Aquino skips Mindanao, but inspires politicians-A A +A
Monday, July 25, 2011
OTHER than explaining his position to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), President Benigno Aquino III never made mention about Mindanao in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Unlike all other Sonas delivered in the past, Aquino's 53-minute address to the Filipino people, delivered before the joint session of Congress at Batasan Complex in Quezon City Monday afternoon, skipped his administration's policy on various issues plaguing Mindanao, particularly on peace initiatives being undertaken by the government with both the Moro and communist rebels.
Mindanao's unstable peace and order condition has remained a stumbling block to improve the economy of the island, where most of the country's poorest provinces are located.
Aquino said to initiate reforms in the Armm, there is a need to postpone the elections set by law in August, this year.
He thanked Congress for moving the conduct of Armm elections in 2013, coinciding with the mid-term elections.
"And why do we need to postpone the elections? Because, in their desire to return to or retain power, many are prepared to engage in corrupt practices just to win again. Imagine if we had listened to the critics, and allowed the election to proceed under these circumstances. We would have perpetuated the endless cycle of electoral fraud and official abuse that has led Armm to become one of the poorest regions in the country," Aquino said.
Aquino's aunt, Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, was among those who pushed for the holding of the Armm elections in August. She filed her certificate of candidacy seeking for the vice gubernatorial post.
"We want Armm to experience the benefits of good governance. And so, the solution: Synchronization - candidates in Armm will run at the same time as candidates in other parts of the country. There would be less opportunity for them to employ command votes for political patrons. The result would be fairer elections. Thank you to Congress for passing the law synchronizing Armm with the national elections," Aquino said in Filipino.
Though he barely mentioned Mindanao in his Sona, Aquino's speech inspired Mindanao politicians, saying the President's statement on social transformation is refreshing and worth emulating.
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy was happy with Aquino urging the Filipinos to be always positive and be thankful of what we have is "inspiring".
"Tapusin na po natin ang kultura ng negatibismo; iangat natin ang kapwa Pilipino sa bawat pagkakataon. Bakit po ang iba, ang hilig maghanap ng kung anu-anong pangit sa ating bayan? At napakahirap-parang kasalanan-na magsabi ng maganda? Naalala pa po ba natin noong huling beses tayong pumuri sa kapwa Pilipino? (Let us end the culture of negativism; let us uplift our fellow Filipinos at every opportunity. Why are there people who enjoy finding fault in our country, who find it so hard-as though it were a sin-to say something nice? Can we even remember the last time we praised a fellow Filipino?)" Aquino said in his Sona, which was applauded 32 times.
"Itigil na po natin ang paghihilahan pababa. Ang dating industriya ng pintasan na hindi natin maitakwil, iwaksi na po natin. Tuldukan na po natin ang pagiging utak-alimango; puwede bang iangat naman natin ang magaganda nating nagawa? (Let us stop pulling our fellow man down. Let us put an end to our crab mentality. Let us make the effort to recognize the good that is being done)," he added.
Mati City Mayor Michelle Rabat, meanwhile, said Aquino's Sona showed him as being a reformist.
"He is the new breed of politician and it is very refreshing. It is clear that he is sincere in his intentions to put this nation in the right path. Good governance means good economics," Rabat said.
Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez said that from all indications, Aquino just might be the first president to ever break the vicious cycle of corruption in the country.
"Speech was inspirational, it, however, failed to spell out steps on where he wants to take the country. No indication of structural reforms such as to increase competitiveness of the country in building a stronger nation and leading it into becoming a leading economy. I am dismayed not to hear any policy statement in relation to Mindanao nor the peace effort," Dominguez said.
Among the accomplishments presented by President Aquino were the decrease of self-rated poverty from 20.5 percent in March to 15.1 percent in June this year which is equivalent to a decrease of 1 million families; the transparency in the Department of Public Works and Highways that resulted to savings of as much as P2.5 billion and this is expected to rise to as much as P7 billion this year; the remarkable decrease in the rice importations from 2.3 million metric tons to 660,000 metric tons.
"Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan, para lang punan ang bulsa ng mga gustong magsariling-diskarte ng kita sa agrikultura. Ikalawa: Ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-angkat; ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin (We envision two things: first, an end to over-importation that only serves to benefit the selfish few. Second: we want rice self-sufficiency-that the rice served on every Filipino's dinner table is planted here, harvested here, and purchased here)," Aquino said.
The President also urged private taxpayers to be diligent and honest in their taxes. This after learning that of the 1.7 million self-employed taxpayers, the government only collected P9.8 billion in 2010.
"This means that each of them paid only an average of 5,783 pesos in income tax-and if this is true, then they each must have earned only 8,500 pesos a month, which is below the minimum wage. I find this hard to believe. Today we can see that our taxes are going where they should, and therefore there is no reason not to pay the proper taxes. I say to you: it's not just the government, but our fellow citizens, who are cheated out of the benefits that these taxes would have provided," Aquino appealed.
The President was also well applauded when he talked about the issue on sovereignty and the Spratlys.
"Speaking of security, does enhanced security not also enhance our national pride? There was a time when we couldn't appropriately respond to threats in our own backyard. Now, our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue," Aquino said.
"We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours. We are also studying the possibility of elevating the case on the West Philippine Sea to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, to make certain that all involved nations approach the dispute with calm and forbearance," he added.
While some lauded the Sona, others also expressed frustrations, particularly on Aquino's failure to give specifics to some pressing issues.
"The President laid down the card well. It could have been better if there were more specifics," said Bong Aportadera, acting city information officer.
Aportadera said one of the best parts he likes is when Aquino said: "Ang Pilipinas, para sa Pilipino."
For his part, Leonardo Avila, acting chief of the City Agriculture Office (CAO), said Aquino has long years to endure and he can still do "lots of things in leading the country toward the straight path."
"I like his speech. Especially the part where he said Filipinos should thank the teachers, nurses, policeman and other public servants who are really working hard for the people," Avila said.
While Aquino focuses mainly on eliminating corruption in government, he failed to even touch issues pertaining to several social issues like the environment.
Lawyer Joseph Dominic Felizarta, acting chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro), said Aquino should have addressed some environment problems.
"He only expounded the 'wang-wang' issue as his biggest accomplishment," Felizarta said.
Felizarta said among the issues that Aquino should have at least elaborated were the effects of the global warming, massive tree planting, and apprehension of illegal loggers, among others.
Edil Gonzaga, secretary general of the Transmission-Piston in Southern Mindanao, said Aquino failed to lay down concrete solutions to end the problem of the ordinary Filipino.
"Excellent speech, his anti-corruption message 'utak wang-wang' is central to societal transformation, bureaucratic efficiency and economic take off," Colonel Leopoldo Galon, spokesperson for Eastmincom, said.
Galon said that with regard to not mentioning Mindanao in his speech, Visayas was not mentioned as well.
But Flor Posadas, president of Davao Association of Guidance Counselors, said that "if he did not mention Mindanao, then we are the least of his priorities." (With Jereco Paloma, Ivy C. Tejano and Carmelle Harrow)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 26, 2011.