Nearly a year after assuming his post, President Benigno Aquino III announced on Sunday that the first steps have been taken to free Filipinos from the twin threats of poverty and corruption.
Aquino, who gave a preview of sorts of his State of the Nation Address (SONA), also defended from critics what he called the “reforms" that his administration has pursued.
“Sinasabi ko sa inyo ngayon sa ngalan ng buong Pilipinas, ipinahayag ko ang pagbubukas ng isang bagong yugto sa ating kasaysayan kung saan ang bawa’t Pilipino ay mapipitas [na] ang bunga ng kanyang pinaghirapan, kung saan ang batas ay ipatutupad nang patas sa mahirap man o sa mayaman, kung saan maaring panghawakan ng lahat ang sariling kapalaran kung saan ang kalayaan ay may katuwang na karangalan," he said after the flag-raising ceremony marking the 113th Philippine Independence Day in Kawit in Cavite.
(I am telling you now, we are opening a new chapter in our history where Filipinos can partake of the fruits of their labor, where the law will be applied equally to rich and poor, where every one can determine his or her own honorable destiny.)
“Siguro naman nagkakaisa tayo sa katotohanang nakapagtanim na tayo ng pagbabago (Perhaps we can all agree that the seeds of change have been planted)," he added.
“Ito ang malayang Pilipinas, tayo ang malayang Pilipino, hiwalay... sa kambal na salot ng korapsyon at kahirapan, sumasalubong sa kinabukasan nang taas noo at puno ng kagalakan," he said.
(This is a free Philippines, we are a people who has broken free from the shackles of the twin threats of poverty and corruption. We welcome the future with heads held high and with joy in our hearts.)
He scored the rhetoric of past administrations, which all failed in their attempts to quash poverty and corruption.
This is because corruption had prevented whatever gains of past administrations from reaching the people, he said.
“Hangga’t di nauubos ang korap hindi mauubos ang mahirap. Kung gusto natin palayain ang bayan kailangan natin palayain ang gobyerno at ang sarili mula sa kasakiman. Matagal na tayong nagtiis sa sitwasyon kung saan ang dapat nakikipagdigma sa kahirapan ang siya ring pinag-uugatan nito," he added.
According to him, true independence is freedom from hunger, poverty, ignorance and lack of opportunity. True freedom is freedom with dignity and honor.
He also said that while Filipinos are divided on many issues, they share in the conviction that their situation now must improve.
“Kampi man sa Dallas o Miami, pro o anti responsible parenthood man, iisa ang sentimyento nating Pilipino, hindi natin gusto ang sitwasyon. Alam nating may mas maganda pa rito at gusto natin marating ang mas magandang yan," he said.
Last year, Aquino based his presidential bid on an anti-graft platform.
Second-class citizens no more
But for now, Aquino said Filipinos can take pride that they are no longer treated or considered second-class citizens.
He said Brunei has asked Filipinos to help in product design and branding while Cambodia had invited Philippine firms to invest there.
“Tapos na ang panahon kung kailian meron pang pagkahiya sa pagiging Pilipino. Taas noo natin maihahayag, Pilipino ako kaya kaya na akong tulungan ng aking gobyerno. Kaya na akong tulungan ang kapwa kong Pilipino. At kaya ko na rin tumulong sa buong mundo," he said.
Aquino also gave a preview of his SONA, where he enumerated the nation’s gains after nearly one year in office. These included: The passage of a measure postponing the Aug. 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and synchronizing them with the May 2013 elections;
The signing into law of a measure limiting the perks of officials of government-owned and controlled corporations;
The pocket open skies policy that aims to boost Philippine tourism;
The continuation of the conditional cash transfer program for poor families.“Ang mga batas na naipasa natin – ang postponement ng ARMM eleksyon at ang maitama ang pasahod sa GOCC; ang pagtanggal sa mga tiwali sa pwesto, ang mga polisiyang maraming kumokontra nguni’t mas maraming matutulungan, ang proyekto at department na binuhusan ng pondo mula edukasyon hanggang pabahay ng sundalo at kapulisan, mula kalusugan hanggang sa conditional cash transfer program, lahat yan ginawa natin para ipamana ang tunay na kahulugan ng kalayaan sa ating mga kababayan," he said.
(The laws we passed to postpone the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM elections and the one that limits the perks of government owned and controlled corporations [GOCC] officials; the policies that met with criticism, the pouring of funds to education and health, all these are meant to give the next generation true independence.)
Aquino also said reforms are being put in place to prevent a repeat of the “pabaon" and “pasalubong" in the military where generals get truckloads of cash while soldiers put up with tattered combat boots.
Aquino also said that while the government plans to import 860,000 tons of rice this year, it is much less than the 2.380 million tons imported in the last year.
For next year, he said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala had promised him the country will import no more than 500,000 metric tons of rice.
He said the government will make sure Filipino farmers benefit from the rice import.
Arroyo administration, critics
Aquino also lashed out anew at his predecessor Gloria Arroyo, saying he is still undoing the corruption in the last decade.
“[Pinasakay] ang taumbayan sa bangkang papel para lunurin sa dagat ng kasinungalingan at katiwalian. Gaano katagal pinapasan ng mga sundalo at kapulisan ang mahal na upa? Matutulog sa lupa kung may engkwentro at pag-uwi nila parang pinukol ng granada ang kanilang tahanan," he said
(We were taken on a paper-boat ride and drowned in a sea of lies and corruption. How long soldiers and policemen had suffered from high rent? They sleep on the ground during encounters and come home to a house that looked as if it was hit by a grenade blast.)
He was referring to Arroyo’s “bangkang papel" gimmick in her first SONA in 2001, where she said Filipinos from poor families placed their dreams on paper boats.
Unfazed by brickbats
Aquino also said he was unfazed by brickbats thrown his way by his critics, including his love life and his purchase of a “secondhand" sports car using his own money.
He said his main concern is results and not “papogi" (image-building).
“At kung sa tingin ng iba napakalaking kasalanan ang aking panliligaw habang binata naman ako, segundamanong sasakyan gamit ang sarili kong pera o maski ang pagkanta na kung minsan ay sintunado walang problema sa akin yan. Ang mahalaga sa akin ang mahalaga sa taumbayan ay resulta, di pagpapapogi di headline at mas lalong hindi ang pagkapit sa kapangyarihan," he said.
(If my critics think my love life, purchase of a car with my own money and singing off-key are mortal sins, I have no problem with that. To me, what is important is results, not clinging to power.) — LBG, GMA News