MANILA, Philippines — No more “utak wang-wang” not only in roads but in government and society.
President Aquino Monday stressed this Monday as he declared his administration is determined to put an end to this “culture of entitlement” in the bureaucracy and facilitate a government “that truly works for you” during his second State of the Nation Address (SoNA).
In his 53-minute speech before a joint session of Congress, the President highlighted a litany of achievements, including prudent fiscal management, expansion of cash subsidy for poor families, creation of 1.4 million jobs, and lower rice importation.
Aquino also pledged to sustain clean and honest governance, spur economic growth, attain rice self-sufficiency, as well as hold accountable the corrupt, tax evaders and others with the “wang-wang mindset” in the second year in office.
“We have put an end to the culture of entitlement, to wang-wang: along our roads, in government, in our society as a whole. This will bring confidence that will attract business; this will also ensure that the people’s money is put in its rightful place: Funding for infrastructure that will secure the sustained growth of the economy, which will then give rise to jobs, and public service that guarantees that no one will be left behind,” he said in Filipino.
“More opportunities for livelihood will be opened by tourism; the strengthening of our agriculture sector will ensure that every Filipino will have food on his table. We will invest on those who were once neglected. All this will create a cycle wherein all available jobs are filled, and where businesses flourish through the empowerment of their consumers,” he added.
Aquino also defended his governance style and its ensuing results, saying he was steering our government in a “clear direction.” “A country where opportunity is available; where those in need are helped; where everyone’s sacrifices are rewarded; and where those who do wrong are held accountable,” he said.
“We are not leaving anything to chance; good governance yields positive results. Think about it: We have realized our promise of providing the public with the services that it needs and implementing programs to help the poor without having to raise our taxes. This has always been the plan: to level the playing field; to stop the abuse of authority; and to ensure that the benefits of growth are available to the greatest number,” he said in
At the start of his speech, the President said he banned blaring car sirens on the roads last year, which he claimed were a symbol of abuse of authority, and sustained the fight against abuses in government. The wang-wang mindset, according to the President, is defined as abusing privilege despite promise to serve.
So far, Aquino said his anti-wang-wang efforts have yielded positive results, including end to abusive perks in government corporations, lower self-rated hunger among Filipino families, and robust stock market, credit rating upgrades.
To end wang-wang culture in government, Aquino said they have employed zero-based budgeting to eliminate wasteful programs and channel funds to more effective projects. Among the projects stopped by the government were the “an ill-advised” P18 billion dredging project in Laguna Lake and food for school program that had no proper targeting beneficiaries.
Aquino urged people to pay the proper taxes and warned to hold accountable those who do wrong after citing the “wang-wang attitude” still persists in the private sector.
He noted the Bureau of Internal Revenue found out that 1.7 million self-employed and professional taxpayers such as lawyers, doctors, and business paid only a total of 9.8 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,” he said.
The government has also eliminated “patronage politics” in the Department of Public Works and Highways and instituted clean and transparent bidding for projects, according to the President. “Because of this, we have already saved 2.5 billion pesos, and expect to save 6 to 7 billion by the end of this year,” he said.
In the ridding “wang-wang” in the energy sector, Aquino announced that 140 companies are ready to participate in the exploration and strengthening of our oil and natural gas resources. Only 35 companies that participated in the energy sector in 2006.
In agriculture, Aquino took pride the government also reduced rice importation to 800,000 metric tons compared to the excessive 2.3 million imported by the past government due to increased domestic harvest. He said the government has irrigated an additional 11,611 hectares of fields and rehabilitated 212,000 hectares of land to boost 15.6 percent increase in rice production.
Aquino also cited the wang-wang” attitude that allowed police helicopters to be bought as if these were brand new. He was referring to the two old helicopters reportedly used by the family of former President Arroyo.
The same attitude also prevailed government executives, like those in the Philippine National Construction Corporation, to pay themselves millions of pesos in bonuses, even as they failed to render decent service and plunged their respective agencies deeper into debt.
“Before they stepped down from their positions, the former heads of the PNCC gifted themselves with P232 million.Their franchise had lapsed in 2007; their collections should have been remitted to the national government. They did not do this, and in fact even took advantage of their positions: the bonuses they allotted to themselves in the first 6 months of 2010 was double the amount of their bonuses from 2005-2009. Yet they had the audacity to award themselves midnight bonuses, when they had already drowned their agencies in debt,” he said.
Aquino also announced that housing program for soldiers and policemen will be expanded to cover more people and more regions next year. “The NHA is already preparing the sites for housing projects in Visayas and Mindanao, with an expanded list of beneficiaries that will also include employees of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and of the Bureau of Fire Protection,” he said.
In the area of law enforcement, Aquino cited a large drop in car and motorcycle theft from over a thousand cases last year to 460 cases this year.
The Philippines was also removed from the US watchlist of human trafficking havens following the conviction of 31 traffickers in the past year.
On job creation, Aquino said unemployment rate decreased from 8 percent in April 2010 to 7.2 percent in April 2011.
He said 1.4 million jobs were created last year.
Of the 2 million families registered with the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Aquino said 1.6 million are receiving their conditional cash transfers. The government plans to reach 1.3 million additional beneficiaries this year and 3 million by 2012.
Aquino also defended the synchronization of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao electiosn with the 2013 national polls to prevent command votes and ensure fairer elections.
Toward the end of his speech, Aquino also expressed hope the election of Archbishop Jose Palma, defender of human rights and of the environment, as head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines will result to a positive engagement with the government.
Aquino likewise thanked the priests and bishops who continue to dialogue with his government, referring to the talks on the controversial responsible parenthood measure.
Aquino also paid tribute to Filipino people who have chosen to tread the straight and righteous path alongside his government.
He urged the public not to take advantage of others and help end the culture of negativism. “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 said.
To the people who resist his reform agenda, Aquno said: “I know what I must do, and my personal interests are nothing when compared to the interests of the nation. There are many of us who want what is right for this country; and there are more of us than you. To those of you who would turn back the tide of reform: you will not succeed.”
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay was impressed with President Aquino’s second SoNA.
“Every part and parcel of the speech, maganda talaga (was really good),” Binay said.
He gave Aquino’s speech a grade of 9 out of 10.
“I congratulate President Noynoy Aquino on his first year as president. I believe that he is on the right path as his administration first focused on restoring faith in government... because of the immeasurable and insurmountable acts of corruption of the past administration,” former President Joseph Estrada said.
Estrada, who lost to President Aquino in his reelection bid in the May polls last year, asked Filipinos to give the Chief Executive enough time to produce concrete results in solving the many problems he inherited from the Arroyo administration.
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said President Aquino’s speech was a sharp contrast to the ones delivered by past Presidents of the country.
“It was simple, direct to the point, and no frills which is in contrast to the usual bombastic speeches of politicians,” Pangilinan said.
Sen. Pia Cayetano said it was clear the President is serious in his fight against graft and corruption.
“So with the clear ‘anti-wangwang’ message, I am still wishing more was said about the specific programs all the savings are going into,” she added.
Sen. Francis Escudero said that with the way government has saved enough funds, it is now time for the government to look for judicious and equitable ways on spending.
Members of the House of Representatives had mixed reactions.
Boxing great and Saranggani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao said Aquino’s first year in government may not be perfect but his sincerity was.
But opposition congressmen were disappointed. They scoffed at the Chief Executive’s failure to address more pressing issues and his letdown in certifying as urgent the Reproductive Health and the Freedom of Information bills.
House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said he would counter the President’s SoNA in his “ledger” that will be presented Tuesday (July 26) in which he would highlight the shortcomings of the Aquino administration.
“Failures are heavier than the accomplishments,” he said.
Along with Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan, the House leader expressed disappointment over President’s “deliberate” failure to mention the immediate passage of the RH bill.
Ilagan said to express his steadfast stance on promoting maternal health and responsible parenthood, the President should have highlighted the RH bill which has been pending before the Congress for decades.
Bayan Muna party-list Teddy Casino was also frustrated when the President did not cite the FOI bill in his SoNA.
“It is one of the key measures and the President did not mention it. It was disappointing,” he said.
He said the President should have tackled other issues, including the land reforms, wage hike, RH bill, spiraling prices of basic commodities and lingering problem in Hacienda Luisita.
“The SoNA is dominated by wang wang and bashing of past administration,” noted Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, another opposition solon.
Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada said though the President did not say a single word about the FOI, the measure remains in the Lower Chamber’s list of priorities.
“The President showed us his firm grasp of the country’s economic and national security programs," said Valenzuela City Rep. Rex Gatchalian.
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said the anti-“wang wang” policy had proven to be an effective catalyst in reforming the bureaucracy.
Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco called on Aquino to also give priority to “multiple classes of organized stakeholders like domestic foreign chambers of commerce.”
Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay said the President has not specified his government’s roadmap, including ways and means to address the soaring prices of basic commodities, to generate more job opportunities, and to map out livelihood projects.
Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, who did not attend the SoNA, said there is nothing new about the President’s speech, saying that “just like last year, it seems there is still no clear direction where the country is going.”
The Negros lawmaker said Mr. Aquino should have “provide us a clear roadmap and hopefully, make lives better for most Filipinos.”
The business community found the SoNA lacking in specifics on how to sustain growth, but cited the President Aquino for his continued march toward clean and honest governance and for going back to the basic values.
Francis Chua, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the President laid down his heart in his speech.
“The President has touched more on values that Filipinos may have forgotten. He was going back to basics,” Chua said.
Edgardo B. Lacson, president of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, said the President’s speech was comprehensive and covered almost all areas of governance, credit rating upgrade, anti-poverty, employment generation, among others.
Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of Philippine Exporters Confederation, said the President was correct in reporting the country’s economic performance in terms of credit rating upgrades, the booming stock market, his successes on fighting graft and corruption.
He, however, said that exporters would have loved to hear about plans on how to promote exports, how to protect the dollar earnings of the overseas Filipino workers from the dwindling peso yields because of the strengthening of the peso.
Astro del Castillo, stock market analyst and managing director at First Grade Holdings, said that he was quite disappointed by President Aquino’s SoNA, citing the Chief Executive failed stress the current and his plans for the country’s economy.
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Makati Business Club executive director, said that he welcomed the President’s emphasis on the government’s effort to curb corruption in public sector and the timely submission of the 2012 proposed national budget.
Police described as peaceful the rallies conducted along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City during the SoNA.
“It has been generally peacefully,” assured Director Allan Purisima, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).
Police no longer placed 20-foot container vans, concrete barricades, and dump trucks that were used to block rallyists during previous administrations.
Chief Superintenden George Regis, Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director, said his decision to remove the excess barricades came from Malacañang. (With reports from JC Bello Ruiz, Hannah L. Torregoza, Ben R. Rosario, Charissa M. Luci, Jeffrey G. Damicog, Aaron B. Recuenco, Bernie Cahiles Magkilat, Rio Rose Ribaya, and Chino S. Leyco)
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
War on corruption