President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III will be giving his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) soon. Like his first and second SONA, his speech will most likely be full of motherhood statements similar to all the previous speeches he had delivered since he announced his plans to run for the Presidency in 2009. You’d think that two years after winning the 2010 election, the tone of the President’s speech would change from empty slogans to something with substance, but no; it seems someone forgot to tell President BS Aquino that he doesn’t have to be on campaign mode anymore, specially since most members of the public already realized that he is incapable of fulfilling his promises anyway.
Instead of giving the Filipino people an accurate report of his administration’s achievements so far, we can expect the incumbent president to offer some “feel good” platitudes at the resumption of the joint session of Congress this month. His duty to deliver a SONA might be stipulated in the 1987 constitution; however, President BS Aquino’s predilection for indulging in triumphalist rhetoric is something the public will have to put up with for the next few years until he finally steps down. He probably thinks that the Filipino people are still good with him; well at least the recipients of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program — over 3 million of them — can be counted on to grin and bear with his mediocre performance until the funds for the program run out or until the program is put to an end, whichever comes first.
Of course BS Aquino will be boasting about his achievements in the fight against corruption particularly since he had succeeded in removing former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Never mind that the conclusion of the five-month trial did NOT even prove that Corona was corrupt. But it did prove that majority of the members of Congress can be bullied by the executive branch into railroading an impeachment process. The impeachment of Corona will not even benefit the public in a positive way. It could have negative repercussions considering some of the “favorites” on the list of nominees to replace Corona include those who are perceived to be rabid BS Aquino supporters who are not even the most qualified for the job.
If I were in the president’s shoes, I would be very careful in picking Corona’s replacement as Chief Justice. The last thing President BS Aquino needs is to make the mistake of choosing someone who is unpopular with his critics or someone who does not have the respect of the other members of the Supreme Court. After all, it is a documented fact that despite his tainted image with the public, Corona was actually well-respected by most members of the judiciary – from his fellow justices down to the court clerks. Most of them do not have anything bad to say about Corona. If they had, the media would have had a field day with it.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary, Leila de Lima who is vying for Corona’s vacated post reportedly does not feel she will be welcomed at the high court. Her decision to defy the Supreme Court late in 2011 has a lot to do with her unpopularity with the SC. And saying things like “I could lend the face to be the rallying leader (of the Judiciary)” can only annoy them even more. If someone like De Lima ever gets the job, the low morale at the judiciary will go even lower. A situation like that will not be good for the justice system in the country. As the saying goes, BS Aquino will have to live and die by his own sword when that happens.
Speaking of justice, I don’t know why De Lima has high hopes of getting a higher post when there has been no improvement in her own department in terms of prosecuting human rights violators in the country. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that failure to arrest alleged human rights abusers “highlights broader problems that do rest with the administration.”
HRW deputy director for Asia division Elaine Pearson said most cases involving human rights violations failed to reach trial stage while the police fail to follow up and arrest suspects and the military continued to “obstruct” investigations into human rights cases involving members of the Armed Forces.
The HRW in a statement last Thursday said Aquino failed to prosecute a single case of extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearance in his two years in office.
“The government needs to move beyond simply identifying suspects and obtaining warrants to arrest the suspects, gathering evidence and providing protection to witnesses to allow them to come forward,” Pearson added.
In other words, BS Aquino’s preoccupation with his political enemies in the last two years made it possible for suspects in more heinous crimes to escape justice. The public doesn’t even hear the president talk about the Maguindanao massacre the way he used to talk about the details of Corona’s case during his trial — which is really interesting considering Corona wasn’t even accused of grave crimes like murder or plunder. Many Filipinos wish that he do more to bring justice to the massacre victims.
Perhaps when BS Aquino and his army of handlers come down from their ivory tower, they can give a better assessment of their so-called “achievements”. It’s highly unlikely to happen soon though since deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte strongly believes that the administration’s “biggest achievement so far, is the change in mindset of our people.” She thinks that “there is now a shift in attitude towards government as a partner and not as an oppressor.” She said it with so much conviction that the gullible lot of Filipinos will be likely to believe her. One wonders where she gets that impression. She could be getting feedback solely from the beneficiaries of the CCT program. But with crime rates and utility bills going up, those who are in the middle class could end up applying for the government hand out too.
It’s too bad the President’s speechwriters might have to cut out the part about his pledge to lend $1 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in his SONA. Most members of the public including “illiterate” public servants in Congress cried foul when they first heard that the Philippines, a Third World country, will provide loans to help “poor countries” and “distressed economies” in the Euro zone.
A lot of folk can’t understand the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) explanation because most Filipinos are too ignorant to comprehend the purpose of the dollar reserves. I would be very surprised if BS Aquino still includes this in his SONA because it would just highlight the fact that the BSP is now in a position to lend only because our country’s own loan with IMF was paid during former President Gloria Arroyo’s (GMA) term in 2006. Besides, militants who think that this pledge to the IMF is a good opportunity to make noise will not let this slip by. So I guess they can scrap boasting about this.
Even though BS Aquino’s pledge to the IMF is legal, it still leaves a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths because their excuse for lending is 1) just fulfilling the country’s requirement as a member of the IMF and 2) self-serving. It seems as long as overseas foreign workers (OFWs) can send money, the government doesn’t have to worry about creating jobs at home.
Yes, bailing out countries in Europe that are in financial crisis will also help Filipino OFWs in Europe keep their jobs as well; however, it is not sustainable because we are not in control of how these countries will spend the funds provided to them. If they do not spend it wisely, the OFWs can also end up unemployed and become our government’s problem.
This brings us to the bottom-line. Whatever achievements BS Aquino might enumerate during his SONA, we should all take note of how he is going to address the lack of jobs in the country. He might talk about how the Philippine economy had grown by a surprising 6.4% in the 1st quarter of 2012, but at the end of the day the effects of that haven’t translated to prosperity for the rest of the public because it is partly a result of increased government spending, which is again unsustainable. And as pointed out before, economic growth rates are usually offset by population growth rates.
At the rate the population is growing, the pressure is on to keep the economy growing. One way to keep the economy growing is to create more jobs for the people. This will move more people out of poverty. The government’s CCT program will not be enough to increase the number of people who can spend and stimulate the economy but providing permanent jobs can do that. It’s too bad that a few weeks before his SONA, Ford Philippines announced it would “shut down its vehicle assembly operations in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, by yearend due mainly to lack of a broad supply base and economies of scale. The closure will result in the loss of 250 jobs.” Now that’s 250 people who will not get the same benefits from any local employers.
Think tank Ibon Foundation Inc. claims that the Aquino government failed to create quality jobs for Filipinos and its efforts to lick poverty continued to be insufficient.
Ibon said the country continues to have a jobs crisis, which saw the total number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos has increased by 780,000 in the last two years to 11.7 million in April 2012 from 10.9 million in April 2010. As of April 2012, there were 4.4 million unemployed and 7.3 million underemployed Filipinos.
I wonder how the president will address that in his SONA? It might be too much to expect BS Aquino to address the real issues facing the country today but we can expect more “wang-wang” statements though.