Aquino’s 2nd SONA highlights anti-corruption drive

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/25 July) – President Benigno S. Aquino III’s second State of the Nation Address dwelt heavily on his government’s campaign to go after allegedly anomalous transactions especially those committed under the previous administration.

Aquino said they have uncovered many anomalies in financial transactions committed under the previous administration.

He particularly cited the practices of government-owned and controlled corporations like the Philippine National Construction Corporation that had reportedly drained the public coffers. He said PNCC’s top officials gave themselves millions of pesos in bonuses even if the company was already deep in debt.

He said the same officials did not remit their collections after their franchise had lapsed in 2007, and in the first six months of 2010, allotted to themselves bonuses which were “double the amount of their bonuses from 2005-2009”.

Aquino also said they discovered that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation spent P1 billion on coffee alone. He said that at the price of P100 per cup it means PAGCOR officials drank 10 million cups of coffee.

He did not say the number of years that the amount was used.

The President said that for this year the government has adopted zero-based budgeting that has reportedly ended “many wasteful programs”. He mentioned a “food-for-school program with no proper targeting of beneficiaries” and the P18.7-billion project to remove 12 million cubic meters of silt in Laguna de Bay.

Aquino also cited cuts in rice importation. He said that before he became president the country imported 2.3 million metric tons of rice which was reportedly a million metric ton more than what was actually needed.

“We even had to pay extra for warehouses to store the rice acquired through excessive importation,” he said.

He added the Philippines was able to reduce its rice shortage of 1.3 million metric tons to 660,000 metric tons by increasing production by 15.6 percent. He said the increase in production was the result of using better seedlings and careful and efficient spending on irrigation.

He said the country envisions an end to “over-importation that only serves to benefit the selfish few”.

Aquino said the government will procure weapons and other equipment for the military and police in bulk to get a significant discount.

“This goes to show how far we can go with good governance; we can buy equipment at good prices, without having to place envelopes in anyone’s pockets,” he said.

Aquino brushed aside criticisms that he was allegedly becoming personal in his effort to go after grafters, in particular against officials of the previous administration.

“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable – whoever they may be – is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption,” he said.

He said that within the year he expects the filing of the first major case against “the corrupt and their accomplices”.

“And these will be major cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty,” he vowed.

During the Sona he also announced the appointment of retired Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman.

“We have consistently emphasized the need to have an Ombudsman who shall act for and in the interest of the Filipino people, one who shall not let Garcias and Bolantes go scot free without answering to the people,” the Palace said of Morales’ appointment in a statement released shortly after the Sona. (MindaNews)