Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FINDING HOPE IN PNOY'S 4TH SONA

President Benigno Aquino III delivered his fourth SONA (State of the Nation Address) last July 22 and it lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, his longest SONA to date.  I think those protesters who came to the Batasan Pambansa are actually no match to the thousands of students silently protesting after the SONA, when professors handed them their homeworks and projects of making a reaction paper on PNOY's 55-paged speech.

For those students who are not done yet with their papers, here are the highlights of PNOY's report:



TESDA SCHOLARSHIPS

  • A total of 503,521 students have received the scholarship.   An estimated six out of 10 scholars land a job.   This posed a significant increase from the employment rate among TESDA scholars in the past years

EDUCATIONAL REFORMS

  • K to 12 Program implemented
  • Classroom and Texbook deficiencies addressed

AGRICULTURAL REFORMS

  • Decreased importation of rice from 855,000 metric tons in 2010 to 350,000 metric tons in 2013, the latter already include the 187,000 metric tons as reserved buffer stock in cases of calamities.
  • Increased growth in agricultural sector to 3.3 per cent in the first three months of 2013, a triple increase from 1.1% of that of same period in 2012.
  • Enhancement of coconut farming through intercropping or the practice of growing two or more crops in proximity to produce greater yield.
  • Initiative programs for the fishing sectors such as cold storage facility built in Bataraza, Palawan; building several fish ports in strategic places for easier access to fishermen to increase their income.  Further, the government is also improving roads, bridges and other infrastructures, including services for the fishermen.
  • Resolved issues on Hacienda Luisita.   He reported that the Department of Agrarian Reform has already completed the list of qualified beneficiaries who are recipients of land titles.

HEALTH REFORMS

  • Increased coverage of and benefits from PhilHealth.  From 62% of health insurance enrollees in the past, the percentage increased to 81 percent.   The administration is coordinating with LGUs to aim for a 100 percent coverage.
  • Improvement and rehabilitation of hospitals, rural health units and barangay health stations in the country with its 33 billion pesos budget allotted for this sector in the last 3 years of his administration.

CALAMITY PREPAREDNESS

  • Completed multi-hazard mapping which is a joint effort of the Geohazard Mapping and Assessment Program and Project NOAH of DOST.  Last year, the  of 28 danger and calamity zones in the country has been identified through this program.  The government aims to finish mapping for Greater Metro Manila Area come 2014, and the other 1,138 areas by 2015.
  • Through Project NOAH, 525 automated water level monitoring stations and automated rain gauges in 18 major river basins have been deployed.
  • Provision of modernized facilities such as Doppler radars, tsunami detectors, and alerting sirens.
  • Budget of 6.2 billion pesos to address flooding in Metro Manila which includes the budget for the Blumentritt Interceptor Catchment area, a 3.3-kilometer wide project which can catch floodwaters of approximately the size of fourteen Olympic-size swimming pools.

HOUSING PROGRAMS

  • Due to the joint effort of the government and private sectors, a total of 9,377 of houses have been built for Sendong victims in Mindana0.  The government targets an additional 4,374 houses  by next year. PNoy also asked for apologies for the seemingly slow process in providing these houses  because of the complicated process of land acquisition.  Pablo victims are already occupying the 53,106 houses built for them.

ARMED FORCES REFORMS

  • Housing programs for the soldiers and police.  There are already 21,800 housing units that were already completed last year.
  • Enhancement of the livelihood programs for soldiers.
  • Increased budget for pension and benefits for soldiers and police.
  • 30,000 police have already returned to field because of the hiring of civilian personnel for administrative work.
  • 1:1 police to pistol ratio.  The government have provided new units of 9mm Glock 17 pistols to police officers , with its aim to provide 74,879 pistols to all police forces

PNOY also mentioned that efforts to clean and fair elections are now becoming a reality.   He also highlighted the renewed faith of international communities in the areas of tourism and the country's economic growth.  He's hoping to bring more good news in the future about the peace and order situation in Mindanao as well.

The President also believes that it is necessary to modify the current SSS pension scheme and to increase the LRT and MRT fares to decrease government subsidies and allot it to other government services.

The President's latest SONA received some mixed reactions from the public and in social networking sites.  Others felt that the SONA was satisfactory while others commented that it is lacking in substance.  For more reactions go check #SONA2013 on FB and Twitter.  Here are some of PNOY's SONA statements that immediately went viral:

"Kung hindi mo nagagawa ang iyong trabaho, hindi ka karapat-dapat na manatili sa puwesto"

 "Saan po kayo kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?"

But what really trended during SONA 2013 is the image of the crying cop who was said to be bullied by a foreign human rights protester. And Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who plans to file a resolution to ban flashy clothes and blings during a SONA.

 I would also like to share a friend's thoughts and assessment on comments made about President Benigno Aquino III and his Presidency.

"Here's the thing, I love history and is a keen observer of politics and social developments, but i'd rather you weigh in on more on the details of my take on the subject.  Noynoy is not impressive, doesn't look much, mouth always half open, his gait strange, overtalks too often.  His resume is something gloria would scoff at, his experience Enrile would laugh out loudly at, his work ethic Ramos would frown on, his charisma a thing Estrada could not exactly comprehend let alone spell the word itself.  I am fairly convinced though that his heart is in the right place, something I had not seen in previous leaders except in his mother.  Brains, charisma, industry and mass appeal will help a leader tremendously, but integrity, principles, and loyalty are the elements that create wonder and transformation of a culture and society.  Because of our broken and dysfunctional legal, political and economic system he would not be able to do much compared to, let's say Turkey's Attaturk, but he is leading the way within the parameters that had been set.  One year into his presidency he risked all his political capital and public goodwill in impeaching a co-equal branch (SC) chief because he knows reforms would all be meaningless if a gatekeeper of a corrupt status quo remains in power.  (I have very strong doubts the recent UCPB case would be decided in favor of the coconut farmers if Corona was at the helm).  He knows even if the impeachment gets conviction as it did, he would polarize the nation, and his political enemies will start preparing their battle gears for the long haul.  He supported the RH bill after some reluctance, and hence piqued the influential Catholic Church heirarchy.  He knew he cannot afford to court their animosity, something Ramos, Erap and Gloria avoided.  But he also know this is the way to go because he can build all the classrooms until the treasury dries up, he can court as many investments for job creation until his voice gets hoarse, yet if our poor people makes babies with wanton disregard for health and economic well being, then all the efforts will be for naught.  The poor must be given the power to make choices. ( i would not wish to argue on the RH bill.  I am a catholic and while i follow the doctrine of our church, I cannot impose my belief on others.  I did not express any opinion on this matter to respect the position of the Church, until this message.)  His approval ratings have always been up, but he will gamble it all away for a greater cause.  That is leadership.  Don't get me wrong.  He has his weaknesses, his appointments are not always spot on, his expressions of indignation go beyond standards of civility, etc.  But I would take that anytime against the pseudo leaders we have.  I am writing you this because you are in the social media and you have a voice and influence in this field.  Until Pres. Noynoy tapers off and lost all his grit and marbles, we need to support him, a man trying to reform a messed up system, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and a damaged society.  We cannot look for the perfect leader because it doesn't exist, all we could do short of a police state and a cathartic experience born out of war, is to chip in away in our small way, elect fine leaders, encourage good works, denounce evil deeds, and slowly we will see a transformation of our country and bring forth the nobility of our people."

When asked about comments on PNOY's policies that just contributes to further price increases and additional burden to the already weary public and his inability to manage perennial Metro Manila flood problems, job security and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.  My friend has this to say,

"Question is, what are those policies which contribute to price increases?  Gas, electricity and water costs always go up in time.  It's called inflation.  It is the nature of the beast.  We need to see if,  a) the increases are caused directly by an administration policy.  b) if it's totally avoidable and easily remedied but unable to.  And, c) if such increases are unique in this term alone as compared to other eras.  This can be easily analyzed by data and if it points out that this admin is either incredibly incompetent or patently vicious, then we can damn them all till kingdom come.  But at least provide basis while pointing fingers on who's to blame.  I'm with you with jobs, floods and wealth gap.  However these issues did not happen overnight, they came with a whole history of mismanagement, neglect and incompetence.  Jobs: we lost over the years the manufacturing sector to China, Vietnam and others because of red tape, power costs, etc.  We skipped the industrial revolution since Macapagal administration in the 60s and it's basically agriculture from theron in. Floods: decades of neglect, inability to enforce regulations and poor urban planning all contribute to this perennial problem.  And it's cultural too: we have no respect for public spaces.  Everything have to be used and abused that's why regulations are not enforced. Wealth gap: another case of poor enforcement.  The middle class has for the longest time carried the nation off its back.  They're taxed automatically and regularly.  The rich have tax lawyers to find loopholes and have lawmakers to do their bidding for them in congress. Now if in our country the biggest taxpayer is Kris Aquino, what does that say about Henry Sy?  Or just the Lopezes?  Hell, Charo Santos?  How are they all figuring out their taxes?  If you acknowledge that he's cleaning the bureaus one at a time that's good enough for my taste.  That's all i can ask for:  to win the great war one must persevere and win one battle at a time.  Bruce Wayne in Batman begins sums it well when asked how he's gonna rebuild his place: brick by brick.  The wealth gap are caused by institutional failings from the past unless you can provide details to contradict."

When asked if how long can PNOY's actions be justified on the basis of technicalities and words like inherited problems and institutional failings of the past, my friend answered,

"We can only look at what went before to explain.  ELECTRICITY: During the Cory Aquino term, the Ministry of Energy which was notoriously embroiled during Marcos' time in many corruption scandals was abolished. Unfortunately, in the reorganization that followed, energy supply was not a priority.  A disaster no doubt.  Fast forward to Ramos administration who has to inherit constant brownouts which was crippling the economy.  In panic,Ramos asked for special powers from Congress and negotiated contracts for independent power producers with guarantees to encourage them to invest in this highly capitalized industry by offering little risk of losing money.  Ramos was able to salvage the economy and reached new heights, the downside is we're still paying high price for power for those contracts.   GAS: this is a world commodity and dependent on global prices.  In the U.S., they now pay $4.09 per gallon, that is, P167.69 per gallon or P44.30 per liter.  US of course is oil producing in Texas state.  And again, there is a history behind all these. During the Ramos term, we deregulated oil industry and opened it to other investors in the hope that competition will bring down prices.  It did not.  Those smaller gas stations rely on the big 3 for their refining.  WATER: I don't know the rates now, but i read somewhere we have one of the cheapest worldwide.  I have to verify this though and do research.  So you see, Institutional failings and inherited problems are not made up fantasies, they are the real deal, the past that explains the present.  You just lump them into a corner and say, "Ah...excuses! You suck. Shut up. KABOOM!".  We have a damaged culture that celebrates instant gratification over industry, overlooks corruption for dole-outs and peace and harmony, favors style over substance.  This dysfunctional system runs deep into our institutions and hence the mess we are in.  You asked me if hardship and inflation are equally important than cleaning up corrupt departments and agencies.  Should not addressing the former more of a priority than the latter?  Corruption breeds all these suffering and by focusing on cleaning up our agencies we are addressing the concerns of high prices, unemployment, wealth gap, floods, traffic and what have you, in the long haul.  Government don't clean up their act once and for all, then we are just doing the motions and applying band aid solutions to complex and intricate problems.  Like the 9 years of Gma, or the Erap years or the administrations before that.  By the looks of it PNOY is fighting the lonely battle against the culture of corruption and impunity.  And he has to do it within the limits of his office, as he has no special powers granted by congress, nor revolutionary powers nor martial law powers.  In the words of Commissioner Gordon, "I don't have that luxury. I have to work with what i have."  Or words to that effect.  One has to work with the devil to obliterate the devil itself, in the same manner the devil will quote the scriptures to suit his purposes.  Oh, where was I?   So that's it.  Just to suggest for you to be open-minded.  Politics is like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you're gonna get: varied flavors,awful tasting, full of nuts but sometimes you get that one magical piece of heavenly delight.  We all just need to sort them all out. Good day to you and God bless."

So that's it.  I guess the only question now, with only 2 years left on PNOY's presidency, is.. will all these "Daang Matuwid" initiatives continue even after he leaves office?  That is the most important question of all.  Are the endeavors sustainable enough?  Did all the measures gained some momentum for it to push forward to the directions that he set?  Was President Aquino able to influence enough leaders to make this a continuous thing?  Was he really able to successfully convince or sell to the public that his path is the right path?  Because if not, then he will have just wasted 6 years of Janitorial work.

I'll leave it at that and hope for the best.