MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III should spell out in his State of the Nation Address on Monday how the country’s economic growth would benefit the poor and the unemployed, a number of Catholic bishops said Saturday.
Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco and Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said many Filipinos still did not feel the country’s economic growth, which the Aquino administration keeps on trumpeting.
“The benefits of a good economy should trickle down to the poor and the unemployed. As of now, the poor and many people do not feel the good economy,” Ongtioco said.
Bastes said that Mr. Aquino should identify the concrete steps his administration has taken for the country to have “inclusive” economic growth.
“Despite the economic growth, the poverty incidence is still huge,” he said, noting that a third of the country’s population of 95 million live in poverty.
Other bishops said the President should show what he has done to eradicate graft and corruption in the country, especially after the recent revelations about the P10-billion congressional pork barrel scam.
“He should address the culture of corruption but I wonder if he will consider that,” said former Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez.
Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said Mr. Aquino should announce how he would reform the graft-ridden pork barrel system.
“The pork barrel should be used for the common good. There must be honesty and transparency in reporting its use,” Lagdameo said. “Those who misuse the pork barrel must either be deprived of it or be dealt with justly.”
On the other hand, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) lauded the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for their agreement on revenue generation and wealth sharing for the future Bangsamoro region.
“We thank God for the (government) Peace Panel talking with the MILF for their sincerity and firmness in guarding the interest of the Republic of the Philippines, and yet being flexible enough to recognize the Bangsamoro as a people with a distinct identity; as a people with their right to self-determination; and, as a people who have the right to manage their God-given resources,” the PCEC said.
“We also thank God for the MILF Peace Panel for their firmness in upholding the principles of the Bangsamoro, yet affirming their respect for the national integrity of the Republic of the Philippines,” the group said.
“Their patience, their flexibility, and their willingness to find a win-win path to come up with this breakthrough agreement on wealth sharing would eventually lead to a lasting and genuine peace in Mindanao and the whole Philippines,” it added.