Critics still asking: Where’s the road map? | Inquirer News

Critics still asking: Where’s the road map?

, / 05:31 AM July 26, 2011

The bosses of President Aquino took notice of what he did not mention in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, sending him more arrows than kudos.

As expected, his supporters in Congress liked the speech just the way it was.

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While “corruption and red tape was well covered” in Mr. Aquino’s Sona, economist Fernando Aldaba said he would have wanted the speech to focus also on the general direction of the economy.

“I expected the Sona to talk about what the government would do to attract more investments and the specifics on how the government aims to achieve economic growth,” said Aldaba, chair of the economics department at Ateneo de Manila University.

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He said that while Mr. Aquino did mention the goal to achieve economic growth, it did not say how.

Also, the problems outlined by the private sector like the high cost of energy and problems in infrastructure were not mentioned in the speech, Aldaba said.

Eric Vincent Batalla, chair of the political science department at De La Salle University, had a similar view.

“I was expecting him to say something about public-private partnerships (PPPs), which, if I’m not mistaken, are the cornerstone of his economic strategy declared last year,” Batalla said.

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Batalla also noted that there was no mention of proposed measures like the freedom of information bill.

Dennis Arroyo, a former director of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the speech had “the right emphasis on fighting corruption.”

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“However, I think the government should set more social goals. A goal to consider is to cut hunger by half by 2016, which is quite doable,” Arroyo said.

Clarita Carlos, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said the Sona “summarized the many ways of clearing the underbrush like corruption and negativism.”

“However, it did not give us a vision of the future or where we as a nation would be,” Carlos said in a text message to the Inquirer.

Agrarian reform

In Tarlac, a leader of a farmers’ group lamented the President’s omission of the agrarian reform issue in Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by the Cojuangco side of the President’s family.

“This would have been the proper time to lay down his program for agrarian reform but there was no mention of it, not a word, in his speech,” said Lito Bais, acting chair of the United Luisita Workers’ Union.

Peace process

There was also no mention of the peace talks either with the communist-led National Democratic Front or with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, said it was disappointing that the President failed to mention the ongoing peace process. “This is not a good indication,” Iqbal said.

Even peace advocates were disappointed. “His failure to mention (peace in Mindanao) . . . only goes to show that peace is something that this government does not regard with importance,” said peace advocate Juland Suazo.

“What happened to the closure of the armed conflict that he mentioned in the first address?” asked Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus.

Lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate said the failure of Mr. Aquino to mention the peace process was a “manifestation of how low the Aquino administration seriously regards the real straight path toward a just and lasting solution to the root causes of what truly ails the country.”

In Ozamiz City, Roldan Gonzales, of the rural development group Gitib, said the President’s Sona “dabbles in populist statements like the supposed gains of the CCT (conditional cash transfer), the anticorruption drive and the dispute over Spratlys, but it left untouched basic economic issues like agrarian reform, labor welfare, public debt and food security.”

Praises

But there were also praises for the President’s Sona.

In Isabela, Willy de la Cruz, a newly retired policeman, welcomed Mr. Aquino’s statements on housing projects for police personnel but said those serving in the provinces would rarely benefit from these.

In Zamboanga City, Assistant City Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito said she was happy to learn that the President acknowledged efforts in the campaign against human trafficking.

In North Cotabato, Pigcawayan Mayor Roberto Blasé said Mr. Aquino “sounded sincere, determined to attain that goal, whatever be the cost, to alleviate the plight of the poor. He needs our support to succeed.”

Ploy

A retired archbishop warned his fellow bishops not to fall for Mr. Aquino’s promise of a better relationship between the Church and State.

“This is a ploy… so that the Church hierarchy will be less on the offensive about these immoral bills in the Senate,” said Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.

He was referring to the reproductive health and divorce bills that Mr. Aquino did not mention in his speech.

Cruz likened Mr. Aquino’s statements on improving Church-State relations to giving sweets to draw the ants.

But Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said Mr. Aquino’s statement about the bishops was a good sign. “This is a promising direction,” said Iñiguez.

Cruz was also disappointed that Mr. Aquino again did not address “jueteng” and other forms of gambling in his Sona.

Human rights

In Iloilo, families of victims of human rights violations disagreed with the President in his pronouncement that the government was addressing extrajudicial killings.

“My father’s killers remain free a year after he was killed and the case has been archived. There is no justice until now,” said Ernan Baldomero, vice chair of Hustiya, a nationwide organization of families of human rights victims.

Baldomero’s father, Fernando, provincial chair of the party-list group Bayan Muna and reelected councilor of Lezo town, was gunned down in front of his rented house in Kalibo on July 5, 2010.

However, Judge Meinrado Paredes of the Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 13 said he was happy that the President announced his plan to compensate human rights victims during martial law.

Gordon Alan Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, said Mr. Aquino should not be contented with small things.

“He made a lot of positive steps, but those were just baby steps. If he continues to do baby steps, then the country will grow very slowly,” Joseph said.

Vindictive

Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of Negros Occidental, brother-in-law of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was critical of the President’s Sona. “The President is saying that we should end crab mentality but he is the one who is vindictive. We offered our hand in friendship to work with government and he did not accept it,” Arroyo said.

House Deputy Minority Leader Milagros Magsaysay said the President’s speech lacked a clear vision for the country and details on how he exactly planned to steer the economy in the coming years.

“It’s as if he’s still campaigning,” she said. “It’s like his first Sona—it’s self-serving.”

Reactive

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano described the Sona as reactive. “It was mainly a reaction to the criticisms against him,” he said. “He didn’t talk about the present problems.”

Said Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, a member of the President’s Liberal Party: “I am very satisfied (with the Sona). He showed the connection between good governance and economic development.”

Former President Joseph Estrada said Mr. Aquino was “going the right way” in charging those who misused the people’s money when they were still in power, specifically former President Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga.

Asked if he wanted Arroyo to languish in jail if proven guilty, Estrada said: “Of course because she was the mastermind of all the corruption in her government.” Reports from Schatzi Quodala and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research; Christian V. Esguerra, Cynthia D. Balana and Jocelyn R. Uy in Manila; Jo Martinez-Clemente, Inquirer Central Luzon; Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Joey Gabieta, Jani Arnaiz and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas; and Jeffrey M. Tupas, Germelina Lacorte, Ryan D. Rosauro, Charlie C. Señase, Carlo Agamon, Julie S. Alipala, Orlando Dinoy, Edwin Fernandez, Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: critics, Economy, Lito Bais, SONA 2011
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