JUNE 30, 2016 – The “Daang Matuwid” journey has come to an end.
After six years of championing reforms to address poverty and corruption, President Aquino bows out from office on a regular working day with a mix of accomplishments and letdowns.
“It has been an honor to serve the Filipino nation. I will leave behind a country that is better, more progressive and peaceful than when we found it,” the President said in Filipino in a recent public address.
Aquino is proud to achieve for the country a strong economy, greater accountability in government, and improved social services, among others.
With the economy growing an average of 6.2 percent in the past six years and renewed investor confidence, the Philippines has become the Rising Tiger of Asia discarding its old title — the Sick Man of Asia.
Aquino also overcame opposition to pass landmark legislations such as higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products and the controversial reproductive health law. The government’s cash subsidy program has helped 4.6 million poor families while the health care program alleviated the plight of more than 93 million Filipinos.
“I hope we really move on from success to success. I hope we don’t have a regression to the bad times that this country has had,” Aquino added.
Asked about his greatest achievement, Aquino often said it was transforming the attitude of the people. If there was resignation, dejection, and apathy before, many have become caring and active partners in nation-building.
The Aquino administration however had its share of challenges — from the alleged slow government response after super-typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, defending its territories in the West Philippine Sea to the lingering problem of poverty despite economic gains.
Other issues that dealt a severe blow on the Aquino presidency were the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which was largely declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and the bungled Mamasapano operation that left 44 Special Action Force troopers dead in the successful mission to neutralize the most wanted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Aquino drew criticisms of incompetence and insensitivity when confronted with natural disasters and other crises. He was also under siege for allegedly tolerating government officials, especially his friends, found wanting in the discharge of their duties.
Six tough and fruitful years
Returning Senator Francis Pangilinan, Aquino’s Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization doffs his hat to the “six tough and fruitful years” under Aquino’s stewardship.
Pangilinan said President Aquino has been a reluctant leader “but his reluctance gave way to a quiet decisiveness against corruption and for good governance.”
“His administration has not been perfect, but the perfection of our democracy, of our republic lies in each of us,” he said.
Neophyte senator Sherwin Gatchalian likewise credited Aquino for his efforts at fighting corruption in the country.
“PNoy tried his best to fight corruption and change the culture of impunity in our country. In my opinion he was successful in showing to the public that honesty is still possible in government and (it) started with him,” Gatchalian said.
“However, he neglected the simple but important things to the ordinary Filipino. Simple things such as the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) woes, a symbol of apathy towards the people. I give him 6 out of 10,” he said when asked how he would grade Aquino’s performance in the last six years.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito is generous and gave the Aquino government a grade of 8.5 for its over-all performance in running the country.
“But in terms of infrastructure development, I give his administration a low mark of 4,” Ejercito said.
Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said, “as far as PNoy is concerned, I have no doubts about his sincerity and performance. Some people he has appointed and people below them are the disappointment. Hindi tuwid ang daan (They were not on the straight path),” Sotto said. Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, however would rather leave it up to God and the Filipino people to judge the outgoing and incoming presidents.
“God, the Filipino people, history and time will tell of the legacy they will leave behind. The greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time, the strong foundations and institutions they leave behind, the long-term peace unity and prosperity, the future and welfare of our most precious resource: Our children,” Honasan said. (With reports from Mario B. Casayuran, Madel Sabater Namit, and Hannah Torregoza)