Ochoa explains Aquino’s silence on land reform, RH bill
MANILA, Philippines—After days of preparing for his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino managed to crack jokes again even as administration officials were busy expounding on the chief executive’s key messages and explaining his silence on important issues such as land reform and the reproductive health bill.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa expressed hope the public understood Mr. Aquino’s message, adding that his silence on certain issues—land reform, wage hike, even reproductive health—did not mean they had been excluded from the administration’s agenda.
“I hope people really got the message of the President. From my own perspective, PNoy is the only President who’s got the best chance and opportunity to unite this country,” Ochoa told reporters.
While critics found Mr. Aquino’s Sona lacking a roadmap towards reform, Ochoa said the President was hands on in “molding” his message and was intent at being clear on what he wants to accomplish.
“If you listen to [his message] closely, you will notice that it came from his heart. What he said was very genuine and sincere. All of those are true, with no reservations. It’s clear what he wants to say,” said Ochoa.
He related that Aquino managed to crack some jokes after his roughly 50-minute address, which centered on his administration’s campaign for clean governance and against “arrogance of power” embodied in his “wang-wang” metaphor.
“When we saw each other at the back of Batasan, he was making jokes again. He felt like he was already able to deliver the message he wanted to deliver to the nation,” he said.
“I think he’s very happy because he really worked hard for the SONA,” said Ochoa.
Asked about his failure to touch on critical issues, wages and land reform for instance, Ochoa said the President’s almost hour-long speech might just have already been too lengthy.
“Di lang kasya sa panahon (They just didn’t fit, given the time constraints). His speech was already 50 minutes, almost an hour. He emphasized concrete accomplishments that directly affect the people. It doesn’t mean that just because he did not mention certain issues, they’re no longer priorities,” Ochoa said.
He said the Aquino administration would pursue programs under the blanket of the anti-corruption campaign.
“He emphasized to everybody and tried to drive home the point that there will not be a successful program if governance is not cleansed. That’s why in the past year of the administration, we devoted time to clean governance,” said Ochoa.
In his security cluster for instance, law experts are focusing on updating the Revised Penal Code, which still contains antiquated laws.
“The criminal justice system must be upgraded because our most basic criminal law was enacted during the days of the Commonwealth,” said the lawyer in reference to the code first enforced in the 1932.
The justice department has assembled a team of experts to discuss what would be a tedious revamp of the penal code, said Ochoa. Revisions must be approved by Congress, he said.
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