“Who will take over in 2016? Is there anyone who can be as honest and straightforward to take his place and continue the work that he has started?”
by Ducky Paredes
President Benigno Simon C. Aquino gave the best State of the Nation Address (SONA) ever. Yet, looked at in another way, he did not say much; in fact, he said nothing new, We all knew what he has been doing the last two and some years of his six-year term — mostly that he has been on his Daang Matuwid — the straight and Narrow Path — all along. Thus, the fact that he continues on that path and will promises to continue to do so for the rest of his term is not surprising.
What is a revelation is that the path has been a good one for the country. It brought us an improved economy, without increasing taxes and lot of other benefits, including LGUs that have reformed their ways, too, after the way that the national government did.
This is his answer to an early observation he notes in his speech: “I cannot help but remember a woman I spoke with during one of my first house-to-house campaigns. She lamented: “It won’t matter who wins these elections. Nothing will change. I was poor when our leaders campaigned, I am poor now that they are in office, and I will still be poor when they step down.” This is a grievance echoed by many: “Our leaders didn’t care about us then, our leaders don’t care about us now, and our leaders will not care about us tomorrow.”
He cites changes in Public Works: “We are eliminating the patronage politics that had been prevalent in DPWH, and replacing it with a culture in which merit prevails. All projects must have work programs; we will require those involved in projects to submit well thought out plans for consideration, so that each project complements the other. We have also instituted an honest and transparent bidding process to provide equal opportunity to interested contractors.
“Because of this, we have already saved 2.5 billion pesos, and expect to save 6 to 7 billion by the end of this year. The most important thing, however, is that now, we can count on well-paved roads—as opposed to the fragile pothole-ridden paths that our people had grown used to. Once, we believed that the system in the DPWH was impossible to fix; but look—it’s possible, and we’re fixing it.”
And in agriculture: “Before we came into office in 2010, the Philippines imported 2.3 million metric tons of rice, which was already a million metric tons more than the 1.3 million that we needed. We even had to pay extra for warehouses to store the rice acquired through excessive importation.
“How many years have we been over-importing rice? Many Filipinos thought that there was nothing we could do about it. “We proved them wrong in the span of a year. What was once an estimated yearly shortage of 1.3 million metric tons is down to 660,000—that’s almost half of the original amount. Even with our buffer of 200,000 metric tons as contingency against natural calamities, it is still significantly less than what was once the norm.
“Our success in this sector was not brought about by mere luck. This is simply the result of doing things right: using the most effective types of seedlings, and careful and efficient spending on irrigation. In the past year, we irrigated an additional 11,611 hectares of fields, not to mention the near 212,000 hectares of land we were able to rehabilitate. The result: a 15.6 percent increase in rice production.
“We envision two things: first, an end to over-importation that only serves to benefit the selfish few. Second: we want rice self-sufficiency—that the rice served on every Filipino’s dinner table is planted here, harvested here, and purchased here.”
And for our soldiers and policemen: “The average salary of a common PO1 in Metro Manila is around 13,000 pesos. Around 4,000 pesos or about a third of their salaries goes directly to paying the rent. Another third goes to food, and the final third is all that is left for electricity and water bills, commuting, tuition fees, medicine, and everything else. Ideally, their salaries match their expenses—but this is not always the case. Those whose salaries are not enough would probably resort to taking out some loans. What happens when the interest piles up and they end up having to spend even more of their salaries? Will they still be able to do the right thing when tempted with an opportunity to make a quick buck?
“This is why, this July, we have followed through on the housing promise we made in February. We were able to award 4,000 Certificates of Entitlement to Lot Allocation. This is only the first batch of the 21,800 houses we will have constructed by the end of the year. Awarding our men in uniform these houses will turn their 4,000 peso rent expense into an initial 200 peso per month payment for a house that is all theirs. The cash they once paid for rent can now be used for other needs. “I hear that there are still more than a thousand houses left, so for our policemen and our soldiers who have not yet submitted their papers, this is the last call for this batch of houses. But do not worry, because this housing program will continue next year, covering even more people and more regions. The NHA is already preparing the sites for housing projects in Visayas and Mindanao, with an expanded list of beneficiaries that will also include employees of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and of the Bureau of Fire Protection.”
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The speech was long — over an hour. All it did was to point out that long-festering problems had ben solved with the simplest of solutions. It proved to me that we had chosen the right man in 2010 to lead this nation. I expected a speech that would make excuses for tasks still undone. Instead, it was a triumphant one — the speech of one who had proven himself right and everyone else wrong.
One man doing the right thing could make everything right.
Now, I worry. Who will take over in 2016? Is there anyone who can be as honest and straightforward to take his place and continue the work that he has started? Or, will it be back to the way it was before Ninoy and Cory’s only son continued the work they started? Will we have a new standard of public service by then or will it be a return to the old ways?
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hvp 07.23.12Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org