a year later and then what?

i rooted for him when he decided to run for president.

i am not embarrassed to admit that despite the endless teasings i got from friends (take note, they were ateneans too) who argued that he was too callow and too timid to run a country that needs a bold leadership with a vision on where the country should go amid the backdrop of a sinking global economy.
i know, i know. i was carried away by nostalgia (those glorious days of the first edsa revolution that threw away a dictator) and the memory of his luminous parents, the heroes of that revolution: his namesake senator ninoy aquino (his death sparked the revolt) and president cory aquino (her grief became the nation's sorrow).
i just shrugged off these teasings that could turn nasty at times, especially after a few tequilla shots.
my firm belief, just like the rest of those who voted for him, was that he was the least likely to steal from the government and won't tolerate corruption.
i was simply tired of presidential candidates boldy promising to minimize if not erase government corruption only to do the opposite once elected into office. remember walang kama-kamag-anak? and hello, garci? 

time flew and here we are.
a year after pnoy's term and what have we got? did we see, feel any change?
so far, the only good thing about his presidency was the removal of wangwangs on the vehicles of self-proclaimed vips in this country.
nothing more.


the economy sure kept expanding, but until when?
with his promise not to impose new taxes (very popular with the voters) and the underspending in the previous quarters, it is unlikely that the economy will continue to grow at such pace with the raging financial crisis in europe, slowing growth in japan and credit problems besetting the united states of obama. surely, the philippines will take another hit should the u.s. loses its triple a credit rating.


i invited myself to a forum organized by the movement for good governance or mgg headed by my favourite economist and media personality solita monsod and well-loved former finance undersecretary milwida guevara at the ateneo law school in rockwell.

the group gave aquino an overall rating of 4.69 (a failing grade, i suppose), noting that while there were accomplishments in the past year, they fell below expectations.
madammes monsod and guevara stressed that the rating was based on what he has accomplished versus what he promised during the campaign. they added that their assessment was not based on their personal opinions. good enough.
the mgg rated him on the following areas:
corruption - 4.8
public finance - 5.8
governance - 4.5
environment - 4.7
education - 5.7
health - 3.0
economy - 4.4
average - 4.69
 (take note that he got the second lowest rating on the management of the economy. sigh!)

i will zero in on what i considered as the most important areas, corruption, public finance and economy.
on corruption, mgg (as articulated by ms. monsod) said pnoy failed on his promise to appoint officials "based on their intergrity, qualifications and performance record and will hold them accountable to the highest ethical standards of public office."
it cited the choice of binay as head of the housing agency hudcc. binay, it said, did not have the track record in delivering social housing. also, binay's "reputation for corruption in makati is widespread."
the group also pointed out that pnoy's promise to hold them "accountable to the highest ethical standards of public office" seemed not to apply to his shooting buddies such as dilg undersecretary puno and virginia torres.
pnoy got zero rating on his promise to pass into law the freedom of information bill, which is still gathering dust in congress.
it also gave a 5 rating on his pledge to make the statement of assets and liabilities available to the public as well as to strengthen the department of justice.


while it gave its highest rating on public finance, the group noted that much has to be done on this area, including strengthening government revenue and broadening the tax base. it pointed out that the government should curb smuggling to boost the revenue of the bureau of customs.
the main revenue collecting agencies, the bureaus of customs and internal revenue, failed to meet their collection targets, it noted, pointing to the government's inability to plug leakages.
ms. guevara noted that the lower customs' collection was due mostly to the drop in imports, for which ms. monsod said was due to rampant oil smuggling.

ms. monsod wondered why the government can't go after these smugglers. "we know who they are," ms. monsod said.
while it lauded government's efforts to thwart tax evasion by filing cases against those who allegedly cheated on their tax payments, ms. guevara said these cases would take time to be resolved and therefore did not have an immediate impact on tax revenue.
it said the government's much hyped fiscal surplus in the first part of 2011 was mostly due to lower than forecast public spending, particularly on public construction, which contributed to the lackluster growth during the first three months of 2011.

former finance secretary roberto de ocampo criticized the administration's pledge not to impose new taxes because there are certain taxes that could be implemented that won't hurt the pockets of taxpayers but will boost the public coffers, notably the so-called sin taxes or taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. (that was quite a long sentence. argh!)

on the economy, pnoy got a failing mark, due mostly to his pledge not to impose new taxes which would have funded the construction of public works, create jobs, boost spending and fuel growth.
"it should be noted that had the president broken his no-new-taxes promise, his score would have improved not only because there would be no negative values, but also because the scores  for tax collection as well as construction expenditures would have increased," mgg said.
(for the full report, please check the group's website:http://mggphilippines.com/

 my own take (what can i say, this is my blog?!)

* the president should stop making the arroyo administration as an escape goat for the country's ills. instead of blaming her for failing to curb corruption and making public the alleged misappropriation of public funds, they should just file a case against her. period.
and make sure they have a strong case. and please, no presidential pardon this time.
* since i started covering the finance department (more than 15 years ago, i think), the issues of lower tax collection, smuggling, sin taxes have been discussed, analyzed, debated, argued upon.
but until now we are still debating about them.
why are we stuck in this rut? why can't we move forward and resolve them once and for all so we could focus our efforts on other areas that need much attention too such as the sorry state of heath services and education.
* pnoy is sincere in uplifting the country and making it more competitive, i give him that.
but where is his will to do that?
instead of talking about his luvlife or the lack of it (ok, we all need an inspiration), the president should work hard on urgent matters such as getting rid of the corrupt people in the government, strengthening the justice system, firing incompetent officials, and making sure we win the ms. universe crown before his term ends.
* lastly, please take good care of the filipinos working overseas. stop the harassment at the airports. i am an ofw myself and i have seen a lot of us being treated badly at the international airport and especially at the consulate overseas.
i really feel sorry for the filipinos working in hong kong who are gathering at covered bridges, streets, parks, parking lots every sunday and holidays simply because they have nowhere else to go. can't the government do something about this?
most importantly, the government should streamline if not make it simple for the ofws to leave the country. from various websites and forums, i gathered that the government requires physical examinations (bakeet?) and that ofws should deal only with accredited poea agencies (while this is well and good to stop illegal recruitment, my question is, what about those directly hired by the companies overseas? do they still need to go to an agency too?). i also heard that these agencies get one month of an ofw's salary as a commission. isn't it too steep?

i am not giving up on him yet.
hope springs another day.
the president just needs more balls and good advisers with no vested interest (this is hard but it could be done) to make it work.
after all, he is still his parents' son!
(except for president aquino's pic which i took from the internet, all pics are mine. yabangation!!)


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