• Time to be humble but firm

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    20THE guessing game about the issues President Benigno Aquino 3rd will take up in his sixth and last state of the nation address (Sona) ends today as he finally delivers his speech before a joint session of the 16th Congress.

    Critics must already have prepared statements scrutinizing the President’s pronouncements as pure rhetoric, more on words than action, and the like. All these are so predictable, especially when you have been listening to the Sona every year whoever the Chief Executive is.

    I don’t know if the President can still pull a surprise in his farewell Sona. His formal announcement of his anointed candidate does not seem to surprise anymore because some eager parties had already preempted him.

    He is expected to lay down his programs in the last 12 months of his presidency and bid goodbye, just like what his mother did on her last Sona in 1992. What could probably be a surprise is if he tells the nation that he would run in the next election for a lower position, say, vice president or go back to the Senate. But that possibility appears remote.

    He must have been counting the days he would be out of office, so he could go out and do what pleases him without the prying eyes of media and critics.

    It is predictable that the Sona would dwell on the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, also known as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT). It is defined as a human development measure of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children aged 0-18.

    In short, it extends dole outs to poor families in the form of cash allowances for the tuition, and health checks of children aged o to 18.

    It is patterned after the conditional cash transfer (CCT) schemes in Latin American and African countries, which have lifted millions of people around the world from poverty.

    However, recent reports said about P19 billion of the CCT did not go to the intended beneficiaries. I expect the President would address this issue; what had been done to correct the kinks and if anybody had been held accountable for it.

    During his first Sona in 2010, the CCT was the centerpiece of his program of government. He vowed the fund would ease the financial burden of poor Filipinos. He delivered his promise as the CCT budget has more than doubled from P29.19 billion in 2011 to P62.32 billion this year, as shown in the annual budget programs.

    In his previous Sona, he showcased some success stories behind the CCT. By now, there must have been an honest to goodness accounting and auditing of the multi-billion-peso program that pinpointed its strengths and weaknesses.

    Instead of highlighting only the success of the program, it would probably be a humbling act for the President to acknowledge its weaknesses and demonstrate a firm resolve to make sure that the financial assistance goes to the genuinely poor families, and not to those who happen to know somebody who knows somebody who has access to the fund.

    On infrastructure, the President would probably talk about the recently-inaugurated Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX), also known as the Daang-Hari-South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) Link Road.

    The P2-billion road extending four kilometers with four lanes is the first infrastructure project auctioned off by the Aquino administration under the public-private partnership (PPP) framework.

    The road passes through the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) reservation that connects Bacoor, Cavite province, to SLEx.

    Remember the road project that Aquino’s drumbeaters used against then Senator Manny Villar? That is it! What Aquino’s campaign handlers used to malign and bring down Villar, a rival to the presidency in 2010, is now part of a showcase of the administration’s success in infrastructure development.

    Well, as Joseph Estrada, former president and now mayor of Manila, once said: “weather, weather lang.”

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