DAYS before President Benigno Aquino III was set to deliver his first State of the Nation Address, Pulse Asia came out with a report that a record-high 88 percent of Pinoys "trust" PNoy. The timing of the survey results, served as backdrop as PNoy addressed the 15th Congress and the nation.
Many supporters and critics alike avidly waited for his July 26 speech. And this was hotly discussed in a recent So To Speak episode. Guests gave their views on the implications of the pronouncements made by the three-week old regime.
His speech lived up to earlier press releases that he will be telling the "truth" rather than embellishing it as was the practice of past administrations. It was set in the vernacular language, making it easily understandable from legislators down to ambulant vendors and laborers, farmers and slum dwellers.
He defined the problems created by his predecessor as due to mis-prioritization and rampant corruption which has drained the country's coffers, citing vivid examples likes rotting sacks of rice in NFA bodegas, burgeoning bonuses of MWSS executives and even mis-appropriated calamity funds that was largely given to a district in Pampanga rather than distributed to other much needier provinces. Even the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) was compelled to keep fares artificially low and ended with government taking on the slack.
He also mentioned that his anti-tax evader campaign netted a Lamborghini-owning pawnshop magnate and that three of six extra-judicial or "extra-legal" killings are in the process of being resolved and formally announced the formation of a "Truth Commission" under former Chief Justice Hilario Davide.
After citing what went wrong before, he proceeded to highlight the policy thrusts his administration like energizing "public-private partnerships," focusing on good governance, agribusiness and undertaking judicious transportation projects. He is also for the expansion of Phil Health coverage, for a twelve year curriculum and renting out some choice government assets to private entities.
Now, it's time to take a closer look at some of the things he proposed to do for the country. Some like strengthening the Witness Protection Program, creation of a truth commission calls for cheers.
And for the rest, invites the public's critical eye.
Yes, corruption is bad for the economy and a drain on the country's coffers but it's not the sole cause why more than half of Filipinos are wallowing in poverty. He did not touch on the fact that the economy is geared for export and that we are heavily dependent on import.
While citing that we are importing more rice than we need, he did not expressly say that an agricultural country like the Philippines should not import rice; rather he is for developing agri-business rather than strengthening local rice production.
His speech fell silent on the fact that almost seventy percent of imported rice goes to private traders or so-called rice cartels and only a miniscule amount is appropriated by the National Food Authority (NFA). In fact, his speech was silent on many things.
While he cited the big bonuses of MWSS, he did not cite the GSIS and other richer agencies and their much bigger paychecks and perks, or bigger tax evaders like billionaire Lucio Tan.
I appreciate the fact that the new administration is cleaning up its act by focusing largely on anti-corruption efforts, but with our national coffers dangerously low , maybe its high time to draft a comprehensive anti-poverty program with the anti-corruption track as one of its components.
His oft-repeated "public-private partnerships" would be good if taken towards a social-market economy framework and lay the foundation for industrialization but bad if left solely to private big business especially foreign. Unfortunately, past 'private-public partnerships' in the oil industry, power, in highways like SCTEX and NLEX resulted in rising prices for the consumer.
The eighty-eight percent of Filipinos who trust PNoy are looking closely at how sincere this government would be in delivering its promises to the people. And maybe it would not be bad to give him a nudge in the right direction.