Three years passed, three more to go

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Tita ValderamaTODAY’S state of the nation address is the fourth for President Benigno Aquino 3rd since he came to power in 2010. Many of us in the news media have engaged in a guessing game what this year’s slogan will be. Others just don’t care.

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It’s been three years, and there are three more years to go before the administration’s six-year term ends. Unlike during the previous administrations after his mother, I think the majority is convinced that President Aquino is not interested in staying even one day longer in office after June 30, 2016.

Given the criticisms the administration has been getting from various groups, including from persons who supported his candidacy to the presidency, a significant percentage of Filipinos here and abroad are dissatisfied with positive developments in the economy based on improved ratings from global credit and financial service agencies. Maybe many Filipinos are just hard to please. Or, they don’t feel that the progress is trickling down to the lower economic classes.

Perhaps we expected too much. Or, our expectations were raised higher with slogans like “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” and “ikaw ang Boss ko.”

We thought the President could be a “superhero” who could solve problems as deep-rooted as corruption with just a flick of the fingers.

While the President’s popularity and performance ratings have gone down, the numbers remain high compared with his predecessors. But ratings are not enough to satisfy hunger pangs or fill empty pockets due to rising costs of goods and services and stagnant salary rates.

In terms of providing jobs, the numbers hardly show a change. According to figures from the National Statistics Office, the unemployment rate in January this year was at 7.1 percent, which was a little lower than 7.2 percent recorded in January 2012. Employment rate was at 92.9 percent in January 2013, and 92.8 percent a year ago.

In fighting corruption, the latest survey of the global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International showed that 35 percent of Filipinos perceive that corruption has “decreased a little” over the last two years while 31 percent argued that the level of dishonesty “stayed the same.”

That’s positive news, but not good enough to make us feel contented.

Each day when we flip through the pages of newspapers, browse through news website pages, and listen to or watch broadcast news; there is always a corruption story.

In our daily commute, we would see a traffic enforcer or a policeman mulcting drivers of public transport or private vehicles, or sidewalk vendors and hawkers.

The same Transparency International survey showed that nearly 70 percent of the respondents perceived the Philippine National Police (PNP) as the most dishonest institution.

Corruption by employees and officials of agencies having to do with business licences and permits, and taxes likewise abound.

Perhaps that’s why 64 percent of the respondents believe that corruption in government is “a serious problem.”

On the day that news about the survey result was published in the newspapers, my boss at The Manila Times College (TMTC), Dr. Isagani Cruz, was unbelieving.

“Mula nang naging pangulo si PNoy, apat na beses na akong hiningan ng suhol ng mga kawani ng gobyerno [at apat na beses din akong tumanggi, kaya pinaghintay ako nang napakatagal bago natapos ang aking mga papeles]: Minsan sa Customs, minsan sa Manila City Hall, at dalawang beses sa Quezon City Hall. Hindi totoo na nawawala na ang korupsyon,” he wrote in his Facebook status.

I have heard similar complaints from relatives and friends who are dealing with city hall for business taxes, permits and licenses.

Just a few days ago, I was awakened by a call from an aunt whose friend wanted to build a house but could not get the necessary permits from the engineering department of a city in Metro Manila because she did not want to give a bribe.

Last week, another relative was fuming after receiving a receipt from a city treasurer showing P50,000 tax payment when the actual amount she gave was P100,000.

A friend in another city was asked to pay an initial amount of P200,000 and a second payment of P150,000 but only the second payment was receipted.

The victims said they could not complain because doing so would mean higher assessment, or their applications would pass through the eye of a needle.

Corruptions in the lower echelons of the bureaucracy, and in the local government units are putting to shame President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” battle cry.

As the TI survey showed, the administration’s efforts in fighting corruption in the last two years were seen as “neither effective nor ineffective” by 31 percent of the respondents, although another 31 percent claimed they had an impact in curbing dishonest practices in the system.

The survey covered 1,000 Filipinos across the country between September 2012 and March 2013.

This was part of Transparency International’s “Global Corruption Barometer,” with 114,000 people responding in 107 countries in the survey of opinions on corruption and which institutions are considered most corrupt.

Three years passed and three more to go. Let’s listen to President Aquino’s SONA and see what more he wants to do.

Comments are welcome at tvalderama@yahoo.com

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