By DR. FLORANGEL ROSARIO BRAID
After months of speculation and consultation with various allies, the President finally decided on a time-sharing speakership by appointing Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with Rep. Martin Romualdez as House majority leader. Although controversial, it may, from his viewpoint, be a way to end squabble as well as address his favored legislation.
He announces as priority, Charter change by 2022. “While this could include federalism, my priority is to combat corruption primarily by the rich,” he adds. “The military may stage a coup as they are annoyed by corruption. Me, I want to go home to Davao,” saying he is tired of seeing what is now happening.
Of course he had said this before. Thus, no one takes the statement seriously. He is also preparing for his 3rd State of the Nation Address on the 22ndwhich marks the opening of the 18th Congress.
What are the expectations of the Filipino people? Perhaps we should look back to the 2018 SONA to see what thus far had been accomplished. He vowed then
“Nnot to waver in his commitment to decisively address nation’s collective challenges.” Following is the gist of his SONA:
- War against illegal drugs – Still ongoing with local and international calls for a stop to extrajudicial killings.
- Focus on “human lives, not human rights” – HR advocates counter, saying that human rights is primarily directed to saving human lives.
- Corruption – unstoppable, and, as he continues to reiterate, is clearly manifest, especially among the very rich.
- Efficiency in delivery of services and elimination of red tape. Laws on ease in doing business and safeguards have been passed but much more has to be done because of urgent need to attract foreign investment.
- Fulfillment of his promise for Mindanao – passage and signing of the Bangsamoro Organic law, a promising step.
- Address terrorism –The latest Sulu suicide attacks suspected to be ISIS-influenced. Ccontinues to be a threat.
- An independent foreign policy – Managing differences and forging energized relationship with China. The Recto Bank incident involving 22 fishermen whose boat was rammed and abandoned by a Chinese vessel, is another evidence to show why we need to seek varied alternatives to assert our sovereign rights.
- Response to problems of migrant workers and OFWS – House Bill 9202 mandates DOH to establish a hospital for OFWs.
- Regularization of over 300,000 workers – No end to ENDO or contractualization as yet.
- A trust fund for coconut farmers – Although he wanted this passed, he eventually vetoed the P100-billion trust fund passed by Congress.
- A 3rd telco player to promote a level playing and improve delivery of telecommunication services. This has been implemented and the Secretary of Information and Communication Technology appointed.
- Law on free higher education signed for implementation – now being implemented in state colleges and universities.
- Salary increases for men in uniform – currently being implemented.
- Reduce environmental hazards – Boracay has been cleaned and mining laws enacted,but still a lack of political will in combating climate change.
- Subsidies to the poor – Institutionalized “Pantawid” or 4 P’s and addressed health risks by improving health care system through passage of the Universal Health Care law.
- Tax reforms through TRAIN law – Implementation has been controversial. While some sectors had benefitted, especially from the Amnesty law, the marginalized have yet to feel its impact on their wellbeing.
- Charter change and federalism – A controversial proposal as surveys show that a majority of Filipinos reject Charter change or a shift to a federal structure. If, however, this push for change succeeds, the preference expressed is that of a Constitutional Convention over an Assembly.
Will the President end with a similar quote he used in his 2018 SONA? This states: “I do the very best I know how – the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end.”
And is he willing to revise those that did not work or which are not in consonance with the popular will?
As shown here, and in more comprehensive analysis of government performance, the President has chalked up some enviable achievements. An unexpected positive development is the recent election of young and dynamic local government leaders who appear to possess political will in effecting change in vital governance concerns. What is important is for him and other leaders to keep their ears and eyes open to voices from below, especially from the less-advantaged among us.
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