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Only facts, figures in Sona

Congress awaits clear direction from President Aquino


01:16 AM July 24th, 2011


More than motherhood statements, “undisputed facts and figures” on gains and plans.

These are what can be expected from President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, the “overarching themes” of which will center on his administration’s accomplishments in its anticorruption campaign and on what he intends to do in the coming year, Malacañang said Saturday.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the Sona would guide Congress on the government’s legislative agenda in the next five years.

“While we await a clear national direction from the President, we in Congress will continue policy reforms already set during the 2010 Sona,” he said.

“Let us remember that President Aquino was elected in 2010 because of his promise of his anticorruption program among our priorities. And he will show what we have done to fulfill that promise in the year or so that he has been in office,” Abigail Valte, Mr. Aquino’s deputy spokesperson, said over government radio.

“[T]he President will also discuss where he wants to take us in a year’s time,” she said.

Asked if Malacañang would invite Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to the Sona, Valte said: “As [earlier stated by the President’s spokesperson Edwin] Lacierda, there’s total indifference as to whether or not she will attend.

“[O]ur call would be not for any person in particular but to the nation in general. Let us listen to President Aquino on Monday when he delivers his State of the Nation Address.”

Valte said Mr. Aquino’s speech would be in Filipino, with an official English translation made available to news organizations that use the English language.

Asked if the President would announce measurable targets instead of exposés of anomalies under the Arroyo administration, she said: “It’s not difficult to make Sona promises because we have to remember that our track really is the housecleaning and the housekeeping.

“So that is the governance side, the accountability side. Expect the President to give undisputed facts and figures.”

Valte said she was not privy to whether Mr. Aquino would push for legislative measures concerning the economy.

“I haven’t seen the draft. Unless the President says that it’s ready, the drafting of the speech is still a work in progress,” she said.

Valte said the police would ensure peace and order during the Sona.

“Of course, there would be [demonstrators], the pro and the anti. There will be different sentiments,” she said. “[The police’s objective] is to keep the peace and order in the sites where our countrymen will gather.”

All systems go

Belmonte said it was all systems go for the President’s Sona, with strict security measures already in place at the Batasan plenary hall in Quezon City.

Belmonte said he expected the full attendance of the 285 representatives and the 23 senators, as well as members of the Cabinet, the judiciary, government agencies, the diplomatic corps, and their spouses and invited guests.

He said the Sona promised to be a special media event that could be heard and watched worldwide because more than 2,000 representatives of national, provincial and foreign print, TV and radio networks, including the web media, would be covering it live.

“I am gratified by the efforts of and close coordination among the concerned agencies of the national and local governments, the military and police and our own House of Representatives Secretariat to ensure the success of the Sona,” he said.

He added that preparations had been ongoing for weeks under the guidance of the Task Force Sona composed of the House’s key officials and staff, the Senate, Malacañang and the Presidential Security Group, the police and the military, and the Metro Manila Development Authority.

Formal opening of Congress

Belmonte will formally open the second regular session of the 15th Congress Monday morning, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will do the same in the Senate.

In the afternoon, the two chambers will hold a joint session at the Batasan plenary at 4 p.m. to listen to the Sona.

Military and police authorities have declared a one-kilometer “no fly zone” over the area of the Batasan complex from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday.

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has protested the denial of its request to hold a rally on Batasan Road near the House, and assailed authorities for suggesting that it hold its mass action at Quezon City Hall’s football field.

In a statement, Bayan said the denial of its application for a permit was “an illegal, arbitrary and ridiculous curtailment of the people’s right to peaceably assemble on Sona day.”

The Quezon City government and the police cited the hampering of the free flow of traffic and national security concerns as the reasons for the denial of the permit.

But Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the suggestion that the group hold its rally at the football field was “ridiculous.”

“We’re going to a protest rally, not a football match,” he said.

The President’s satisfaction rating steadily declined from +81 percent when he took his oath of office on June 30, 2010, to +46 percent in June 2011.

House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, spokesperson of the Liberal Party and a close ally of Mr. Aquino, has attributed the decline to the administration’s lack of direction and of a coherent economic plan, as well as its failure to stop increases in the costs of petroleum and basic commodities.

The President’s allies in the business sector, among them the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry—have said that he should address his declining approval rating by more action on the part of government.

They have also said that one year was enough to build the foundation for reforms and deliver on his campaign promises.

“Now is the time for P-Noy [Aquino] to act and make good on his promises,” Gov’t Watch Chair Raul T. Concepcion said in a statement. “His administration must develop and implement a sound economic program, institutionalize social reforms and efficiently deliver public services, especially to the poor members of our society.”

Concepcion said he was hopeful that the second year of Mr. Aquino’s term would bring about change, and that his administration would deliver on his campaign promises. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Philip C. Tubeza and Kristine Felisse Mangunay

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