Opposition bloc expects little from final SONA

STREET RAGE  Farmers and members of militant groups shout during a protest rally near the house of President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Times Street in Quezon City. The rallyists lambasted the government for its failure to provide better benefits to workers. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

Farmers and members of militant groups shout during a protest rally near the house of President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Times Street in Quezon City. The rallyists lambasted the government for its failure to provide better benefits to workers. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

Opposition lawmakers expect the “usual” glowing report on the administration’s accomplishments as President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivers his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) today before a joint session of Congress.

Aquino, son of late former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., whose assassination in 1983 catapulted his wife Corazon Aquino to the presidency, will step down next year as he finishes his single six-year term.

“I have very little expectation of what he will say this time. It will surely be a glowing picture of accomplishments, that, as usual belie the real state of the nation,” Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan told The Manila Times in a text message.

“In the end, he will harp on his claims to achievement and blame his mistakes on everyone except himself,” said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, also senior deputy minority leader.

Last year’s SONA was described by some as the President’s best but some supporters of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill found it disappointing because it made no mention of the measure.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list told this paper in a text message on Sunday, “Party-wise, we expect the President to say something about his promise of FOI law before his term ends.”

“Considering the fortuitous events that happened between the 2014 SONA and tomorrow [Mamasapano, continuing deliberations on BBL {Bangsamoro Basic Law}, West Philippines Sea [South China Sea} issue, and other equally important issues}, I can say his performance is fair since a 6-year term as a President is a short time. But his integrity is unimpaired and untainted. That is very important for the people’s trust for the President to continue to govern,” Tugna said.

The FOI bill, which has long been pending in Congress, aims to give citizens access to government information and mandates government agencies and officials to disclose all information on official acts, transactions or decisions.

House Majority Floor Leader and Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) Rep. Neptali Gonzales 2nd said they will still push the FOI and the anti-political dynasty and economic Charter-change bills "but the chances of approving these are becoming slim because our hands are full now with the BBL and approving next year’s national budget.”

Congress will receive a copy of the proposed P3-trillion budget on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Congress will continue deliberations on the BBL, which seeks to establish the Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM and is seen to establish lasting peace in the country’s southern Mindanao region.

"I’m not saying there is no hope, the problem is and what is needed are the numbers. It has nothing to do with these being controversial. It has something to do with the fact that three years is really short, particularly for the first termer and third termer who will be running for other positions because come October, they are preparing for the elections,” Gonzales said.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the House independent bloc which he leads, hopes that the SONA "will be a truthful and accurate state of the nation, not just of the economy but of everything that affects our lives, including updates on [Typhoon] Yolanda [rehab[rehabilitation]p>

Colmenares said Aquino, whom he described as a “dismal failure” based on the previous SONA, “will not admit that corruption is still rampant, that his economic growth did not benefit the poor, his land reform is a failure and the farmers wallow in poverty, that human rights violation continue, that he failed to deliver help to the victims of Yolanda and other calamities, and the MRT 3 [Metro[Metro Rail Transit 3]ther public services are dismal in performance despite billions allotted in [the n[the national].”

But Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles who leads the House labor panel, said the President managed the economy well and pointed out that the country was able to sustain an average of 6.3 percent economic growth despite calamities such as the Bohol earthquake and Yolanda.

“And this translated to improvements in the generation of quality employment,” which grew at an average of 2.4 percent annually, he said.

“Our economy generated around 4.3 million employment from 2010 to 2014,” Nograles added.

Nograles conceded that there is still work to be done by the labor sector to help the country achieve First World status in terms of availability of quality employment.

But for Colmenares, while Aquino said the economy prospered, majority “are as poor as rats, with no sufficient food, housing, jobs or land to till.”

For the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc., the President has been successful in reforming the bureaucracy and fighting corruption pursuant to his tuwid na daan (straight path) campaign.

“With the help of the two other branches of government, he curbed the excesses of government –owned controlled corporations and government financial institutions, jailed suspected grafters , reformed the budget and procurement process, rationalized fiscal policy and incentives and leveled the playing field in business,” it said in a statement through its spokesman and Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list and Rep. Nicanor Briones of AGAP party-list.

“These reforms have borne fruit as our GDP [gross[gross domestic product]sed expectations, from $168 billion in his first year of office to a more than $272 billion in 2014. Credit rating agencies have placed the Philippines at investment-grade level and economic prognosis of the future is at the very least, rosy,” the statement added.

“We cannot expect that the President will truly disclose the real state of the nation in his SONA,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said in a statement.

“Surely, he will surely boast of economic growth, although we had an economic slowdown just this first quarter of the year. Surely, he will boast of his regime’s programs even when the average Filipino only suffered worse because of these. Surely, he will boast of his tuwid na daan even if he gets tongue-tied from lying,” Ridon added.

When asked what he expects from Aquino’s SONA, Rep. Rodolfo Albano 3rd of Isabela, a member of the House minority bloc, said, “I just expect him to be himself… don’t want to expect much so [as]no[as] get depressed when it will not happen.”


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