2-hour Sona on Aquino gains strewn with swipes at Binay
IN his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Benigno Aquino III highlighted the major achievements of his administration. But as he waxed optimistic about the future of the country, his last Sona might be remembered for his veiled swipes at Vice President Jejomar Binay.
As he enumerated the gains of his administration’s programs, he also took the opportunity to answer Binay’s previous statements, some made against him.
Aquino started his two-hour speech by showcasing the disparity of his administration to that of Pampanga Representative and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Speaking before lawmakers at the plenary of the House of Representatives, Aquino mentioned the fertilizer fund scam, the NBN-ZTE anomalous deal, the declaration of state of emergency all of which occurred during the administration of Arroyo.
The greater part of his speech, however, focused on the improved economy and outlook, increased collection of revenues and benefits of his social service programs, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and PhilHealth.
There were several instances, however, when he seemed to have alluded to Binay, who is considered the main opponent of the administration coalition in the 2016 elections. Binay, who previously led the election surveys, is the standard-bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance. He has, however, been overtaken by Senator Grace Poe, who is supposedly in talks with Aquino for a possible team-up with Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
Binay has been feuding with Palace spokespersons and administration allies since he resigned from the Cabinet in June.
The Vice President claimed that he was not treated well in the Cabinet and, without naming Aquino, that he has had enough with the administration. He said the administration was both “manhid” (insensitive) and “palpak” (bumbling).
In his Sona, Aquino hit back and said the performance of the PhilHealth under his term is proof that his administration is far from being “manhid” and “palpak.”
“’Pag kabilang ka sa pamilyang na pinakamahirap na 20 percent ng ating populasyon, siguradong wala kang babayaran. Ibig sabihin, para sa mas pinakamahirap na 40 percent, libre magpagamot sa pampublikong ospital,” Aquino said.
(If you belong to the poorest families, which are 20 percent of our population, it is guaranteed that you will not pay for anything. It means that for 40 percent of the poorest people, medication is free in government hospitals.)
“Ito ang kalingang tinatawag ng iba na palpak at manhid. Sabi nga ni Aiza Seguerra, I thank you, bow,” he added.
(This is the concern others have dismissed as bumbling and insensitive. As Aiza Seguerra used to say, “I thank you, bow.)
The President also questioned UNA’s slogan “Gaganda any Buhay.”
“Kapag sila daw ang pangulo, gaganda ang buhay ng mga matatanda. A ganun? Para ngang ang pahayag ngayon, e di wow,” Aquino said.
“Ang payo ko nga po pag ganito harapan naiinsulto ang talino ng Pilipino, ilipat muna natin ang channel,” he added.
No to political dynasties
But perhaps the most stinging remark was when he pushed for the passage of the Anti-Dynasty Bill .
“May mali rin sa pagpapakasasa sa kapangyarihan ng isang tiwaling pamilya o opisyal,” he said.
The President said this was the same reason why he never agreed to extend his term.
“Hindi tayo nakakasiguro na malinis ang intensyon ng susunod…Kung nanaisin lang nilang habang buhay na maghari-harian para sa pansariling interes,” he explained.
(We cannot be sure that the next president will have good intentions…or if they just want to remain in power forever for their own interests.)
Aquino did not name Vice President Jejomar Binay but his quote appeared to negate Binay’s suggestion to allow the re-election of officials “one to sawa (never ending).”
“Panahon na para ipasa ang anti-dynasty law (It is time to pass an anti-dynasty law),” the President said.
The bill, which has been stalled in Congress for more than a decade, aims to limit the number of relatives in public office. Advocates of the bill believe that its passage will help level the playing field and bring development in areas that have long been under control of only one family.
It is not the first time that Aquino expressed support for the said bill.
Among the achievements that the President mentioned were the doubled collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenues (BIR) and the Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC).
He said it was in 2012 that the BIR collection reached one trillion pesos for the first time. In 2014, BIR collection was P1.3 trillion, up by 9.64 percent from P1.2 trillion the year before. It may reach P1.5 trillion this year, he said.
He lauded the work of Commissioner Kim Henares who is known for regularly filing cases against alleged tax evaders.
“Si Commissioner Kim Henares, walang tax evader na sinanto (Commissioner Kim Henares has been relentless against tax evaders),” Aquino said, noting that 380 cases have already been filed, in addition to the improvements in the system of collecting taxes.
“Limang taon lang ang kinailangan para mapantayan, mahigitan, at halos madoble ang pinakamalaking nakolekta ng ating sinundan,” he said.
(We only needed five years to be at par, to surpass and almost double the revenues collected by our predecessor.)
This was similar to the case of GOCCs, which were able to raise dividends turned over to the national government.
The GOCCs were previously known for enormous benefits and incentives given to executives. He said the Arroyo administration only gained P84.18 billion in nine and a half years while the dividends from the GOCCs under his administration have reached P131.86 billion in only five years.
Aquino, on the other hand, hit critics of the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps).
He said it the conditional cash transfer program is not a magic tablet.
“Akala nila parang mahiwagang tableta pag-inom ng kinder ay college graduate ka na,” he said. “Tulungan natin silang magbilang. Labing-tatlong taon ang K-12 samantalang anim na taon lang ang ating termino.”
(They think it’s like a magic tablet that when a child in kindergarten takes it, he or she instantly becomes a college graduate. Let us help them count. The K-12 is 13 years long while my term is only six years.)
The 4Ps is a social protection program launched in 2008 and expanded under Aquino’s term. It targets poor families and gives as much as P1,400 to beneficiaries in exchange of keeping children in school.
Its budget has increased to P62.32 billion in 2015, or more than 50 times larger than the budget allocated in 2008.
Aquino said 4.4 million households are now benefitting from the program.
“Lahat ba ng ating naipundar, lahat ng ating pinaghirapan maglalaho dahil lang sa isang eleksyon?”
(Everything that we have invested in, everything that we have worked for, will it be gone after just one election?)
That was Aquino’s rhetorical question near the end of his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
Immediately after, the camera showed the split-screen images of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Senator Grace Poe, the so-called top contenders for the presidential race in 2016.
Laughter filled the hall because of the unexpected video stunt.
Before that, Aquino cautioned against allowing the country to return to its crooked ways.
“Muli tayong mapag-iiwanan at mababalewala ang pataas na trajectory ng ating ekonomiya,” he warned.
(We will again be left behind and the upward trajectory of our economy will be put to waste.)
He said he couldn’t think of a person who would dare cut a tree when its first fruit is about to be harvested.
“Sa ganitong pananaw ang susunod na halalan ay referendum po para sa daang matuwid. Kayo ang magdedesisyon kung ang pagbabago bang ating tinatamasa ay magiging permanente o tatanawin lang bilang tsamba at panandaliang pagbangon sa mahabang kasaysayan ng pagkadapa,” he said.
(In this view, the next election is a referendum for the straight path. You will decide if the change that we are experiencing now will be permanent or we will consider it a lucky incident and a short-lived ascent in a long history of falling.)
Binay is the standard-bearer of the opposition party United Nationalist Alliance while Roxas and Poe are among the officials that Aquino have been meeting with in relation to the 2016 elections.
One of the two are expected to be declared the presidential candidate that will supported by the administration coalition. With a report from Marc Jayson Cayabyab
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