Aquino recovers ‘lost ground’ after emotional Sona

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A POLITICAL analyst said Tuesday President Benigno Aquino III must focus on continuing the reforms he has initiated to parry criticisms that he shed crocodile tears to gain public sympathy amid mounting protests and impeachment cases.

“He has to complete what he has started and work on his legacies,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute of Political and Economic Reform (Iper), told Sun.Star.

Unseen in past presidents, Aquino turned emotional toward the end of his one-and-a-half hour State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, as he recalled the sacrifices of his parents, martyred former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon Aquino, who helped restore democracy in 1986.

“He came across as sincere and honest. He regained lost ground here. He gained political space for the next two years. Basically, he pleaded for understanding and support for his unfinished reforms,” Casiple said.

Political economist Benjamin Diokno agreed, saying Aquino’s less combative and emotional tone was perhaps an acknowledgment that “time is running out and he has a lot more unfulfilled promises.”

Certainly, Aquino still has a plateful of things to do.

These include battles against impunity and unemployment, prosecution of graft cases and defense of territory, University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Harry Roque in a text message.

In his report to the nation, Aquino underscored the fruits of his good governance initiatives, covering social services, infrastructure, disaster response and economy.

However, Diokno said statistics would show that the strong economic growth in 2012 and 2013 has not reduced joblessness, poverty and income inequality.

The former budget secretary also noted that Aquino “missed his commitment” to have the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill passed during his term and failed to acknowledge the contribution of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the economy, knowing that these people are now threatened by wars in the Middle East.

“Not mentioning the FOI is disappointing, as well as other political reforms, such as the political party reform bill and the anti-dynasty bill,” said Casiple.

The President is a member of the Cojuangco-Aquino political clan in Tarlac.

Diokno also hit Aquino’s request for Congress to redefine budgetary concepts arising from the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and pass a supplementary budget this year to cover for stalled DAP-related projects.

“His plan to submit a supplemental budget to take care of DAP related projects is puzzling. A supplemental budget requires identifying a specific funding source like new taxes,” he said.

A “more logical approach,” Diokno said, is for Malacañang to just incorporate the funding requirement in the 2015 national budget. There is still time to do this as the President has 30 days after his Sona to submit the proposed budget, which stands at P2.6-trillion.

UP public administration professor Prospero de Vera, for his part, said Aquino must do away with lump-sum appropriations and replace them with an itemized list of projects and programs to make the budget more transparent.

The Supreme Court (SC) decision against the DAP, an economic spending measure that was allegedly used to bribe senators in the Corona impeachment trial in 2012, pulled down Aquino’s popularity ratings and bolstered ouster calls from militant groups.

These calls, however, may not gain traction in Congress, which hears and decides on impeachment cases, because Aquino still holds majority support. (Sunnex)

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