A sitting president is accorded two Congresses to put together the policies needed to propel one’ s administration and to sustain it beyond one’s term. In those two terms, the president can have divided houses or a consolidation of powers after midterm.
In the case of the Aquino administration, there were some noises but not enough to derail what the President wanted from the 15th Congress. It has been said that what the President wants, he gets and this is principally because of the popularity of the incumbent. This is the first time in our history where legislators talk in murmurs, behind curtains and closed doors. This is also a very rare time in our political life where gridlock seems to have disintegrated in the air.
The first three years of the administration saw the passage of budgets in record time and at record numbers. One would say that is good and yet others mumble that the early passage without much debate has led to the emasculation of the deliberative body like Congress.
The 15th Congress marked the passage of landmark legislation such as Republic Act 10351, Restructuring the Excise Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Products; RA 10368, Human Rights Victims Compensation Act; RA 10151, Rationalizing the Night Work Prohibition on Women Workers; RA 10158, Decriminalizing Vagrancy, RA 10165, the Foster Care Act of 2012; RA 10174, Establishing the People’s Survival Fund; RA 10361,the Kasambahay Law or Domestic Workers Act; RA 10354, Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act; RA 10149, the Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations Act of 2011; RA 10167, Further Strengthening the Anti-Money Laundering Law; RA 10173, the Data Privacy Act; and enactment of the K to 12 Basic Education Program that will decongest and enhance the basic education curriculum in the country.??In addition to these measures, House Resolution 3053 cited several other measures successfully pushed by the House in the 15th Congress under the Speaker’s leadership: RA 10149, Promoting Financial Viability and Fiscal Discipline in GOCCs; RA 10150, Extending the Life Line Rate; RA 10152, Mandatory Basic Immunization Services for Infants and Children; RA 10154, Early Release of the Retirement Pay Pensions, Gratuities and Other Benefits of Retiring Government Employees; RA 10157, Institutionalizing the Kindergarten Education into the Basic Education System; and RA 10168, Defining the Crime of Financing Terrorism.
And then there were the 71 measures vetoed by Aquino. 11 measures were of national interests such as Magna Carta for the Poor, the height requirement for the police, the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Act of 2013, and the Centenarians Act of 2012, while the rest were local bills. Interestingly and unlike the previous administration, there were no strong objections to the vetoes made by Aquino.
LEDAC was convened only twice in the entire 15th Congress. That already shows how Congress fits in the scheme of things under this administration. How many of Aquino’s wish list in his three SONAs were achieved because of coalition politics put together or the effective use of carrot and stick strategy via PDAF? Interestingly, there were three in his wish list that got everyone, specially the political kind, to hold their horses: threat to impeach the Ombudsman, impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the passage of the RH bill. What he wants, he gets.
With a growth rate of 7.8% in the first quarter of FY 2013, which to me is election driven, we move to the 16th Congress hoping there will be a clear legislative agenda for inclusive growth instead. If the legacy of the Aquino I has been the restoration of political institutions, what would be for Aquino II? Hope is shared in providing jobs and winning the battle against poverty. Jobs are a function of investments in manufacturing. The more plants and factories, the better for Juan Dela Cruz. Winning the battle against poverty is location specific, rural PH. It is also industry focused, agriculture and fishing. Unless decision makers and even Aquino himself have decided to make our country a nation of malls, casinos, and BPOs, no amount of chest thumping for GDP is worth heralding cause Juan does not feel it. If so, then the divide will be greater and more FIlipinos will be voting with their feet. It may not really be that bad since OFWs keep the local economy afloat by their remittances, still one hopes it is not a consumer led growth.
The K12 law has been passed without much opposition from key stakeholders: parents and teachers. That might take care of the intermediate years. But, how about the equally needed tertiary reforms? We should be producing graduates the economy needs or that will sustain its competitiveness as we grow. What are these degrees? What graduates are needed by the poorest provinces?
If we can’t win the battle against poverty, then the President and Congress should focus on human capital investment and that would mean education and health. Human capital is our only way out of poverty. When leaders start talking of legacy, human capital tops.
An educated populace will not accept a free ride. Teach them how to fish and do not just give fish Mr. President. A healthy populace means a healthy labor force. Lets win the battle against malnutrition first, Mr. President. Your K12 will not gain much traction if the ability to read and write is taught with a hungry stomach, much worst with a malnourished kid. Little things for some who relish the idea of multi billion investments on infrastructure but these little things are the bedrock of nation building. Generations from the day you decide to put your money where your mouth is and invest in human capital that legacy will be yours. Let freedom ring, Mr. President. No one left behind!