(This is second part of Sun.Star Report on the first 100 days of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. On Sunday, the last part will enumerate promises the President has made during his campaign and in his few days stay in Malacanang).
THE three-week-old government of President Benigno Aquino “Noynoy” III seems to withstand the fiery criticisms hurled against it with the Chief Executive getting more support as he steers his administration in the political arena.
The rank of Liberal Party (LP), being a silent minority in the era of the Arroyo regime, is rapidly gaining supporters in the House of Representatives.
LP spokesperson and Representative Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III (Fourth district, Quezon) has said they are "confident" that Representative Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte (Fourth district, Quezon City) will be the incoming Speaker of the lower chamber of Congress, citing the 200 congressmen pledging support for their bet.
Belmonte is expected to be pitted against Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidate Representative Edcel Lagman (First district, Albay).
The erstwhile ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD admitted their numbers shrink and that from the original 109 congressmen, only 45 are likely to support Lagman’s bid for the Speaker post.
In the Senate, the LP picked Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as bet for Senate President, whose fate is contrary to Belmonte’s almost sure bid.
The party’s hope of getting a genuine LP in the Senate presidency race shattered as Senator Juan Ponce Enrile hinted Thursday that he is open to have a return-bout for the hotly-contested post.
In a likely Enrile leadership, the Palace said the Aquino government would have a “friendly” Senate.
Senator Manny Villar, who was President Aquino’s closest rival in the May 2010 polls, is also said to be gunning for the Senate President post.
The next House Speaker and Senate President will be known on July 26, Monday.
Campaign vs sirens
President Aquino set an early notion on the kind of government this country will have through his “Walang wang-wang, walang counterflow” statement in his inaugural speech, making a clear-cut policy on Day 1 that unauthorized use of sirens will be apprehended, including politicians.
Under Presidential Decree 96, it stipulated that only police, military, ambulances, and vehicles of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) are exempted from the siren ban.
The President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, and the Chief Justice are the only individuals allowed to use sirens by the law issued by the late President Ferdinand Marcos in 1973.
But President Aquino opted not to use “wang-wang” in traversing the main roads of the metropolis from his residence in Times Street, Quezon City to Malacanang Palace in Manila and even in attending his appointments.
Consequence of this, the President was hit for being late in his schedule. The first was during the turnover ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo followed by the Red Mass initiated by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
In an interview with National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Roberto Rosales, he said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has confiscated 287 sirens, blinkers, and fog lights nationwide on the first week of the anti-wang-wang campaign.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the LTO use closed-circuit television cameras and a textline to engage citizens in reporting those who use sirens.
The LTO said motorists and commuters can text their reports to 2600, but it must include the plate number of the offender.
“His (Aquino) first month in office is doing well. I can see the will inside of him that he really wants to do something for the government and the people,” observed Benny Antiporda, former president of the National Press Club.
“I think napakaganda naman nung simula nya at maganda din yung response ng population. If President Noynoy can continue in that spirit as public officials, then he will continue to be on the right track,” said Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, former representative of Akbayan.
But while the flock in the country's political realm is harmoniously tuning-in to the rhythm of the President, nature subjected him to the true litmus test of his leadership.
Calamities and crises
While the President is still warming up on his seat in the Palace, recent calamities and crises have already put his new administration to an inevitable ordeal.
First to strike Aquino was the glitch of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The airport problem was already there even before the President Aquino took his oath of office last June 30.
To recall, the main airport was closed down June 19 with 98 flights diverted and 65 flights cancelled after its Very High frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range (VOR) and Instrument Landing System (ILS) equipment broke down due to wear and tear and lack of maintenance.
On June 22, some seven flights were again diverted and another 18 flights experienced the same last June 28.
The weather did not spare the infancy of the Aquino government when haze hit NAIA, forcing anew the cancellations, diversions, if not delays, of nearly 300 domestics and international flights.
The onslaught of Typhoon Basyang directly affected 160 flights. The airport's deteriorating navigational instruments distressed 139 air travels.
In an archipelagic nation like the Philippines, the airport is among the most important components that connect it constituents.
In an earlier interview, the President blamed the incidents to the ineptitude of former officials of the Manila International Airport Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
“Two years ago pa ang problema sa equipment dyan pero it has not been resolved. That's a problem that could have been attended to, but was not,” the seemingly irritated President said.
And of course, who could missed the annoyed Aquino on the wrong forecast of the state weather bureau on the landfall of Typhoon Basyang.
The overnight bombardment of the storm left 79 people dead, 74 missing and 31 injured in various provinces of Luzon, setting aside the devastation it created in infrastructure, agriculture, and properties.
“Tell us what you need,” Aquino told weather bureau to improve its forecast, to which he later put to silence when climate director Pisco Nilo answered that they can only get better with predictions through an automated transmission of rainfall to a tune of P1.8 billion.
The typhoon also resulted to fishkill incidents and oil spills in several areas in the metropolis and Luzon.
Still stunned from the devastation of El Nino, another problem that hounded Aquino is the shortage of the supply of sugar.
Made to believe by the previous government that there is enough buffer supply of sugar, the new government was thwarted when it discovered the storage empty.
Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Chief Bernardo Trebol said the government is mulling at importing raw and refined sugar from Brazil, which is expected to be delivered by September. The current buffer stock would only last until mid-August.
One more calamity that put the President in the quandary is the nightmare of power crisis.
In a country where water is drawn between consumption and electrification, he knows either choice would give him a win-win solution.
Thus last July 5, despite his vocal opposition on the revival of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Aquino said: "We are studying the possibility of using nuclear energy as a source of power.”
“He should have a categorical answer to the Mindanao power crisis, kasi yun yung hinihintay naming mga taga-Mindanao," said Arnold Sabado, a 24-year-old Internet shop owner in Pagadian City.
On July 19, the President admitted that the power crisis still persist in Mindanao.
He has yet to lay down the measures of his government to address the shortage as the Department of Energy is also as puzzled on how to source out 2,000 megawatts of electricity to head off another wave of power crisis in 2012.
On top of these all is the Manila water crisis.
The receding water level in Angat Dam, main water source of Metro Manila, due to insufficient rains have finally caught up with millions of residents in the area.
It is very ironic that as the country entered the rainy season, with two weather depressions so far, is suffering from water crisis. The area known for its flooding notoriety is suffering shortage of water.
But the Aquino government refused to place Metro Manila under a state of calamity, saying measures are now being done to address the problem.
Based on the recent data of the Department of Public Works and Highways, there are 117 barangays or about 1.1 million people severely affected by the water crisis, which means that they experience only six hours of water supply. Thirty-two of the 117 barangays experience no water supply at all.
In the cities of Quezon, Caloocan, and Manila, more than 400,000 people or almost 100 barangays are affected by the water problem. Long lines of people wanting to fetch water at water pumps or tankers are seen in these cities.
This brings the President in a dilemma of balancing an equation between the soaring population of the Metropolis and its depleting water source.
The recent events are among the circumstances that tested the tolerance of President Aquino in his 100 days in governance. More than political stability, these are the true tests where the answers would determine whether the electorate is right in choosing him as President. (Sun.Star Manila)