better life. The results of the 2010 elections clearly showed that the Filipino people wanted change. Then-candidate Aquino’s campaign tagline, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” captured what people had been clamoring for. After almost a decade of a discredited administration, over 15 million Filipinos gave Aquino the six-year mandate to achieve CHANGE.
The first of those six years is now over and it’s time to check on what happened and where we are now. As responsible citizens, we need to know how our government is doing based on what it promised in the first place.
I am dedicating my articles leading to PNOy’s second State-of-the-Nation Address to objectively look at the vows he made to the Filipino people and what has been accomplished so far based on available information. This is in the hope that people will be better informed and follow government’s actions more keenly.
The best way to assess government’s first year is to revisit President Aquino’s Platform of Government, “A Social Contract with the Filipino People” upon which his campaign, inaugural speech and first Sona was anchored. Then, we compare these with actions taken.
The social contract contains the changes that Aquino’s six-year presidency promised to pursue: a 16-point agenda in the following six areas: transformational leadership; economy; government service; gender equality; peace and order; and environment. (Note that I am not using numerology here. The frequent occurrence of the number six is purely coincidental.)
On transformational leadership, Aquino vowed to:
• be the nation’s most determined corruption fighter. After all, his anti-corruption line got the votes for him. Unfortunately, Aquino’s plan for the Truth Commission to pursue corruption cases was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Aquino’s first Sona cited specific corrupt practices by the past administration, from scandalous perks of government-owned and -controlled corporations officials, anomalous use of calamity funds and others. In the Senate, we saw dramatic exposés on corruption allegedly committed by Commission on Audit and military officials. We know that some cases have already been filed.
The question now is, what happened to the rest of the cases? Still, PNoy has five more years to show results.
• prioritize jobs that empower people and provide opportunities to rise above poverty. Employment generation has been repeated in his inaugural address and first Sona.
In the former, Aquino said he would revive the emergency employment program established by his mother, former President Corazon Aquino to provide jobs for local communities and help economic development.
Job generation is an area where previous administrations miserably failed. This led to the exodus of millions of our workers to other countries for employment.
I personally have not heard of significant efforts of this administration on employment generation. Specifically, there has been no news on the promised emergency employment program. I would like to hear PNoy’s report on this in his upcoming Sona.
• make education the central strategy for investing in people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness. PNoy put emphasis on education in his inaugural and previous addresses.
He promised solutions to the shortage in classrooms and educational facilities in both speeches. In the Sona, he said that through public-private partnerships, the basic education cycle will be expanded to 12 years, among others.
K12 was launched as promised. However, very recently, during the opening of this school year, we were met with the dismal state of our public schools. The severe lack of classrooms and facilities, coupled with the dysfunctional condition of what already exist make for chaotic and severely congested classrooms. We simply do not have what it takes for the public school system to work.
It should not be surprising then that students in public schools are unable to compete with those from private learning institutions.
I now wonder about the wisdom behind K12 at this time when the most basic of needs remain severely unmet. PNoy’s words on education to me remain mere promises.
• advance and protect public health, including responsible parenthood as key measures of good governance. On this point I will focus on responsible parenthood or reproductive health which has been the most contentious of all health-related issues by far. This campaign promise was conspicuously missing in both Aquino’s inaugural and Sona addresses.
For many months, advocates have been unsure about PNoy’s real position on the RH bill especially since his key people were engaged in a dialogue with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the RH bill’s staunchest oppositor.
His eventual pro-RH statement was a big pleasant surprise. This declaration, however, needs to be transformed into more concrete directives especially to Congress because of the controversial nature of the issue.
We need PNoy to clearly state in his coming Sona that the passage of the RH bill is his priority. This is the only remaining big push needed for the bill to pass after 16 years of Congress deliberations.
• have a truly impartial system of institutions that deliver equal justice to rich or poor. PNoy’s first Sona mentioned that as of that time, fifty percent of extralegal killings were on their way to being resolved. He vowed not to stop until justice is achieved for all the killings. Other than these, one of the most gruesome crimes the country has seen is the Maguindanao massacre which is already more than a year old.
We have not heard of any report on the extralegal killings and the wheels of justice are moving ever so slowly for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre. I expect PNoy to say something on these during his upcoming Sona.
One of PNoy’s six years in Malacañang is finished. It would seem that not much has been achieved as regards “transformational leadership”, the first five of his 16-point social contract with the Filipino people.
We will look at the rest in the following weeks.