Promises, promises: Hits and misses | Inquirer News

Promises, promises: Hits and misses

/ 05:38 AM July 25, 2011

(First of two parts)

The Inquirer looks back at the promises President Benigno Aquino III made to the Filipino people during his campaign for the presidency, in his Inaugural Address on June 30, 2010 and in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) a month after.

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“Kayo ang Boss ko (You are my Boss),” he told us then. And we wanted fiercely to believe him.

Based on his “promising” servant-leader governance, let us check out how he has, or has not, served the people through his freshman year.

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Thus far, the President’s governance has been strongest in its anticorruption campaign.

Even without the Philippine Truth Commission (ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), the administration has tried to create an atmosphere that would seem to be conducive to truth-telling.

Witness the body of whistle-blowers that is surfacing “to tell all”—about alleged massive frauds in the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections and other horrors still to be told about the previous administration.

Honesty is the incumbent’s best policy. President Aquino himself sets the example.

Even the Movement for Good Governance, which gave the Aquino presidency barely a passing grade in its first year, commends his “honesty and good intentions.”

But this all-out war on corruption is seen as slowing down the economy.

For instance, while the administration scrupulously scrutinizes contracts to make certain each one is aboveboard, roads, bridges and farm-to-market roads are not being built, jobs are not being created, and the economy is not being pump-primed.

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Former Socioeconomic Planning Director Dennis Arroyo said the anticorruption platform was making the administration “overly cautious” about spending, dampening economic growth.

Is it then imperative for Mr. Aquino’s economic team to strive for balance between its strong anticorruption intentions and generating growth and development?

“We believe, there’s no need for balancing,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told the Inquirer. “We’re focusing on laying the foundation for better governance.”

Personal

One comment from Facebook users on the President’s performance so far: “Na-inspire na nga [ni Noynoy] ang bayan, pagtatrabahuhin pa natin siya? Ano tayo, sinusuwerte? ( Noynoy already inspires the country, yet you expect him to work, too? What are we? Lucky ones?)”

A photo of Mr. Aquino early this month showing him seated at his desk with a cigarette pack and an ash tray to his right and a few sheets of papers to his left went viral on the Internet, drawing criticisms. Some said the interiors of his office were tacky, others said his desk was not piled high enough with government-looking documents and showed a do-nothing president.

That’s it, folks? Well, not exactly.

There’s more to the man.

Pluses and minuses follow:

‘Wang-wang’ gone

PLUS. Banned the “wang-wang” (siren), symbol of abuse, arrogance, and privilege and impunity of politicians nationwide. (Yehey! And about time, too!)

MINUS. For a while, he gave new meaning (and irritants) to the so-called Filipino time. Two days into his presidency, he was tardy for the turnover rites of the new AFP chief of staff. He was stuck in a traffic jam.

Early this year, he was also reportedly late for several activities, including the baccalaureate Mass for the graduates of Ateneo de Manila University and the 2011 graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy.

MINUS. He’s still smoking.

MINUS. Criticisms again flew, also on a YouTube lampoon, when Mr. Aquino bought with his own money what the Palace described as a “third-hand” 2007 Porsche for P4.5 million. Earlier this month, he announced he had already sold the Porsche, saying he could no longer use the car “without exposing himself to unnecessary security risks.”

PLUS/MINUS. Status is still single, but complicated, with changing faces and names of women linked to him (within the past year, councilor-turned-TV-host Shalani Soledad, celeb stylist Liz Uy, stockbroker Len Lopez, and teacher Bunny Calica).

PLUS. Early this month, a new political party made up of allies (ex, by now) of ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pledged “total support and commitment” to Mr. Aquino’s reform agenda. The National Unity Party currently has 32 members of the House of Representatives and 18 governors. And counting…

This development may say something about Mr. Aquino’s astute political leadership. But then again it may say nothing but that the “balimbings” are in season again.

‘The KKK’

MINUS. Mr. Aquino created a special fact-finding committee to investigate the Aug. 23, 2010 Rizal Park hostage tragedy that left nine mostly Chinese nationals dead.

Led by the Department of Justice, the investigating committee’s main recommendations concerning key allies, like Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Interior Undersecretary Ricardo E. Puno, were not implemented by the Palace.

The President was heavily criticized for his alleged failure to impose disciplinary action on KKK public officials reputed to be his “Kaibigan (friends), Kaklase (classmates) and Kabarilan (shooting buddies).”

At least 34 opposition lawmakers filed a resolution in the House seeking an inquiry into the activities of known presidential associates, namely Puno, Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and then Director Ernesto Diokno of the Bureau of Corrections. (Hmmm, whatever happened to that? Have the sponsors joined the National Unity Party?)

MINUS. The hydra-headed Palace communications group is perceived to be not communicating with one another. Despite all the denials, the perception persists in the main due to the abnormality of a body with several heads.

Same with alleged factional in-fighting in the administration involving the Samar Group (led by Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa) and the Balay Group (led by Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas).

Fight vs corruption

PLUS. Zero-based budgeting was used in planning the 2011 national budget, the opposite of the “incremental budgeting system” of the past.

Under zero-based budgeting, the Department of Budget and Management requires each government agency to defend each expenditure item, whether it be a project or a program, every time a new national budget is prepared in order for that item to get funding.

To “defend” an expenditure item means to explain why it is necessary and to present an evaluation of how budget allocations for it in the past were used. Under the incremental budgeting system, most projects and programs of government agencies are assumed to be ongoing, and so the budget department would automatically allot funds for those.

PLUS. The Deparment of Energy in April canceled about 70 renewable energy service contracts as part of its move to weed out so-called “nonperforming contracts” and offer these to more serious investors.

PLUS. In July, the administration’s crackdown on tax evaders began in earnest with the filing of a tax evasion case against William R. Villarica, sole proprietor of W Villarica Pawnshop.

As of this writing, at least 56 cases have been filed in court, including those against Ang Galing Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of the former President, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri and show biz celebs, like Richard Gomez and Regine Velasquez.

GOCCs tamed

PLUS. The Commission on Audit is looking into the books of other government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) as well as government financial institutions, such as the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Clark Development Corp., Development Bank of the Philippines, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, Social Security System, and Land Bank of the Philippines.

To put an end to the scandalous perks enjoyed by GOCCs, like the MWSS of old (32 kinds of bonuses per year; board met 8 times a month with each member getting P14,000 per), Mr. Aquino signed the GOCC Governance Act, or Republic Act No. 10149, ending the terms of all GOCC executives on June 30 and creating a Governance Commission for the GOCCs.

The law gives the commission, attached to the Office of the President, a free hand to review and reorganize the corporations, as well as fix the salaries, allowances, per diems and bonuses of board members.

Redundant agencies axed

PLUS. Mr. Aquino scrapped redundant “Gloria Macapagal Arroyo agencies”: Luzon Urban Beltway Super Region and the Office of the North Luzon Quadrangle Area, Mindanao Economic Development Council, Minerals Development Council, Office of the Presidential Adviser on New Government Center, Bicol River Basin Watershed Management Project, Office of External Affairs, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change.

While he did not abolish the Edsa People Power Commission, the President cut the number of its members from 25 to just five.

The Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission had zero budgets for 2011. The two agencies, created by Arroyo, were also deemed redundant, with functions overlapping with that of existing bureaus.

Ombudsman out

PLUS. Mr. Aquino openly supported calls for Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to step down following allegations that she was protecting Arroyo and her political allies. At one time, Mr. Aquino called Gutierrez the biggest obstacle to his fight against corruption.

Gutierrez was impeached by the House of Representatives. But she resigned before the Senate could try her. Inquirer Research Team; compiled by Kate Pedroso and Eliza Victoria

Sources: Inquirer Archives, Bureau of Treasury, Gov.ph

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, honesty, Inquirer, SONA 2011, truth-telling, whistle blowers
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