Aquino set to attack critics in swan song
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd is expected to make one final stand in defense of his administration in his valedictory State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Congress today and at the same time launch a stinging attack on his critics, particularly Vice President Jejomar Binay who quit the Cabinet several weeks ago.
Besides making a final push for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the President will likely “bequeath” to his would-be successor the legacy of daang matuwid (straight path) when he appears before members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
While Malacañang has been conspicuously silent on the contents of the President’s sixth and final SONA, informed sources said Aquino is most likely to parrot his perceived achievements since becoming President in 2010.
Aquino is anticipated to harp on good governance and economic reforms as he did in his past addresses.
But his final speech during the opening of congressional sessions is widely believed to provide a glimpse of the 2016 elections, and he will probably use the occasion as an opening salvo of sorts for the administration’s political campaign by heaping praises on Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, the presumptive standard-bearer of the Liberal Party (LP).
“The speech is very long. It contains a lot and yet misses a lot of issues too,” said one source who claimed to have read the first draft of Aquino’s address.
“It will be changed for sure. It has no soft copies,” he added.
According to the source, the speech contains attacks on government critics, particularly Binay who recently had a falling out with Aquino and has since criticized the administration.
“Binay and who else? GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo], the favorite,” the source replied when asked who Aquino will lambast in his SONA.
“But there will not be any direct mentioning of names,” he said.
The source confirmed that the BBL will also be mentioned but “not lengthily.”
On Sunday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said he could not talk on the specific contents of the President’s speech because he is yet to read the draft.
Malacanang Deputy Spokesman Abigail Valte earlier said there was already a line-up of issues that Aquino will talk about.
Valte, however, clarified that she, too, could not say what will be the final contents of the SONA because the President was likely to make “a few minor additions or deletions.”
“What can you expect from it? Exactly what it has been for the last five years, that the President will give the State of the Nation Address, [what the state of the nation is in 2015],” she said.
Cabinet sources said Aquino held his last meeting with people involved in the preparation of his speech on Saturday and he was expected to browse over the draft from the eve of its delivery until the final copy has been approved.
Coloma, in an email sent to The Manila Times, offered some thoughts that may be relevant in Aquino’s SONA.
“In citing what he has done for the people, the President notes how this has lifted the people’s morale and how their aspirations have [also]been lifted. In a similar vein, whenever he addresses Filipino communities overseas, he observes how enthused they are about the changes that have taken place in their homeland and how these have given them a renewed sense of pride in being Filipinos,” he said.
“More than keeping score, those who offer comments on the state of the nation may do well to discern that significant change has been brought about by a new way of doing things,” Coloma added.
Under the Aquino administration, he noted, substantial progress has been made in reducing poverty, increasing employment and improving the people’s quality of life.
“What is important is that the vicious cycle of poverty-high rate of school dropouts- unemployment -and ever-widening poverty has been reversed by a new virtuous cycle of reduced poverty-higher school completion rate-enhanced employability and more employment opportunities that has even reduced the number of Filipinos working abroad,” the Palace official said.
“This significant change was brought by adopting a new paradigm. Instead of relying on the ‘trickle down’ approach, the government is reaching out and helping poor families directly through an integrated approach characterized by convergence of education, employment, housing and social development. The biggest chunk of the national budget [37 percent in 2015] has been allocated to poverty reduction and social protection,” Coloma added.
Valte said Aquino will wrap up his previous speeches to disprove allegations of corruption in his government.
The President had hoped that licking the problem of corruption would be the centerpiece of his governance platform but several Cabinet officials ended up being sued for graft over alleged misuse of “pork barrel” and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
Both programs were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).
As in his previous SONAs, the President is also expected to harp on the “successes” of the administration in education and technical skills, improving the economy, the multibillion Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and various public-private partnership projects that also run into billions of pesos.
Various militant groups will again stage protest actions also on Monday to project what they claimed as Aquino’s unfulfilled promises since his assumption to power.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairman Carol Araullo said the Aquino regime is ”corrupt, incompetent, pro-elite and repressive.”
“In his valedictory SONA, Aquino is expected to bequeath to his successor his legacy of the tuwid na daan leading to inclusive growth and peace. But Aquino has no legacy to be proud of,” said the Bayan leader.
“The so-called tuwid na daan has turned out to be a flooded, pot-hole filled path to nowhere. That until now Aquino cannot even fulfill his campaign promise to enact the freedom of information act shows the pretentiousness and hypocrisy that has characterized his presidency,” she added.
The group pointed out that Aquino’s defense and continued use of the pork barrel system even after it was declared unconstitutional by the SC is a testament to the large-scale, systemic corruption that goes on.
“The 2015 budget has P27.39-billion worth of congressional pork tucked in the budgets of various departments, subject to the lawmakers’ referrals and recommendations. Lump-sum funds under the President’s discretion is at a whopping P958 billion, including the notorious assistance to LGUs [local government units]of P33.1 billion and Grassroots Participatory Budgeting of P20.9 billion which are under [Interior] Secretary and presumptive LP standard-bearer [Manuel Roxas 2nd],” Araullo said.
Leody de Guzman, head of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, vowed to ”make red the most dominant color of the day and defiance the buzzword of the day.”
“Despite trooping yearly, we have much more enthusiasm than ever before. Living under the elitist policies of Aquino for five burdensome years has armed us with the determination,” he said.
De Guzman added that the labor sector bore the heaviest brunt of Aquino’s continuance of the neo-liberal economic agenda of his predecessors and advanced it even further.