SONA three years hence

Rick Ramos

Rick Ramos

The 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered last 22 July is probably the worst ever by President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in the past three years. This appears to be the consensus based on what have been written in the press and said by those who have commented on the subject in the past two weeks. Mass media, including social media were fraught with negative commentaries on the much-awaited SONA.

The longest presidential speech did not seem to really tell us the real situation of our country nor the direction the president is taking the country in next three years in terms of employment, economy, infrastructure and our national security. In essence, the SONA sounded like it wanted to impress the listeners with the dubious achievements and at the same time blaming others for his administration’s failures and/or shortcomings.

There were also misleading accomplishments cited on public works that did have not any details, such as the SLEX-Daan Hari Link Road, the Ternate-Nasugbu Road and of course, the fantastic P18.4 Billions “SAVINGS” of the DPWH. Just a month earlier on 20 June, President Aquino lavishly praised the DPWH and its leadership during its 115th anniversary and mentioned the P16.3 Billion “SAVINGS” realized in two years, which was contained in its 2013 midterm performance report. How the DPWH managed to save another P2.0 Billion in less than one month can qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

Related to public infrastructure (DPWH) is on public transportation under the Department of Transportation & Communications (DoTC), which has the dubious distinction of having the worst performance among the line departments under the Aquino administration. In the past three years (2010-2013), the DoTC has not bidded out and awarded a single Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project. Then there is the alleged $30.0 Million extortion attempt with the MRT-3 project that the president did not touch in his SONA. Thus, to say that the DoTC is a dismal failure is probably an understatement.

Unfortunately, President Aquino was unable to offer any explanation to the Filipino people why the DoTC has miserably failed to bid out and award any of the much-vaunted PPP project lined up by his administration. With only three years remaining, the pathetic DoTC Secretary earlier said (before the SONA) that they will be able to award most of the PPP projects. But since it would take around three years to finish these projects, majority of them will not be completed and operational before the term of P-Noy ends in 30 June 2016. One of them is the Connector Road linking SLEX and NLEX that was surprisingly included in the SONA despite the fact the President has sat on it in the past three years.

The highlight of the SONA was the spectacle when President Aquino lambasted and shamed the Bureau of Customs (BoC) on national television. It was unprecedented. The vicious attack on the Customs personnel reminded me of an article that I read when Adolf Hitler, then Chancellor of Germany (1933-1945), who would practice the delivery of his passionate speeches that would stir the emotions of the German people.

The significance of publicly chastising the Customs Bureau for corruption is that the President finally admitted what has been written before in the press. Smuggling is worse now than before. It was Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao who first exposed it in his column then in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (15 November 2012) that smuggling under the first two years of the Aquino administration at P39.2 billion is worse than those during the administrations of former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo combined. Mr. Tiglao later wrote about it in his Manila Times column last February, which was reprinted (with some deletions) last 28 July 2013.

What is interesting with the presidential censure was that P-Noy lambasted the shameless corruption in his SONA, but it was he as Chief Executive who appointed the top officials running the BoC. Hence, it was his appointees themselves and himself who have failed to institute any meaningful reforms in the despicable graft-ridden Customs bureau. So what was the real objective of the exercise? To make the career officials at the BoC resign?

President Aquino did not accept the resignation of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon after he tendered his resignation by text and tweeter. Not even a formal letter of resignation from Biazon received by the Office of the President. Then P-Noy would reply immediately in kind via SMS text message rejecting the resignation of his incompetent Customs Commissioner. Likewise, P-Noy also refused to accept the resignations of deputy commissioners Danilo Lim and Juan Lorenzo Tañada.

The statement of retired general Danilo Lim, Deputy Customs Commissioner for Intelligence, anent his resignation that he cannot do his job since he is “not in control of the situation” can be a loaded indictment of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and/or President B.S. Aquino III. This means that the higher Customs official who is the one in “charge of the situation,” is Biazon himself. The other suspect who may be calling the shots at the Customs is Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, the most powerful man in the Office of the President Malacañang after President Aquino himself.

Of course, the other possibility is that the president just allows the status quo to continue in terms of corruption. Just imagine three years under his administration with all the powers and resources of the presidency and no reforms were made. It is simply sad and pathetic. So the question now is what was the whole drama all about on the Customs in the SONA spectacle? What was this? A “Moro-Moro” production to score points for his “Do-Nothing” administration?


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