MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 July) – In his second State of the Nation Address President Benigno S. Aquino III made it appear that he has gained a headway in the fight against corruption, the supposed cornerstone of his administration. He sought maximum effect by citing transactions entered into by the previous administration where huge sums were apparently wasted or would have been wasted had his government not acted to stop those deals in time. One example that drew both shock and amused reactions was the P1 billion in Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation funds spent on coffee alone.
If one cares to connect the dots he would notice that the speech was just the conclusion of a sequence of events that intended to boost Aquino’s image as a leader who is really serious in going after grafters.
Days before the Sona, plunder cases were filed against former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as well as some officials of her administration. Expectedly the Arroyo camp dismissed the moves as political vendetta.
In the Senate, Arroyo’s appointees to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were having a hard time explaining questionable disbursements and a multimillion-peso project that did not undergo public bidding. Particularly intriguing is the P325-million intelligence fund. Upon inquiry the senators learned that it was supposedly used for purposes that duplicated police work and as blood money to save some overseas Filipino workers from death row.
On Tuesday last week, Lintang Bedol, former Maguindanao election supervisor resurfaced to say he was now ready to reveal what he knew about the 2004 and 2007 elections in his province. His impending revelation, granting he can produce enough evidence, further endangers the position of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, whose victory in 2007 is being questioned by lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III. More important, it may rekindle debates on whether Arroyo was a legitimate president.
These and other alleged anomalies committed during the Arroyo administration that were woven into the 13-page speech conveyed the obvious message that it’s meant to slam Aquino’s predecessor.
Addressing corruption is vital to effective and efficient governance. But prosecuting and jailing grafters and plunderers is only part of the solution. A prison sentence for the guilty is no substitute for tangible programs where public funds should be put in good use.
Unfortunately the Sona failed to outline a clear policy direction in both the economic and political aspects. There was no mention of Aquino’s priority legislative agenda. Developments in and plans for the peace processes with the communist and Moro rebel groups were conspicuously absent. Except for the worn-out line that he would embark on planting more trees, the speech was silent on environment protection and proposed measures to mitigate the impact of climate change like the periodic flooding in many parts of the country.
Last Monday’s Sona was arguably the last grand venue for Aquino to blast at the misdeeds of Arroyo and the officials who served her. He can’t possibly resort to the same tactic next year, as the people by then would expect more concrete achievements especially in the economic sphere. He has to deliver and not just keep heaping blame on the past. If he fails to do this, only the recipients of the conditional cash transfer program will be there to applaud him. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])