The President, who begins the second half of his term in July, said this year would be a “critical stage” for the administration’s crusade for long-term development and good governance.
“This New Year, a tighter unity is needed. I expect that our people will be more critical in choosing the leaders that they will elect,” President Aquino said in his New Year’s message. “It is these leaders who will respond to the call of an honorable and truthful public service. It is these leaders who will nurture the reforms that we have sown.”
That was why, Mr. Aquino said, it was important for Filipinos to decide which direction the country should take. He then spelled out the choices for the electorate.
Acknowledging that 2013 would be a crucial year for economic growth and good governance, President Aquino on Sunday aired this New Year’s wish for Filipinos: Vote for the right leaders in the Senate.
“Are we paddling together toward the same path where the welfare of Filipinos is paramount? Or should we let our country be swept away by the waves of greed, individualism and corruption?” he said.
The administration is fielding 12 senatorial candidates in the midterm elections in May, and the President vowed to campaign for them to ensure their election in the chamber headed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the political opposition’s three stalwarts.
Malacañang managed to draw the support of many senators in a crucial vote to oust Chief Justice Renato Corona, seen by Mr. Aquino as a stumbling block to his reform agenda, in late May last year for culpable violation of the Constitution over his nondisclosure of assets.
The administration’s priority legislation, including the sin tax and the reproductive health bills, faced rough sailing from some senators, led by Enrile, before these were approved on final reading. The President signed these into law last month.
Malacañang had its scary moment when the Senate voted by a slim 10-9 to ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the sin tax measure in what was supposed to be a mere formality.
This has underlined the need for the administration to get more allies elected to the Senate to push for its own legislative agenda.
After a year of trials and triumphs, the President said the country would greet the New Year with firmer hope and confidence that the coming years would be more meaningful in the path toward truthful and good governance.
Where before, tons of rice rotted away in warehouses, the country is looking forward not only to becoming rice self-sufficient but also to exporting quality rice this year. Where before, the country was short of 66,800 classrooms, there is now sufficient rooms, chairs and tables, and books for students, he said.
Series of good news
Long dubbed the “sick man of Asia,” the Philippine economy expanded robustly in 2012, posting a 7.1-percent growth in the third quarter, the highest in Southeast Asia, Mr. Aquino said.
Mr. Aquino ticked off the other good news: The all-time high posted by Philippine stocks; the signing of a preliminary peace agreement with Moro rebels; the electrification of far-flung sitios in the countryside; and the congressional approval and enactment into law of the RH and sin tax measures.
“2012 has been a year of trials and triumphs. We’ve encountered potholes; there were those who attempted to block our positive steps. Yet our mission to right a crooked system and improve the country’s condition prevailed,” he said.
“From leveling the scales of justice to standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of the wrath of nature, we’ve shown to the whole world that as long as we’re ready to do what is right and sacrifice for others, as long as we’re paddling together in the name of the country, there is no dream that is unreachable,” he said.
Just the start
“This is just the start. Truth to tell, the only thing that could limit the heights that we could reach is our own ambition. Cooperation, [along with] trust, is the key to success,” he continued.
The President concluded with a wish for 2013: “Let’s carry on our tradition of bayanihan. By linking arms together, let’s walk together toward a bright and prosperous future for our country.”