President Aquino celebrated the second anniversary of his inaugural. I still remember that day. I was sitting behind my computer, listening, and watching like many of you as the then President-elect, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo trooped to the Quirino Grandstand for Aquino’s oath taking. And like many of my friends, could hardly believe it to be real. To put it all in context: there was a sense like a new day opened.
(See GovPh for primer on Inaugural of Philippine Presidents).
In the last two years, we’ve seen some of the changes, not always what we expect it to be. The wang-wangs started it all. A sign, and symbol that those in power are no more covered by the law and of common decency as the ordinary man. It was the proper tone to take against the lavishness of the previous administration. It was one quick way to bring down government officials to the level of everyman.
Sometimes, we were disappointed at how slow change has been. Sometimes we found it incredulous that the old ways are still there. It is, with corruption in the background, still humming, beaten back. With traditional politics still governing much of our national life. Yes, it has taken a step back from the daily affairs of our nation; waiting for a moment to strike back. For example, we now see UNA on the forefront, offering an alternative to the politics in preparation for the next war in 2016. As if the change we’ve begun in 2010 can at any moment slip.
Many will naturally argue… what change? We’ve a budget that is slowing being corrected. It isn’t sexy, and worthy of media milage not unlike the President’s love life (or lack thereof). The nation has successfully outed the former Ombudsman, and impeached former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. The country has started to institute education reform, in the form of the K+12 program. In terms of weather and disaster management, the administration has taken many gains. And under this administration, the international reservers of the country ballooned to over 70 billion dollars.
There are many more places for real change to happen. For most people it is about this huge thunderbolt change. Much of what has been transformed lie in the background, slow churning, slowly brewing like small fixes in a house that looked old and run down. A coat of paint here and there, or a change of doorknob are the small changes that needed to take place.
Yes, there are huge, monumental faux pass. Mostly because of tired old men of politics like that Bus incident, where a gunman held tourists hostage. It showed how much ineptitude our politics has brought us to. And whatever euphoria we enjoyed in the months and weeks before that inaugural, the hostage drama brought us down to Earth. There was much to do.
There were other places of change that needed to happen as well. Like the tragedy that befell Northern Mindanao when a torrent of rain killed over a thousand people. It shook the nation to its core. In a nation where tropical storms is a natural occurrence, it was a starling reminder of how much we’ve still got to do to make sure the loss of life is stemmed. Doesn’t it please you that a project like Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) is in place?
Two years under President Aquino, the reproductive health bill still languishes in Congress. No thanks of course to the intense lobbying of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Not entirely the President’s fault, but the age old tired politics do happen. It is hard to change decades of looking at one’s self interest and not of the nation’s future.
The Freedom of Information Act remains a dream, though great strides have taken place. The Government of President Aquino has its own version of the Freedom of Information Bill, and it is a consolidated version of all the FOI bills that came before. It is a bill that aims to make transparency in government real, and easier. It not only makes it easier for citizens to find out about an official’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, but about government contracts as well.
Public-Private Partnership program remain slow to start is picking up steam. Checkout their website for various stages of the project, and what projects to expect down the road.
And yes, I dream of Internet Freedom, but that was never a part of Aquino’s campaign promise; nor has he ever indicated it was a priority, which I totally get, since much of our people hardly understand it, and experts (locally, and elsewhere) haven’t agreed to anything at all. It remains my hope that someone can put together an Internet Freedom Act, and set the tone and direction for the future.
Just a few weeks ago, the Senate found Renato C. Corona, guilty of violating the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. We saw Corona’s attitude: high and mighty, and thinking he wasn’t wrong. We now need every government official to change their tune. And we now need the administration to lay down the law on those who did make a mistake.
One of the biggest changes that I hope would be accomplished by the time the President steps down from office is a realization by our people that change cannot be done by government alone. In fact, the nation we envision our country to be one day is partly driven by government, and partly driven by the private sector. The change of attitude, of perspective, of that refusal to give up— these things can only come from people. And that if we want this change, and if we want to ensure that these institutional reforms stick, then we must make it so hard to go back to the old ways. The Deputy Press Secretary, Abigail Valte aptly said it. “While much has been achieved, much remains to be done.” This is what two years under the yellow sun has been about.