• Aquino’s SONA disappoints lawmakers

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    SOME lawmakers were not impressed with the State of the Nation speech of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, saying he played safe by not mentioning the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

    Reps. Teddy Baguilat, Jr. of Ifugao and Emmeline Aglipay of the Democratic Independent Workers’ Association said the President instead pushed less controversial measures in his address.

    “I saw that he wanted to play safe, call for the passage of fiscal incentives, among others. These bills that he mentioned are not something that will invite controversy. It’s very easy to pass. He wanted to be safe,” Baguilat told reporters.

    Aglipay, who was endorsed by at least six of her colleagues to be the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Information for easier shepherding of the FOI measure, wasn’t pleased with Aquino’s SONA.

    “I was disappointed that he didn’t mention it because I believe that the cornerstone of any strong campaign against corruption is creating a law for transparency and accountability,” Aglipay told The Manila Times.

    She said Aquino’s silence of the FOI bill is a shift in strategy, considering that the President has been unrelenting in his campaign against corruption in government in his first three SONAs.

    This year, Aquino cited the expanded health insurance coverage for Filipinos and increased employability of graduates of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

    “He focused [his speech]on making the economic growth felt, veering away from the anti-corruption theme. It was all about moving forward,” Aglipay said.

    But she said even if the President did not include the FOI bill in his SONA, it does not mean that there is no hope in passing the measure.

    “Not having FOI in the SONA doesn’t mean there is no hope. We remain optimistic about it,” Aglipay said.

    But for Rep. Mark Villar of Las Piñas, the President’s policy on transparency and accountability can be seen in his threat to fire non-performing government employees.

    “The message is accountability and I am in favor of it. The President will set higher standard for the next three years because this is the homestretch of his term. This is a critical period and I don’t blame him for thirsting for good performance,” Villar said.

    Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was also displeased because Aquino did not mention concerns facing oversees Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly those in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia.

    According to him, OFWs in those countries face a gloomy future if no jobs will be available for them once they are repatriated.

    Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part said that the message of the President is clear and that is the Executive and Legislative departments should cooperate to ensure the delivery of service to the people.

    Opposition Senator Gregorio Honasan gave the Chief Executive a grade of 7.5 which is higher than last year’s score of seven.

    Overall, he said, the SONA was good especially the part wherein Aquino emphasized strengthening the government information base.

    Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada said the fruition of the President’s promise to lift the poor from poverty remains to be seen.

    “While President Aquino is boasting on the so-called economic growth, more than half of the Filipino masses continue to consider themselves as suffering from severe poverty. I just hope that the Aquino administration will do more tangible accomplishment for the interest of the Filipino people,” he said.

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