MANILA, Philippines – Finance Secretary Cesar Purisma is the Aquino administration’s richest Cabinet member with a net worth of over P252 million while Education Secretary Armin Luistro is the least moneyed with only over P89,000.
The figures were based on the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) submitted by the two officials and 16 other Cabinet members to the Commission on Appointments. Luistro declared his annual gross salary at P989,496.
Purisima, one of the campaign contributors of President Aquino, listed business interests – in partnership with his wife Maria Corazon – in at least four corporations.
The Finance secretary owns Filhouse Gem Inc., which he acquired on Feb. 24, 1997.
Purisima’s wife listed 20 to 23.53 percent share in MHC Commercial Corp., Zurcaled Realty and Development, and Archimedes Realty and Development Corp.
Purisima’s real properties include a condominium in Wack Wack Tower in Mandaluyong City; a unit in Villa Milagrosa Townhouse in San Pedro, Laguna; a house and lot in Ayala Alabang which he co-owned with his father and two sisters, and a condominium in Pinecrest, Tagaytay.
The second richest in the Aquino Cabinet is Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo whose net worth for this year is more than P151 million. He listed his wife, Rowena, as being a shareholder in Rights Security.
Following Domingo was Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras with a net worth of over P129 million.
Almendras reported owning a BMW 520-I worth P3.7 million, which he acquired in 2005 in addition to three other cars.
In his SALN, Almendras also listed P3.58 million in club shares and P9.264 million in various shares of stocks, and bank deposits/placement/foreign current placements amounting to P57.825 million.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, former congressman of the second district of Quezon, has a total net worth of more than P87 million comprising 10 real properties, a number of vehicles and some investments.
Alcala has a real estate mortgage worth P11,447 million, three car loans with various banks as well as personal loan.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson listed net worth of more than P84 million.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona, former executive director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, reported total net worth of over P77 million.
Ona included in his assets P74.441 million in stocks and investments, P2.596 million in motor vehicles, P1.317 million in cash and jewelry, and P500,000 in medical instruments.
Ona’s liabilities included P5.2 million in personal loans and income tax payables.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo reported more than P53 million net worth.
Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim listed close to P47 million net worth.
Lim reported being a shareholder in the Aldaba-Lim Foundation; Phil. Playhouse Inc; The Ancient Pergamom Holdings Inc., among other firms.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has a net worth of over P23 million listing among others investments in Tagaytay Highlands, Malarayat Golf and Country Club, and Great Cakes Inc, and a number of real estate properties.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. listed his net worth at P16.081 million with no liability.
Ochoa included in his assets a condominium unit in Quezon City, a house and lot in Ferndale Homes also in Quezon City and a lot in Pulilan, Bulacan.
National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia reported P15.6 million in net worth.
Agrarian Reform Virgilio de los Reyes has a net worth of P15.042 million. De los Reyes listed several real properties in Lian and Balayan, Batangas; Obando in Bulacan, and Malabon totaling P8.786 million.
Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo’s net worth totaled P5.7 million while Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has P3.2 million.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman has a total net worth of P2.125 million. Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje’s SALN showed his net worth at P3.2 million, but he did not submit SALN documents to the CA because his name was not submitted for confirmation by the Palace. The CA received no SALN from Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Socioeconomic Secretary Cayetano Paderanga.
So far, the CA has only started the confirmation hearings on Luistro and Almendras. The CA has set a confirmation hearing for Lim on Dec. 8. – Aurea Calica
In his September 28 Philippine Star column, former Senator Ernesto M. Maceda cites four mistakes that he claims members of the Aquino cabinet committed within 24 hours, claiming that “signs of incompetence are piling up”. He also warns that there are hard times ahead for the country.
With regard to the President’s recent US visit, he questions the move to hire a PR firm, saying:
President Aquino confirmed that a US PR firm has been hired to help him on his US visit. He didn’t give the cost but admitted it was “kind of huge”. In an effort to justify the expense, he said the PR firm helped get the $434 million from the Millennium Development Fund. It was also claimed that the PR firm helped get the New York Times and Wall Street Journal interviews. Based on my experience as Ambassador, you don’t need a PR firm to get those interviews. The Philippine Mission to the UN can easily arrange that. And definitely, the $434 million MDF grant was due to compliance with so many requirements accomplished earlier. The US PR firm has nothing to do with that.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay; Chief Justice Renato Corona; Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps; my fellow workers in government;
Mga minamahal kong kababayan:
Sa bawat sandali po ng pamamahala ay nahaharap tayo sa isang sangandaan.
Sa isang banda po ay ang pagpili para sa ikabubuti ng taumbayan. Ang pagtanaw sa interes ng nakakarami; ang pagkapit sa prinsipyo; at ang pagiging tapat sa sinumpaan nating tungkulin bilang lingkod-bayan. Ito po ang tuwid na daan.
Sa kabilang banda ay ang pag-una sa pansariling interes. Ang pagpapaalipin sa pulitikal na konsiderasyon, at pagsasakripisyo ng kapakanan ng taumbayan. Ito po ang baluktot na daan.
Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad.
Sa unang tatlong linggo ng aming panunungkulan, marami po kaming natuklasan. Nais ko pong ipahayag sa inyo ang iilan lamang sa mga namana nating suliranin at ang ginagawa naming hakbang para lutasin ang mga ito.
Sulyap lamang po ito; hindi pa ito ang lahat ng problemang haharapin natin. Inilihim at sadyang iniligaw ang sambayanan sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa.
PROBLEMA SA BUDGET
Sa unang anim na buwan ng taon, mas malaki ang ginastos ng gobyerno kaysa sa pumasok na kita. Lalong lumaki ang deficit natin, na umakyat na sa 196.7 billion pesos. Sa target na kuleksyon, kinapos tayo ng 23.8 billion pesos; ang tinataya namang gastos, nalagpasan natin ng 45.1 billion pesos.
Ang budget po sa 2010 ay 1.54 trillion pesos.
Nasa isandaang bilyong piso o anim at kalahating porsyento na lang ng kabuuan ang malaya nating magagamit para sa nalalabing anim na buwan ng taong ito.
Halos isang porsyento na lang po ng kabuuang budget ang natitira para sa bawat buwan.
Saan naman po dinala ang pera?
Naglaan ng dalawang bilyong piso na Calamity Fund bilang paghahanda para sa mga kalamidad na hindi pa nangyayari. Napakaliit na nga po ng pondong ito, ngunit kapapasok pa lang natin sa panahon ng baha at bagyo, 1.4 billion pesos o sitenta porsyento na ang nagastos.
Sa kabuuan ng 108 million pesos para sa lalawigan ng Pampanga, 105 million pesos nito ay napunta sa iisang distrito lamang. Samantala, ang lalawigan ng Pangasinan na sinalanta ng Pepeng ay nakatanggap ng limang milyong piso lamang para sa pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Cosme, na nangyari noong 2008 pa.
Ibinigay po ang pondo ng Pampanga sa buwan ng eleksyon, pitong buwan pagkatapos ng Ondoy at Pepeng. Paano kung bumagyo bukas? Inubos na ang pondo nito para sa bagyong nangyari noong isang taon pa. Pagbabayaran ng kinabukasan ang kasakiman ng nakaraan.
Ganyan din po ang nangyari sa pondo ng MWSS. Kamakailan lamang, pumipila ang mga tao para lang makakuha ng tubig. Sa kabila nito, minabuti pa ng liderato ng MWSS na magbigay ng gantimpala sa sarili kahit hindi pa nababayaran ang pensyon ng mga retiradong empleyado.
Noong 2009, ang buong payroll ng MWSS ay 51.4 million pesos. Pero hindi lang naman po ito ang sahod nila; may mga additional allowances at benefits pa sila na aabot sa 160.1 million pesos. Sa madaling sabi, nakatanggap sila ng 211.5 million pesos noong nakaraang taon. Beinte-kuwatro porsyento lang nito ang normal na sahod, at sitenta’y sais porsyento ang dagdag.
Ang karaniwang manggagawa hanggang 13th month pay plus cash gift lang ang nakukuha. Sa MWSS, aabot sa katumbas ng mahigit sa tatlumpung buwan ang sahod kasama na ang lahat ng mga bonuses at allowances na nakuha nila.
Mas matindi po ang natuklasan natin sa pasahod ng kanilang Board of Trustees. Tingnan po natin ang mga allowances na tinatanggap nila:
Umupo ka lang sa Board of Trustees at Board Committee meeting, katorse mil na. Aabot ng nobenta’y otso mil ito kada buwan. May grocery incentive pa sila na otsenta mil kada taon.
Hindi lang iyon: may mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, at Financial Assistance. May Christmas bonus na, may Additional Christmas Package pa. Kada isa sa mga ito, nobenta’y otso mil.
Sa suma total po, aabot ang lahat ng dalawa’t kalahating milyong piso kada taon sa bawat miyembro ng Board maliban sa pakotse, technical assistance, at pautang. Uulitin ko po. Lahat ng ito ay ibinibigay nila sa kanilang mga sarili habang hindi pa nababayaran ang mga pensyon ng kanilang mga retirees.
Pati po ang La Mesa Watershed ay hindi nila pinatawad. Para magkaroon ng tamang supply ng tubig, kailangang alagaan ang mga watershed. Sa watershed, puno ang kailangan. Pati po iyon na dapat puno ang nakatayo, tinayuan nila ng bahay para sa matataas na opisyal ng MWSS.
Hindi naman sila agad maaalis sa puwesto dahil kabilang sila sa mga Midnight Appointees ni dating Pangulong Arroyo. Iniimbestigahan na natin ang lahat nang ito. Kung mayroon pa silang kahit kaunting hiya na natitira – sana kusa na lang silang magbitiw sa puwesto.
ROAD USERS’ FUND
Pag-usapan naman po natin ang pondo para sa imprastruktura. Tumukoy ang DPWH ng dalawandaan apatnapu’t anim na priority safety projects na popondohan ng Motor Vehicle Users Charge. Mangangailangan po ito ng budget na 425 million pesos.
Ang pinondohan po, dalawampu’t walong proyekto lang. Kinalimutan po ang dalawandaan at labing walong proyekto at pinalitan ng pitumpung proyekto na wala naman sa plano. Ang hininging 425 million pesos, naging 480 million pesos pa, lumaki lalo dahil sa mga proyektong sa piling-piling mga benepisyaryo lang napunta.
Mga proyekto po itong walang saysay, hindi pinag-aralan at hindi pinaghandaan, kaya parang kabuteng sumusulpot.
Tapos na po ang panahon para dito. Sa administrasyon po natin, walang kota-kota, walang tongpats, ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin para sa taumbayan lamang.
Meron pa po tayong natuklasan. Limang araw bago matapos ang termino ng nakaraang administrasyon, nagpautos silang maglabas ng 3.5 billion pesos para sa rehabilitasyon ng mga nasalanta nina Ondoy at Pepeng.
Walumpu’t anim na proyekto ang paglalaanan dapat nito na hindi na sana idadaan sa public bidding. Labingsiyam sa mga ito na nagkakahalaga ng 981 million pesos ang muntik nang makalusot. Hindi pa nailalabas ang Special Allotment Release Order ay pirmado na ang mga kontrata.
Buti na lang po ay natuklasan at pinigilan ito ni Secretary Rogelio Singson ng DPWH. Ngayon po ay dadaan na ang kabuuan ng 3.5 billion pesos sa tapat na bidding, at magagamit na ang pondo na ito sa pagbibigay ng lingap sa mga nawalan ng tahanan dahil kina Ondoy at Pepeng.
Pag-usapan naman natin ang nangyari sa NAPOCOR. Noong 2001 hanggang 2004, pinilit ng gobyerno ang NAPOCOR na magbenta ng kuryente nang palugi para hindi tumaas ang presyo. Tila ang dahilan: pinaghahandaan na nila ang eleksyon.
Dahil dito, noong 2004, sumagad ang pagkakabaon sa utang ng NAPOCOR. Napilitan ang pambansang gobyerno na sagutin ang dalawandaang bilyong pisong utang nito.
Ang inakala ng taumbayan na natipid nila sa kuryente ay binabayaran din natin mula sa kaban ng bayan. May gastos na tayo sa kuryente, binabayaran pa natin ang dagdag na pagkakautang ng gobyerno.
Kung naging matino ang pag-utang, sana’y nadagdagan ang ating kasiguruhan sa supply ng kuryente. Pero ang desisyon ay ibinatay sa maling pulitika, at hindi sa pangangailangan ng taumbayan. Ang taumbayan, matapos pinagsakripisyo ay lalo pang pinahirapan.
Ganito rin po ang nangyari sa MRT. Sinubukan na namang bilhin ang ating pagmamahal. Pinilit ang operator na panatilihing mababa ang pamasahe.
Hindi tuloy nagampanan ang garantiyang ibinigay sa operator na mababawi nila ang kanilang puhunan. Dahil dito, inutusan ang Landbank at Development Bank of the Philippines na bilhin ang MRT.
Ang pera ng taumbayan, ipinagpalit sa isang naluluging operasyon.
Dumako naman po tayo sa pondo ng NFA.
Noong 2004: 117,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply ng Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 900,000 metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit pitong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra pa rin ang binili nila.
Noong 2007: 589,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply sa Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 1.827 million metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit tatlong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra na naman ang binili nila.
Ang masakit nito, dahil sobra-sobra ang binibili nila taun-taon, nabubulok lang pala sa mga kamalig ang bigas, kagaya ng nangyari noong 2008.
Hindi po ba krimen ito, na hinahayaan nilang mabulok ang bigas, sa kabila ng apat na milyong Pilipinong hindi kumakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw?
Ang resulta nito, umabot na sa 171.6 billion pesos ang utang ng NFA noong Mayo ng taong ito.
Ang tinapon na ito, halos puwede na sanang pondohan ang mga sumusunod:
Ang budget ng buong Hudikatura, na 12.7 billion pesos sa taong ito.
Ang Conditional Cash Transfers para sa susunod na taon, na nagkakahalaga ng 29.6 billion pesos.
Ang lahat ng classroom na kailangan ng ating bansa, na nagkakahalaga ng 130 billion pesos.
Kasuklam-suklam ang kalakarang ito. Pera na, naging bato pa.
Narinig po ninyo kung paano nilustay ang kaban ng bayan. Ang malinaw po sa ngayon: ang anumang pagbabago ay magmumula sa pagsiguro natin na magwawakas na ang pagiging maluho at pagwawaldas.
Kaya nga po mula ngayon: ititigil na natin ang paglulustay sa salapi ng bayan. Tatanggalin natin ang mga proyektong mali.
Ito po ang punto ng tinatawag nating zero-based approach sa ating budget. Ang naging kalakaran po, taun-taon ay inuulit lamang ang budget na puno ng tagas. Dadagdagan lang nang konti, puwede na.
Sa susunod na buwan ay maghahain tayo ng budget na kumikilala nang tama sa mga problema, at magtutuon din ng pansin sa tamang solusyon.
Ilan lang ito sa mga natuklasan nating problema. Heto naman po ang ilang halimbawa ng mga hakbang na ginagawa natin.
Nandiyan po ang kaso ng isang may-ari ng sanglaan. Bumili siya ng sasakyang tinatayang nasa dalawampu’t anim na milyong piso ang halaga.
Kung kaya mong bumili ng Lamborghini, bakit hindi mo kayang magbayad ng buwis?
Nasampahan na po ito ng kaso. Sa pangunguna nina Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares at Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, bawat linggo po ay may bago tayong kasong isinasampa kontra sa mga smuggler at sa mga hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis.
Natukoy na rin po ang salarin sa mga kaso nina Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio at Miguel Belen, tatlo sa anim na insidente ng extralegal killings mula nang umupo tayo.
Singkuwenta porsyento po ng mga insidente ng extralegal killings ang patungo na sa kanilang resolusyon.
Ang natitira pong kalahati ay hindi natin tatantanan ang pag-usig hanggang makamit ang katarungan.
Pananagutin natin ang mga mamamatay-tao. Pananagutin din natin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno.
Nagsimula nang mabuo ang ating Truth Commission, sa pangunguna ni dating Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Hahanapin natin ang katotohanan sa mga nangyari diumanong katiwalian noong nakaraang siyam na taon.
Sa loob ng linggong ito, pipirmahan ko ang kauna-unahang Executive Order na nagtatalaga sa pagbuo nitong Truth Commission.
Kung ang sagot sa kawalan ng katarungan ay pananagutan, ang sagot naman sa kakulangan natin sa pondo ay mga makabago at malikhaing paraan para tugunan ang mga pagkatagal-tagal nang problema.
Napakarami po ng ating pangangailangan: mula sa edukasyon, imprastruktura, pangkalusugan, pangangailangan ng militar at kapulisan, at marami pang iba. Hindi kakasya ang pondo para mapunan ang lahat ng ito.
Kahit gaano po kalaki ang kakulangan para mapunan ang mga listahan ng ating pangangailangan, ganado pa rin ako dahil marami nang nagpakita ng panibagong interes at kumpyansa sa Pilipinas.
Ito ang magiging solusyon: mga Public-Private Partnerships. Kahit wala pa pong pirmahang nangyayari dito, masasabi kong maganda ang magiging bunga ng maraming usapin ukol dito.
May mga nagpakita na po ng interes, gustong magtayo ng expressway na mula Maynila, tatahak ng Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, hanggang sa dulo ng Cagayan Valley nang hindi gugugol ang estado kahit na po piso.
Sa larangan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas:
Mayroon po tayong 36,000 nautical miles ng baybayin. Ang mayroon lamang tayo: tatlumpu’t dalawang barko. Itong mga barkong ito, panahon pa ni MacArthur.
May nagmungkahi sa atin, ito ang proposisyon: uupahan po nila ang headquarters ng Navy sa Roxas Boulevard at ang Naval Station sa Fort Bonifacio.
Sagot po nila ang paglipat ng Navy Headquarters sa Camp Aguinaldo. Agaran, bibigyan tayo ng isandaang milyong dolyar. At dagdag pa sa lahat nang iyan, magsusubi pa sila sa atin ng kita mula sa mga negosyong itatayo nila sa uupahan nilang lupa.
Sa madali pong sabi: Makukuha natin ang kailangan natin, hindi tatayo gagastos, kikita pa tayo.
Marami na pong nag-alok at nagmungkahi sa atin, mula lokal hanggang dayuhang negosyante, na magpuno ng iba’t ibang pangangailangan.
Mula sa mga public-private partnerships na ito, lalago ang ating ekonomiya, at bawat Pilipino makikinabang. Napakaraming sektor na matutulungan nito.
Maipapatayo na po ang imprastrukturang kailangan natin para palaguin ang turismo.
Sa agrikultura, makapagtatayo na tayo ng mga grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, maayos na road networks at post-harvest facilities.
Kung maisasaayos natin ang ating food supply chain sa tulong ng pribadong sektor, sa halip na mag-angkat tayo ay maari na sana tayong mangarap na mag-supply sa pandaigdigang merkado.
Kung maitatayo ang minumungkahi sa ating railway system, bababa ang presyo ng bilihin. Mas mura, mas mabilis, mas maginhawa, at makakaiwas pa sa kotong cops at mga kumokotong na rebelde ang mga bumibiyahe.
Paalala lang po: una sa ating plataporma ang paglikha ng mga trabaho, at nanggagaling ang trabaho sa paglago ng industriya. Lalago lamang ang industriya kung gagawin nating mas malinis, mas mabilis, at mas maginhawa ang proseso para sa mga gustong magnegosyo.
Pabibilisin natin ang proseso ng mga proyektong sumasailalim sa Build-Operate-Transfer. Sa tulong ng lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno at ng mga mamamayan, pabababain natin sa anim na buwan ang proseso na noon ay inaabot ng taon kung hindi dekada.
May mga hakbang na rin pong sinisimulan ang DTI, sa pamumuno ni Secretary Gregory Domingo:
Ang walang-katapusang pabalik-balik sa proseso ng pagrehistro ng pangalan ng kumpanya, na kada dalaw ay umaabot ng apat hanggang walong oras, ibababa na natin sa labinlimang minuto.
Ang dating listahan ng tatlumpu’t anim na dokumento, ibababa natin sa anim. Ang dating walong pahinang application form, ibababa natin sa isang pahina.
Nananawagan ako sa ating mga LGUs. Habang naghahanap tayo ng paraan para gawing mas mabilis ang pagbubukas ng mga negosyo, pag-aralan din sana nila ang kanilang mga proseso. Kailangan itong gawing mas mabilis, at kailangan itong itugma sa mga sinisumulan nating reporma.
Negosyante, sundalo, rebelde, at karaniwang Pilipino, lahat po makikinabang dito. Basta po hindi dehado ang Pilipino, papasukin po natin lahat iyan. Kailangan na po nating simulan ang pagtutulungan para makamit ito. Huwag nating pahirapan ang isa’t isa.
Parating na po ang panahon na hindi na natin kailangang mamili sa pagitan ng seguridad ng ating mamamayan o sa kinabukasan ng inyong mga anak.
FREEING UP FUNDS
Oras na maipatupad ang public-private partnerships na ito, mapopondohan ang mga serbisyong panlipunan, alinsunod sa ating plataporma.
Magkakapondo na po para maipatupad ang mga plano natin sa edukasyon.
Mapapalawak natin ang basic education cycle mula sa napakaikling sampung taon tungo sa global standard na labindalawang taon.
Madadagdagan natin ang mga classroom. Mapopondohan natin ang service contracting sa ilalim ng GASTPE.
Pati ang conditional cash transfers, na magbabawas ng pabigat sa bulsa ng mga pamilya, madadagdan na rin ng pondo.
Maipapatupad ang plano natin sa PhilHealth.
Una, tutukuyin natin ang tunay na bilang ng mga nangangailangan nito. Sa ngayon, hindi magkakatugma ang datos. Sabi ng PhilHealth sa isang bibig, walumpu’t pitong porsyento na raw ang merong coverage. Sa kabilang bibig naman, singkuwenta’y tres porsyento naman. Ayon naman sa National Statistics Office, tatlumpu’t walong porsyento ang may coverage.
Ngayon pa lang, kumikilos na si Secretary Dinky Soliman at ang DSWD upang ipatupad ang National Household Targetting System, na magtutukoy sa mga pamilyang higit na nagangailangan ng tulong. Tinatayang siyam na bilyon ang kailangan para mabigyan ng PhilHealth ang limang milyong pinakamaralitang pamilyang Pilipino.
Napakaganda po ng hinaharap natin. Kasama na po natin ang pribadong sektor, at kasama na rin natin ang League of Provinces, sa pangunguna nina Governor Alfonso Umali kasama sina Governor L-Ray Villafuerte at Governor Icot Petilla. Handa na pong makipagtulungan para makibahagi sa pagtustos ng mga gastusin. Alam ko rin pong hindi magpapahuli ang League of Cities sa pangunguna ni Mayor Oscar Rodriguez.
Kung ang mga gobyernong lokal ay nakikiramay na sa ating mga adhikain, ang Kongreso namang pinanggalingan ko, siguro naman maasahan ko din.
Nagpakitang-gilas na po ang gabinete sa pagtukoy ng ating mga problema at sa paglulunsad ng mga solusyon sa loob lamang ng tatlong linggo.
Nang bagyo pong Basyang, ang sabi sa atin ng mga may prangkisa sa kuryente, apat na araw na walang kuryente. Dahil sa mabilis na pagkilos ni Secretary Rene Almendras at ng Department of Energy, naibalik ang kuryente sa halos lahat sa loob lamang ng beinte-kwatro oras.
Ito pong sinasabing kakulangan sa tubig sa Metro Manila, kinilusan agad ni Secretary Rogelio Singson at ng DPWH. Hindi na siya naghintay ng utos, kaya nabawasan ang perwisyo.
Nakita na rin natin ang gilas ng mga hinirang nating makatulong sa Gabinete. Makatuwiran naman po sigurong umasa na hindi na sila padadaanin sa butas ng karayom para makumpirma ng Commission on Appointments. Kung mangyayari po ito, marami pa sa mga mahuhusay na Pilipino ang maeengganyong magsilbi sa gobyerno.
Sa lalong madaling panahon po, uupo na tayo sa LEDAC at pag-uusapan ang mga mahahalagang batas na kailangan nating ipasa. Makakaasa kayo na mananatiling bukas ang aking isipan, at ang ating ugnayan ay mananatiling tapat.
Isinusulong po natin ang Fiscal Responsibility Bill, kung saan hindi tayo magpapasa ng batas na mangangailangan ng pondo kung hindi pa natukoy ang panggagalingan nito. May 104.1 billion pesos tayong kailangan para pondohan ang mga batas na naipasa na, ngunit hindi maipatupad.
Kailangan din nating isaayos ang mga insentibong piskal na ibinigay noong nakaraan. Ngayong naghihigpit tayo ng sinturon, kailangang balikan kung alin sa mga ito ang dapat manatili at kung ano ang dapat nang itigil.
Huwag po tayong pumayag na magkaroon ng isa pang NBN-ZTE. Sa lokal man o dayuhan manggagaling ang pondo, dapat dumaan ito sa tamang proseso. Hinihingi ko po ang tulong ninyo upang amiyendahan ang ating Procurement Law.
Ayon po sa Saligang Batas, tungkulin ng estado ang siguruhing walang lamangan sa merkado. Bawal ang monopolya, bawal ang mga cartel na sasakal sa kumpetisyon. Kailangan po natin ng isang Anti-Trust Law na magbibigay-buhay sa mga prinsipyong ito. Ito ang magbibigay ng pagkakataon sa mga Small- at Medium-scale Enterprises na makilahok at tumulong sa paglago ng ating ekonomiya.
Ipasa na po natin ang National Land Use Bill.
Una rin pong naging batas ng Commonwealth ang National Defense Act, na ipinasa noon pang 1935. Kailangan nang palitan ito ng batas na tutugon sa pangangailangan ng pambansang seguridad sa kasalukuyan.
Nakikiusap po akong isulong ang Whistleblower’s Bill upang patuloy nang iwaksi ang kultura ng takot at pananahimik.
Palalakasin pa lalo ang Witness Protection Program. Alalahanin po natin na noong taong 2009 hanggang 2010, may nahatulan sa 95% ng mga kaso kung saan may witness na sumailalim sa programang ito.
Kailangang repasuhin ang ating mga batas. Nanawagan po akong umpisahan na ang rekodipikasyon ng ating mga batas, upang siguruhing magkakatugma sila at hindi salu-salungat.
Ito pong mga batas na ito ang batayan ng kaayusan, ngunit ang pundasyon ng lahat ng ginagawa natin ay ang prinsipyong wala tayong mararating kung walang kapayapaan at katahimikan.
Dalawa ang hinaharap nating suliranin sa usapin ng kapayapaan: ang situwasyon sa Mindanao, at ang patuloy na pag-aaklas ng CPP-NPA-NDF.
Tungkol sa situwasyon sa Mindanao: Hindi po nagbabago ang ating pananaw. Mararating lamang ang kapayapaan at katahimikan kung mag-uusap ang lahat ng apektado: Moro, Lumad, at Kristiyano. Inatasan na natin si Dean Marvic Leonen na mangasiwa sa ginagawa nating pakikipag-usap sa MILF.
Iiwasan natin ang mga pagkakamaling nangyari sa nakaraang administrasyon, kung saan binulaga na lang ang mga mamamayan ng Mindanao. Hindi tayo puwedeng magbulag-bulagan sa mga dudang may kulay ng pulitika ang proseso, at hindi ang kapakanan ng taumbayan ang tanging interes.
Kinikilala natin ang mga hakbang na ginagawa ng MILF sa pamamagitan ng pagdidisplina sa kanilang hanay. Inaasahan natin na muling magsisimula ang negosasyon pagkatapos ng Ramadan.
Tungkol naman po sa CPP-NPA-NDF: handa na ba kayong maglaan ng kongkretong mungkahi, sa halip na pawang batikos lamang?
Kung kapayapaan din ang hangad ninyo, handa po kami sa malawakang tigil-putukan. Mag-usap tayo.
Mahirap magsimula ang usapan habang mayroon pang amoy ng pulbura sa hangin. Nananawagan ako: huwag po natin hayaang masayang ang napakagandang pagkakataong ito upang magtipon sa ilalim ng iisang adhikain.
Kapayapaan at katahimikan po ang pundasyon ng kaunlaran. Habang nagpapatuloy ang barilan, patuloy din ang pagkakagapos natin sa kahirapan.
Dapat din po nating mabatid: ito ay panahon ng sakripisyo. At ang sakripisyong ito ay magiging puhunan para sa ating kinabukasan. Kaakibat ng ating mga karapatan at kalayaan ay ang tungkulin natin sa kapwa at sa bayan.
Inaasahan ko po ang ating mga kaibigan sa media, lalo na sa radyo at sa print, sa mga nagbablock-time, at sa community newspapers, kayo na po mismo ang magbantay sa inyong hanay.
Mabigyang-buhay sana ang mga batayang prinsipyo ng inyong bokasyon: ang magbigay-linaw sa mahahalagang isyu; ang maging patas at makatotohanan, at ang itaas ang antas ng pampublikong diskurso.
Tungkulin po ng bawat Pilipino na tutukan ang mga pinunong tayo rin naman ang nagluklok sa puwesto. Humakbang mula sa pakikialam tungo sa pakikilahok. Dahil ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon.
Napakatagal na pong namamayani ang pananaw na ang susi sa asenso ay ang intindihin ang sarili kaysa intindihin ang kapwa. Malinaw po sa akin: paano tayo aasenso habang nilalamangan ang kapwa?
Ang hindi nabigyan ng pagkakataong mag-aral, paanong makakakuha ng trabaho? Kung walang trabaho, paanong magiging konsumer? Paanong mag-iimpok sa bangko?
Ngunit kung babaliktarin natin ang pananaw—kung iisipin nating “Dadagdagan ko ang kakayahan ng aking kapwa”—magbubunga po ito, at ang lahat ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon.
Maganda na po ang nasimulan natin. At mas lalong maganda po ang mararating natin. Ngunit huwag nating kalimutan na mayroong mga nagnanasang hindi tayo magtagumpay. Dahil kapag hindi tayo nagtagumpay, makakabalik na naman sila sa kapangyarihan, at sa pagsasamantala sa taumbayan.
Akin pong paniwala na Diyos at taumbayan ang nagdala sa ating kinalalagyan ngayon. Habang nakatutok tayo sa kapakanan ng ating kapwa, bendisyon at patnubay ay tiyak na maaasahan natin sa Poong Maykapal. At kapag nanalig tayo na ang kasangga natin ay ang Diyos, mayroon ba tayong hindi kakayanin?
Ang mandato nating nakuha sa huling eleksyon ay patunay na umaasa pa rin ang Pilipino sa pagbabago. Iba na talaga ang situwasyon. Puwede na muling mangarap. Tayo nang tumungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pinangarap.
Maraming salamat po.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps;
My beloved countrymen:
Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly.
This is the straight path.
On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation.
This is the crooked path.
For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by (since I became President), the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.
In the first three weeks of our administration, we discovered many things, and I will report to you some of the problems we have uncovered, and the steps we are taking to solve them.
This report is merely a glimpse of our situation. It is not the entire picture of the crises we are facing. The reality was hidden from our people, who seem to have been deliberately obfuscated on the real state of our nation.
In the first six years of this year, government expenditure exceeded our revenues. Our deficit further increased to PhP196.7 billion. Our collection targets, which lack PhP23.8 billion, were not fully met, while we went beyond our spending by PhP45.1 billion.
Our budget for 2010 is PhP1.54 trillion. Of this, only PhP100 billion – or 6.5% of the total budget – can be used for the remaining six months of the current year. Roughly 1% of the total budget is left for each of the remaining month.
Where did the funds go?
A calamity fund worth PhP2 billion was reserved in preparation for anticipated calamities. Of this already miniscule amount, at a time when the rainy season has yet to set in, PhP1.4 billion or 70% was already spent.
The entire province of Pampanga received PhP108 million. Of this, PhP105 million went to only one district. On the other hand, the province of Pangasinan, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pepeng, received a mere PhP5 million, which had to be used to fix damages inflicted not even by Pepeng, but by a previous typhoon, Cosme.
The funds were released on election month, which was seven months after the typhoon. What will happen if a typhoon arrives tomorrow? The fund has been used up to repair damage from typhoons that hit us last year. Our future will pay for the greed of yesterday.
This is also what happened to the funds of the MWSS. Just recently, people lined up for water while the leadership of the MWSS rewarded itself even though the pensions of retired employees remain unpaid.
The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to 51.4 million pesos annually.
But this isn’t the full extent of what they receive: they receive additional allowances and benefits amounting to 81.1 million pesos.
In short, they receive 211.5 million pesos annually. Twenty four percent of this is for normal salaries, and sixty six percent is added on.
The average worker receives up to 13th month pay plus a cash gift. In the MWSS, they receive the equivalent of over thirty months pay if you include all their additional bonuses and allowances.
What we discovered in the case of the salaries of their board of trustees is even more shocking. Let’s take a look at the allowances they receive:
Attending board of trustees and board committee meetings, and you get fourteen thousands pesos. This totals ninety eight thousand pesos a month. They also get an annual grocery incentive of eighty thousand pesos.
And that’s not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, and financial assistance.
They not only get a Christmas bonus, but an additional Christmas package as well. Each of these amounts to eighty thousand pesos. All in all, each member of the board receives two and a half million pesos a year exclusive of car service, technical assistance, and loans. Let me repeat. They award themselves all of these while being in arrears for the pensions of their retired employees.
Even the La Mesa watershed wasn’t spared. In order to ensure an adequate supply of water, we need to protect our watersheds.
In watersheds, trees are needed. Where there should be trees, they built homes for the top officials of the MWSS.
We cannot remove them from their positions quickly because they are among the midnight appointees of former president Arroyo. We are investigating all of these things. But if they have any shame left, they should voluntarily relinquish their positions.
Now let’s discuss funds for infrastructure. The DPWH identified two hundred forty six priority safety projects to be funded by the motor vehicle user’s charge. This needs a budget of 425 million pesos. What they ended up funding were only 28 projects. They disregarded 218 projects and replaced these with seventy projects that weren’t in the plans. The 425 million pesos originally asked for became 480 million pesos, increasing because of projects allocated for a favored few.
These projects make no sense: unstudied and unprepared for, sprouting like mushrooms.
The era of such projects is at an end. Under our administration, there will be no quotas, there will be no overpricing, the funds of the people will be spent for the people.
There’s more. Five days before the term of the previous administration ended, they ordered 3.5 billion pesos to be released for the rehabilitation of those affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. This was supposed to fund eighty-nine projects. But nineteen of these projects amounting to 981 million pesos didn’t go through public bidding. Special Allotment Release Orders hadn’t even been released and yet the contracts were already signed. It’s a good thing Secretary Rogelio Singson spotted and stopped them.
Instead, they will all go through the proper bidding, and the funds will be used to provide relief to those who lost their homes due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.
Let’s discuss what happened in Napocor. From 2001 to 2004, the government forced Napocor to sell electricity at a loss to prevent increases in electricity rates. The real motivation for this is that they were preparing for the election.
As a result, in 2004, NAPOCOR slumped deeply in debt. The government was obligated to shoulder the 200 billion pesos it owed.
What the public thought they saved from electricity, we are now paying for using public coffers. Not only are we paying for the cost of electricity; we are also paying for the interest arising from the debt.
If the money we borrowed was used properly, then there would be added assurance that constant supply of electricity is available. However, this decision was based on bad politics, not on the true needs of the people.
The people, after having to sacrifice, suffered even more.
This is also what happened to the MRT. The government tried again to buy the people’s love. The operator was forced to keep the rates low.
In effect, the guarantee given to the operator that he will still be able to recoup his investment was not fulfilled. Because of this, Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines were ordered to purchase the MRT.
The money of the people was used in exchange for an operation that was losing money.
Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).
In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons.
Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.
In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.
What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.
Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?
The result is NFA’s current debt of 177 billion pesos.
This money that was wasted could have funded the following:
– The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year.
– The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos.
– All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.
This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted. You have heard how the public coffers were squandered. This is what is clear to me now: change can only come from our determination to stamp out this extravagance and profligacy.
That is why starting now: we will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong.
This is the point of what we call the zero-based approach in our budget.
What used to be the norm was every year, the budget merely gets re-enacted without plugging the holes.
Next month we will be submitting a budget that accurately identifies the problem and gives much attention on the right solution.
Those that I have mentioned were only some of the problems we have discovered. Here now are examples of the steps we are undertaking to solve them.
There is a case of one pawnshop owner. He purchased a vehicle at an estimated cost of 26 million pesos.
If he can afford to buy a Lamborghini, why can’t he pay his taxes?
A case has already been filed against him. Through the leadership of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, every week we have new cases filed against smugglers and against those who do not pay the right taxes.
We have also already identified the suspects of the cases of Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio and Miguel Belen, 3 of the 6 incidents of extralegal killings since we assumed the Presidency.
Fifty percent (50%) of these incidents of extralegal killings are now on their way to being resolved.
We will not stop the pursuit of the remaining half of these killings until justice has been achieved.
We will hold murderers accountable. We will also hold those who are corrupt that work in government accountable for their actions.
We have begun forming our Truth Commission, through the leadership of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. We will search for the truth on the alleged wrongdoing committed in the last nine years.
This week, I will sign the first ever Executive Order on the formation of this Truth Commission.
If the answer to justice is accountability, the answer to the dearth in funds is a new and creative approach to our long-standing problems.
We have so many needs: from education, infrastructure, health, military, police and more. Our funds will not be enough to meet them.
No matter how massive the deficit is that may keep us from paying for this list of needs, I am heartened because many have already expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines.
Our solution: public-private partnerships. Although no contract has been signed yet, I can say that ongoing talks with interested investors will yield fruitful outcomes.
There are some who have already shown interest and want to build an expressway from Manila that will pass through Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, until the end of Cagayan Valley, without the government having to spend a single peso.
On national defense:
We have 36,000 nautical miles of shoreline, but we only have 32 boats.
These boats are as old as the time of (US General Douglas) MacArthur.
Some had this proposition: they will rent the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard and the Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio.
They will take care of the funding necessary to transfer the Navy Headquarters to Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately, we will be given 100 million dollars. Furthermore, they will give us a portion of their profits from their businesses that would occupy the land they will rent.
In short, we will meet our needs without spending, and we will also earn.
There have already been many proposals from local to foreign investors to provide for our various needs.
From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary. There are so many sectors that could benefit from this.
We will be able to construct the needed infrastructure in order to help tourism grow.
In agriculture, we will be able to have access to grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, orderly road networks and post-harvest facilities.
If we can fix out food supply chain with the help of the private sector, instead of importing, we will hopefully be able to supply for the needs of the global market.
The prices of commodities will go down if we are able to make this efficient railway system a reality. It will be cheaper and faster, and it will be easier for travelers to avoid crooked cops and rebels.
A reminder to all: creating jobs is foremost on our agenda, and the creation of jobs will come from the growth of our industries. Growth will only be possible if we streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest.
We make sure that the Build-Operate-and-Transfer projects will undergo quick and efficient processes. With the help of all government agencies concerned and the people, a process that used to take as short as a year and as long as a decade will now only take six months.
The Department of Trade and Industry has already taken steps to effect this change, under the leadership of Secretary Gregory Domingo:
The never-ending horror story of registering business names, which used to take a minimum of four to eight hours depending on the day, will be cut down drastically to fifteen minutes.
What used to be a check list of thirty-six documents will be shortened to a list of six, and the old eight-page application form will be whittled down to one page.
I call on our local government units to review its own procedures. While we look for more ways to streamline our processes to make business start-ups easier, I hope the LGUs can also find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started.
All will certainly benefit from this streamlining — be it businessmen, soldiers, rebels and ordinary Filipinos. As long as the interests of Filipinos will not be jeopardized, we will explore all available avenues to make this a reality. We must start now, and we should all help achieve this and not stand in each other’s way.
The time when we will no longer be made to choose between our people’s security and the future of our children is upon us now.
Once we implement these public-private partnerships, we will be able to fund public service in accordance with our platform.
This will enable us to fund our plans for education.
We will be able to expand our basic education cycle from seven years to the global standard of twelve years.
We can build more classrooms, and we will fund service contracting under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Program (GASTPE).
Conditional cash transfers that aim to lessen the burden of education on parents will also be funded if this partnership becomes a reality.
Our plans for improving PhilHealth can now be within reach.
First, we will identify the correct number of Filipinos who sorely need PhilHealth coverage, as current data is conflicting on this matter. On one hand, PhilHealth says that eighty-seven percent (87%) of Filipinos are covered, then lowers the number to only fifty-three percent (53%). On the other hand, the National Statistics Office says that only thirty-eight percent (38%) of Filipinos are covered by Philhealth.
Even as we speak, Secretary Dinky Soliman and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are moving to implement the National Household Targeting System that will identify the families that most urgently need assistance. An estimated 9 billion pesos is needed in order to provide coverage for five million poor Filipinos.
Our country is beginning to see better days ahead. The private sector, the League of Provinces headed by Governor Alfonso Umali, together with Governors L-Ray Villafuerte and Icot Petilla, are now ready to do their share when it comes to shouldering the financial burden. I know that the League of Cities under the leadership of Mayor Oscar Rodriguez will not be far behind.
If the local governments share in our goals, I know that I can surely count on Congress, the institution where I began public service, to push for our agenda for change.
Our Cabinet has already showed it skill by identifying not just problems but also proposing solutions in a matter of three weeks.
In the aftermath of Typhoon Basyang, we were told by those in the power sector that we would be without electricity for four days. The quick action of Secretary Rene Almendras and the Department of Energy resulted in the restoration of power to almost all those affected within twenty-four hours.
The so-called water shortage in Metro Manila was quickly attended to by Secretary Rogelio Singson and the Department of Public Works and Highways. Secretary Singson did it without prodding, which alleviated the suffering of those affected.
We also witnessed the competence and initiative of those we appointed to be part of our Cabinet. It is but just that they not be forced to go through the eye of a needle to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.
Should this happen, competent Filipinos will be encouraged to help our country by becoming public servants.
In the soonest possible time, we will convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss the important bills that need to be addressed. Rest assured that I will keep an open mind and treat you honorably.
We will push for the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which will limit spending bills only for appropriations that have identified a source of funding. We need 104.1 billion pesos to fund those laws already passed but whose implementation remains pending because of lack of funds.
We will re-evaluate fiscal incentives given in the past. Now that we are tightening our purse strings, we need to identify those incentives that will remain and those that need to be done away with.
We will not allow another NBN-ZTE scandal to happen again. Whether from local or foreign sources, all proposed contracts must undergo the scrutiny of correct procedures. I now ask for your help with amending our Procurement Law.
According to our Constitution, it is the government’s duty to ensure that the market is fair for all. No monopolies, no cartels that kill competition. We need an Anti-Trust Law that will give life to these principles, to afford Small- and Medium-Scale Enterprises the opportunity to participate in the growth of our economy.
Let us pass into law the National Land Use Bill.
It was in 1935, during the Commonwealth, that the National Defense Act was passed. There is a need to amend for a new law that is more responsive to the current needs of national security.
I appeal to our legislators to pass the Whistleblower’s Bill to eradicate the prevalent culture of fear and silence that has hounded our system.
We will strengthen the Witness Protection Program. We must remember that from 2009 to 2010 alone, cases which involved the participation of witnesses under the program resulted in a ninety-five percent conviction.
There is a need to review our laws. I call on our lawmakers to begin a re-codification of our laws to ensure harmony in legislation and eliminate contradictions.
These laws serve as the basis of order in our land, but the foundation of all rests on the principle that we cannot grow without peace and order.
We face two obstacles on our road to peace: the situation in Mindanao and the continued revolt of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian. We have asked Dean Marvic Leonen to head our efforts to talk to the MILF.
We will learn from the mistakes of the past administration, that suddenly announced an agreement reached without consultations from all concerned. We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people.
We recognize the efforts of the MILF to discipline those within its ranks. We are hopeful that the negotiations will begin after Ramadan.
To the CPP-NPA-NDF: are you prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism and finger-pointing?
If it is peace you truly desire, then we are ready for an immediate cease-fire. Let us go back to the table and begin talking again.
It is difficult to begin discussions in earnest if the smell of gun powder still hangs in the air. I call on everyone concerned not to waste a good opportunity to rally behind our common aspiration for peace.
Our foundation for growth is peace. We will continue to be shackled by poverty if the crossfire persists.
We must understand that now is a time for sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that will pave the way for a better future. With our freedom comes our responsibility to do good unto our fellows and to our country.
To our friends in media, especially those in radio and print, to the block-timers and those in our community newspapers, I trust that you will take up the cudgels to police your own ranks.
May you give new meaning to the principles of your vocation: to provide clarity to pressing issues; to be fair and truthful in your reporting, and to raise the level of public discourse.
It is every Filipino’s duty to closely watch the leaders that you have elected. I encourage everyone to take a step towards participation rather than fault-finding. The former takes part in finding a solution; from the latter, never-ending complaints.
We have always known that the key to growth is putting the interest of others beyond one’s own. One thing is clear: how do we move forward if we keep putting others down?
How will those without education secure quality jobs? How will the unemployed become consumers? How will they save money for their future needs?
If we change all this, if we prioritize enabling others, we will open a world of opportunities not just for ourselves but for those who direly need it.
We have already begun the process of change, and we are now able to dream of better things for our country. Let us not forget that there are those who wish us to fail, so that they will once again reclaim power to do as they please at the expense of our people.
My firm belief is that our fate is in the hands of God and our people. While we focus on uplifting the lives of our fellow men, I have an unshakeable faith that Almighty God will give us His blessings and support. If we remain firm in our belief that God is on our side, is there anything impossible for us to achieve?
The mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. The situation is not what it was before; we can all dream again. Let us all become one in achieving a fulfilment of our hopes and aspirations for our country.
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said Friday his Cabinet uncovered a number of new anomalies committed during the administration of his predecessor that “even those of you in the know will be shocked.”
Aquino said he would discuss some of the anomalies in his first State of the Nation Address on Monday but gave the press a preview of the salient points at the turnover of the top Army post in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.
He mentioned in particular the depletion of the P1.54-trillion 2010 national budget and calamity fund.
“Halos nilimas na po ang pondong dapat magagamit natin sa darating na buwan [They’ve nearly bailed out the funds we should be using in the coming months],” he told Army officers and men at the Army Grandstand.
“Not even half of the storms that we’re expecting this year have come in. So when I call on you for search and rescue operations, you will be armed only with your heart and courage because of the dearth of funds and resources,” he added in Filipino.
In a briefing later at the Army Officers’ Club, Mr. Aquino confirmed reports that P949.2 billion of the 2010 budget had been released, and that only P591.4 billion remained.
But the problem was, P300 billion of the remaining balance has been earmarked for “automatic appropriations,” leaving the Aquino administration with only more than P100 billion at its disposal, he said.
“If you have 10 percent left to take care of the last six months, that’s a bit bloody. But again I will emphasize to them to resharpen their pencils. Can you do the computation again so that we will precisely know what’s left?” he said, referring to budget officials.
Otherwise, this would necessitate “a lot of austerity,” he said.
The bulk of the P949.2 billion went to the payment of salaries and personnel services, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said.
In the same briefing, Mr. Aquino said that the depletion of this year’s calamity fund was just as surprising.
As of June, the government had used up P1.4 billion of the calamity fund, leaving a balance of P592 million, budget officials said.
“When ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ struck, it was revealed that there were no more funds… I asked them what other calamities visited the Philippines that would necessitate the use of the fund. It turned it was the repair of infrastructure for the previous years,” Mr. Aquino said.
“They did it again this year. So it’s depleted again. But it seems there was a particular district that benefited but was not affected by Ondoy. Twenty percent of the funds allegedly went to the singular district,” he added.
When pressed if the district was in Pampanga, home province of former president, now Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mr. Aquino said: “Can I tell you on Monday?”
“But let me assure you, there will be a minimum of five [anomalies] we have uncovered. You will be very, very surprised at the things we have discovered. I think the common reaction was: ‘What, they did that?’ There’s no sense. There’s no rhyme or reason,” he said.
He later added: “I can’t give you every detail [of the Sona]. It’s still a work in progress. It might be totally overhauled by Monday. But I assure you, even those of you here, you will be shocked.”
The national budget will be a key point in his 30-minute Sona, which was re-written for the fifth time Friday and which is entirely in Filipino, Malacañang said.
Mr. Aquino will report the state of government resources, propose “doable solutions” to a host of problems given the budget constraints, and push for his legislative agenda, according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
“As I said in the beginning we have to ascertain what the problems are. Therefore these problems will point to certain solutions that would be best to solve… all of these problems,” Mr. Aquino said when asked about his message to the Filipinos on Monday.
“If you misidentify the problem you are guaranteed to not come up with a correct solution and you will exacerbate the problem,” he added.
Mr. Aquino admitted that the problems left behind by the Arroyo administration “left a lot of us gasping for breath and aghast at what has been done.”
“In terms of gaining knowledge Monday’s Sona speech will really set the truth on so many things,” he said.
Barely a month in office and already the administration of PNoy has appeared to have taken a series of miscues and false starts on a number of fronts. Are these the signs of a novice adjusting to his new post or is it a trend that will mark his presidency? Read more
From a President who tolerates corruption… to a President who is the nation’s first and most determined fighter of corruption.
From a government that merely conjures economic growth statistics that our people know to be unreal… to a government that prioritizes jobs that empower the people and provide them with opportunities to rise above poverty.
From relegating education to just one of many concerns… to making education the central strategy for investing in our people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness.
From treating health as just another area for political patronage… to recognizing the advancement and protection of public health, which includes responsible parenthood, as key measures of good governance.
From justice that money and connections can buy… to a truly impartial system of institutions that deliver equal justice to rich or poor.
From government policies influenced by well-connected private interests… to a leadership that executes all the laws of the land with impartiality and decisiveness.
From treating the rural economy as just a source of problems… to recognizing farms and rural enterprises as vital to achieving food security and more equitable economic growth, worthy of re-investment for sustained productivity.
From government anti-poverty programs that instill a dole-out mentality… to well-considered programs that build capacity and create opportunity among the poor and the marginalized in the country.
From a government that dampens private initiative and enterprise… to a government that creates conditions conducive to the growth and competitiveness of private businesses, big, medium and small.
From a government that treats its people as an export commodity and a means to earn foreign exchange, disregarding the social cost to Filipino families… to a government that creates jobs at home, so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity; and when its citizens do choose to become OFWs, their welfare and protection will still be the government’s priority.
From Presidential appointees chosen mainly out of political accommodation… to discerning selection based on integrity, competence and performance in serving the public good.
From demoralized but dedicated civil servants, military and police personnel destined for failure and frustration due to inadequate operational support… to professional, motivated and energized bureaucracies with adequate means to perform their public service missions.
From a lack of concern for gender disparities and shortfalls… to the promotion of equal gender opportunity in all spheres of public policies and programs.
Peace and Order
From a disjointed, short-sighted Mindanao policy that merely reacts to events and incidents… to one that seeks a broadly-supported just peace and will redress decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao.
From allowing environmental blight to spoil our cities, where both the rich and the poor bear with congestion and urban decay… to planning alternative, inclusive urban developments where people of varying income levels are integrated in productive, healthy and safe communities.
From a government obsessed with exploiting the country for immediate gains to the detriment of its environment… to a government that will encourage sustainable use of resources.
MANILA, Philippines—It appears that Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson could not wait for his boss to appoint him to head the body that regulates the private water concessionaire that he used to manage.
On his own, Singson, the former president and chief executive officer of Maynilad Water Services Inc., wrote a letter wherein he claimed that President Benigno Aquino III wanted him to head the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
But the President seems unaware of Singson’s self-appointment. “Will check on that,” he said in a text message, responding to the question of whether he knew that Singson had appointed himself MWSS chair.
In a letter dated July 6 and addressed to MWSS Chair Gabriel Claudio, Singson said: “We wish to inform you that it is the desire of His Excellency, President Benigno C. Aquino III, that the secretary of public works and highways immediately assume the position as ex-officio chairman of the board of trustees of the [MWSS] pursuant to Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6234 as amended.”
Singson, also a former director of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., took over Claudio’s post on July 7, when the MWSS had its first scheduled board meeting for the month.
But Singson Thursday said he “cleared” his move with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa before going to the MWSS.
“I cleared it with the ES in a letter. I wouldn’t have done it without their signal,” he said.
Conflict of interest?
Reached by phone, Claudio, a top political adviser of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said that under the rules, the public works secretary served as chair of the MWSS unless the President appointed another person.
He refused to comment on the purported conflict of interest inherent in Singson’s takeover of the MWSS.
Maynilad was formed by the Lopez group 15 years ago to bid for Metro Manila’s huge concession area, which the administration of President Fidel Ramos had divided into two zones to engender competition and protect consumer interest.
Maynilad won the west zone, and Ayala-owned Manila Water Company Inc. won the east zone.
Because of Maynilad’s debt problems, the Lopez group’s allies—Metro Pacific Investment Corp. run by Manuel V. Pangilinan and construction and property giant DMCI Holdings—took over the water firm three years ago.
Singson, however, said there was no conflict of interest when he accepted the public works portfolio after working with Maynilad.
“What conflict of interest? We are both protecting the consumers,” he told the Inquirer over the phone.
He said that in order for this kind of talk to die down, he would sell his shares in the companies he used to head.
“I am selling my shares. I have 30 days to do that,” he said, adding in jest that he would be on the losing end. “Lugi pa nga ako.”
Ties to big business
The deep ties of Singson and other Cabinet officials to big business interests have elicited questions from lawmakers about the “disturbing pattern” of Mr. Aquino’s appointments.
Speculations have swirled about such appointments as Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus (a former president of Manila Electric Co., which is jointly run by the Lopez group and Metro Pacific, and a former executive vice president of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.) and Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras (a former president of Manila Water and Cebu Holdings Inc., both owned by the Ayala group, and a former treasurer of the Aboitiz group).
In an interview, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño said Congress would keep a close watch on appointees with known connections to utility firms and other powerful business interests, “to make sure that they do not unduly favor the monopoly interests of their patrons.”
Casiño said that during the confirmation and budget hearings, lawmakers would demand from these appointees their firm commitment to prioritize public interest over the interest of their former business associates.
“We are calling on the public to serve as a check to any potential conflict-of-interest situations brought about by such appointments. This is crucial given that oil, water, power and telecommunications firms are itching to raise their prices and profits,” he said.
But according to Singson, the MWSS charter states that its ex-officio chair is the public works chief.
“It’s always the DPWH secretary [who chairs the MWSS board]. There’s nothing new there,” he said.
Singson said his decision to chair the MWSS had raised eyebrows because “some people wanted to stay” in the agency.
He also said the Arroyo administration did not follow the charter and gave the posts to political appointees.
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay finally heeded President Aquino’s request for him to join the Cabinet, accepting the chairmanship of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
“After a discussion with the President, I am following his request to take charge of the housing sector as chair of the (HUDCC),” Binay said in a statement issued yesterday.
Prior to his acceptance, Gawad Kalinga had asked Binay to chair the HUDCC, a position previously held by his predecessor, former Vice President Noli de Castro.
“I look forward to implementing the President’s objectives for housing and shelter and working with volunteer organizations like the Gawad Kalinga, with whom I share a common dream of building not just homes but sustainable communities for our people,” Binay said, adding that he is ready to assist the President in his vision for the country and the people.
Aquino told the Malacañang Press Corps during a dinner on Tuesday that he offered five government posts to Binay, including the chairmanship of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), after he was told that the Vice President was reconsidering accepting a Cabinet position.
Joey Salgado, media officer of Binay, said the President was referring to posts offered during their Times Street meeting before the inaugural.
“The Vice President has always maintained that he is ready to assist the President. Such offer is not pre-conditioned on any Cabinet position,” Salgado said.
“It’s not the positions being offered to the Vice President but the need for people who can assist the President. In whatever capacity, the Vice President is ready to help,” he added.
GK founder Tony Meloto and executive director Luis Oquiñena met with Binay to present a national program, Kalinga sa Bayan, that would take care of the poor and the marginalized.
They asked the Vice President to champion this cause.
The program calls for GK’s basic commitment to help five million families, not just with land, homes and food, but in any other way that can ease their fears and suffering and raise the quality of their lives.
Kalinga sa Bayan will seek active engagement with local government units and offer itself as a catalyst for multi-sectoral initiatives to address basic needs and concerns of the poor in their towns and provinces.
“Vice President Binay as mayor of Makati has been an aggressive GK partner for two years and jointly supporting community building efforts of more than 400 informal settlers from Makati now relocated in a beautifully developed subdivision in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan,” GK said.
“Gawad Kalinga wants to share the effectiveness of its experience in addressing poverty in novel and powerful ways. GK believes that Vice President Binay will be a strong and dedicated champion for the poor with his own wisdom and effectiveness born of his experience and achievements in Makati City, which is the premier city of the country,” GK added.
GK said Makati residents, especially those in the lower economic classes, enjoy health, education and senior citizen benefits that are envied by those residing in other towns and cities in the Philippines.
Wanted: Viable government
Binay, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the Aquino administration will allocate more resources to social programs particularly health, education and housing in order to restore the dignity of ordinary Filipinos.
Speaking before a forum at the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance, Binay said that a society whose government neglects its people “can never be viable.”
He said social welfare is a temporary relief from the symptoms of chronic poverty but social programs can cure two of the most pernicious causes of poverty – ill health and ignorance.
“Social programs are not charity; they are a right of every citizen. Social programs go even further. They go beyond rights and entitlements to the core purpose of government,” Binay said.
“A society whose government neglects its sick and its hungry, its young and its seniors, its unemployed and unemployable can never be viable,” he added.
He said “if more resources are not allocated to social programs, the people, especially the youth, will not be able to contribute to the country’s prosperity.”
“If we keep putting the health and education of our young people on hold, all the more we will not attain prosperity because our young people will grow up unable to contribute to our economy in a meaningful way,” the Vice President said.
He stressed that it was the solution he made to bridge the gap between the rich and poor when he was mayor of Makati.
“The only real threat to Makati’s viability was the gap between its very rich and very poor as well as its long-time residents and newcomers, which was growing as fast as, probably even faster than, its economy,” Binay said.
Putting money where your mouth is
He chided his critics who gave political color to his pro-poor programs, saying it is not pampering the poor to get their votes, but the local government had to provide services that citizens deserve.
“It was a textbook social problem with a textbook solution: social programs,” he said.
Makati residents have benefited from Binay’s social programs. Around a million residents have “Yellow cards,” which cardholders can use to avail themselves of free healthcare services from the Ospital ng Makati. Senior citizens (“White” and “Blue” cardholders) also get additional discounts, P2,000 yearly allowance, free movies and birthday cakes.
Around 86,000 indigent families are also enrolled by the city in the national PhilHealth program, while schoolchildren are assured of free elementary and high school education.
“Makati’s social programs were not conceived and carried out to benefit only the poor,” Binay added.
The Vice President said that even the rich, especially the senior citizens, benefited from his programs, an area where the previous administration “miserably failed.”
“As for our senior citizen programs, even those who live in the most exclusive villages avail… Small privileges that they don’t need, but which they appreciate,” he said.
The Vice President said he has realized that “society will still not work if government fails to ensure that every citizen is able to share in the prosperity.”
De Castro: Binay has his hands full
Meanwhile, former vice president De Castro welcomed yesterday Binay’s decision to accept the HUDCC chairmanship.
De Castro said Binay could focus on the social problem of housing and continue the affordable housing programs for employees through the Pag-IBIG Fund.
“I can help him as former HUDCC chairman if he needs my help,” De Castro told The STAR in a telephone interview.
Interviewed over GMA-7, the Vice President said that he also wants to extend government assistance to distressed overseas Filipino workers who are reportedly seeking government.
HUDCC was created by former President Corazon Aquino by virtue of Executive Order No. 90 dated 17 December 1986.
The EO, which also abolished the Ministry of Human Settlements, placed HUDCC under the direct supervision of the Office of the President to serve as the highest policy making body for housing and coordinate the activities of the government housing agencies to ensure the accomplishment of the National Shelter Program.
The Council is composed of key shelter agencies, namely: the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC), the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (HGC), and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB); Pag-IBIG Fund and Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC).
The chairman of the HUDCC sits as chairman of the board of the key shelter agencies and exercises supervision over the operations of the NHA, HGC, HLURB, NHMFC, Pag-IBIG and SHFC.
Binay, on the other hand, is an experienced local executive who was appointed by President Cory Aquino as Makati’s acting mayor after the EDSA Revolution.
In 1988, he was elected mayor of Makati and was reelected in 1992 and 1995. After a hiatus of three years, he again served as city mayor from 2001-2010, winning three consecutive elections.
He was also appointed governor of Metro Manila in 1987 in concurrent capacity and was later elected by his peers in Metro Manila as chairman of the Metro Manila Authority.
In 1998, Binay was appointed chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) with Cabinet rank. He was also appointed vice-chairman of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
The Vice President is also active in civic work. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Makati, R.I. District 3830, and is currently on his third term as the national president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and was elected Asia-Pacific Regional Scout Committee Chairman on Feb. 8, 2008.
WHO IS THE CABINET member whose “first assignment” is to get at least “three hours of sleep” daily? Who did President Aquino have to “beg” to join his official family? And who “possesses 80 percent” of his brain?
Backed by an overwhelming electoral mandate, Mr. Aquino has assembled a team of new faces and old hands—a number of them from the Cabinet of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino—to help him take on the huge task of running the country.
Here, in his own words, are the key men and women who will help bring about the “real change” that he promised during the campaign.
PAQUITO “JOJO” OCHOA JR. (executive secretary). I’m not a lawyer; Jojo has helped me understand the intricacies of the law ever since I started in public office. Our relationship is on a second-generation basis already.
Our parents were allies in the Liberal Party, and we have been consistent allies throughout our lives. He has given me the most sound advice on so many matters pertaining to my work as legislator. Therefore, I’m very confident of his role as the guardian of my back. He’s more than qualified.
ALBERTO ROMULO (foreign secretary). He has graciously consented to retain his position. And we are very fortunate to have him as a senior member of the Cabinet.
CESAR PURISIMA (finance secretary). I think his credentials speak for himself. But for most of these people, their credentials speak for themselves.
LEILA DE LIMA (justice secretary). I am very sure you are familiar with the quality of her work. The judicial branch is a very important portion of our platform, and again we are very fortunate to get her to consent to carrying the burden primarily for judicial reform.
VOLTAIRE GAZMIN (defense secretary). Perhaps he is one of the key people who gave me the opportunity to be present before you because he took good care of us [throughout] the numerous coup attempts during my mom’s incumbency. And then there is his continuous dedication to the Filipino people in this very abnormal situation we find our country in.
BR. ARMIN LUISTRO FSC (education secretary). I think his coming from the Ateneo de Manila University already speaks highly of his qualifications, that I begged him to join the Cabinet.”
FLORENCIO ABAD (budget secretary). The Department of Budget and Management will have as its head my mentor, who is obviously older than me. He has been a five-time congressman.
The budget is the enabler of all our policy decisions. We believe he is the best person at the present time to assist us in judiciously spending the people’s funds.
CAYETANO PADERANGA JR. (socioeconomic planning secretary). We will have a National Economic and Development Authority that will give us sound advice based on economic, and not political, considerations.
PROCESO ALCALA (agriculture secretary). One of his innovations was to enable farmers in his district to have a centralized market where buyers and farmers deal with each other directly, bereft of middlemen. This increased profits of farmers and dropped prices for consumers.
He has been heavily involved in environmental concerns in and outside Quezon. Organic farming and so many aspects of agriculture have been his advocacies.
RAMON PAJE (environment secretary). He graciously agreed to serve as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
JOSE DE JESUS (transportation and communications secretary). He served in my mother’s Cabinet, both as secretary to the Cabinet and as public works secretary. He was one of the most, if not the most, hardworking members of my mother’s Cabinet.
As public works secretary, he slept three hours a day to make sure government projects were done in a timely and correct manner. His only luxury was a five-hour rest period on Sundays.
His first assignment is to make sure he sleeps more than three hours a day because he is a work-driven individual who will oversee the transformation of the Department of Transportation and Communications, which was characterized by the NBN-ZTE deal, into an agency that truly serves the interests of the people.
ROSALINDA BALDOZ (labor secretary). She used to head the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, among other agencies. Her concentration also is on the workings of the National Labor Relations Commission, which, we believe, is in need of very strong reforms. We find in her the capability to make the labor department truly responsive to the needs of the working man.
ENRIQUE ONA (health secretary). In our interview, we saw in him the potential to become a complete alter-ego, especially given the fact that the health agenda is No. 3 on our platform. And he has been given instructions specifically to expedite universal coverage of PhilHealth, which is one of our campaign promises.
ALBERTO LIM (tourism secretary). He has been involved in various business endeavors including the setting up of [the world-class resorts of] El Nido and Amanpulo.
The bottom line is that tourism is seen as one of the key venues for increasing jobs. We need someone who has proven competence in this field. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will have as aggressive and successful a campaign as Thailand’s with regard to visits by Filipinos there.
GREGORY DOMINGO (trade and industry secretary). He served as undersecretary for the Board of Investments, and also was executive director of SM Investments Corp. and international trade law and business law lecturer of De La Salle University’s MBA program.
We see the trade and industry portfolio as very essential, to be headed by a very competent individual who will foster the necessary trade and investments that will lead to the fulfillment of the first part of our platform, job generation.
CORAZON SOLIMAN (social welfare secretary). She needs no introduction.
MARIO MONTEJO (science and technology secretary). He is a man of numerous titles, meaning many degrees, and a person I have known for decades. He is among a group of academicians who set up a corporation to translate their scientific studies into practical and applied technology for their countrymen.
Among their inventions were deep-well filters which were previously imported from Australia to the tune of 80 percent. They designed the filters and also invented the machinery to produce all these filters.
Are you familiar with the amusement park Water Fun, the first that featured slides, waves, etc.? That was Filipino technology—Dr. Montejo and his team’s effort.
None of it was licensed from abroad. It was Filipino-designed, -enhanced, and -experimented.
We expect him at the helm of the Department of Science and Technology to provide the backup for any agency that would propose projects involving technical considerations—be it the creation of a dam or the provision of IT services—to include the capability of Phivolcs and Pagasa.
We want an agency that can completely evaluate the proposals presented to us.
The current practice is to ask the proponent to evaluate and justify his proposal, which I think is counterproductive. The DOST under Dr. Montejo will be a real partner as an agent of change.
JOSE RENE ALMENDRAS (energy secretary). I’ve known him since our college days. He is a very good friend of mine and [was] with Manila Water. His main training is in finance.
For the energy portfolio, obviously we want somebody who is not part of the industry inasmuch as there will be a lot of dealings with the industry. We do not want to fall into a trap of regulatory capture.
He has proven competence in the various firms he has headed and worked for. This enables him to handle the Department of Energy, which is primarily a finance-heavy component of our Cabinet.
ROGELIO SINGSON (public works secretary). He has a very extensive CV and is not a stranger to most of us. It is coincidental that he [was] with Maynilad.
Hopefully, our water utility sector will not suffer with his and Almendras’ absence.
VIRGILIO DELOS REYES (agrarian reform secretary). I met him for the first time at the interview and I was very impressed with his knowledge of the problems pertaining to agrarian reform… which unfortunately are not covered by the Carper law.
Hopefully he will help us craft amendments to make sure the Department of Agrarian Reform is able to fulfill its primary mandate of empowering farmer beneficiaries throughout the country.
TERESITA QUINTOS-DELES (presidential adviser on the peace process). She is the second most closely guarded secret among the Cabinet appointees.
JULIA ABAD (Presidential Management Staff chief). I have been served faithfully by her ever since I became a senator three years ago. She has undergone extensive schooling. But more than that, she has my absolute trust, having run my office. If I have been able to do anything in the Senate, it is because of her. I think she possesses 80 percent of the brain I am holding. (See story on Page A1).
EDWIN LACIERDA (presidential spokesperson). He has been, will be, and hopefully will always be [my spokesperson].
EDUARDO DE MESA (presidential legal counsel). He is one of the first lawyers who helped when I took on public service in 1998.
PATRICIA LICUANAN (Commission on Higher Education chair). She will, as her primary mission, rectify the current situation where the agency tasked to oversee higher educational institutions seems to be sleeping on the job. For example, we have over 40 nursing schools who have not had a single board passer for quite a long time.
She will refocus CHEd so that it will serve the interest of the people rather than institutions that have no right to set up courses they are not competent in teaching.
KIM JACINTO HENARES (Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner). She has been functioning in effect as secretary to the Cabinet in all the policy briefings that I have been subjected to. She has been very effective in answering a lot of questions in my rushed preparations for the presidential campaign.
More importantly, it is through her and the customs commissioner (whom we have yet to designate) that we hope to recover the tax collection efficiency first demonstrated by the Ramos administration, and, together with the finance secretary, give us the needed revenues without unnecessarily resorting to new taxes.
The ProPinoy Project is a Global Community Center for all things Pinoy, to connect Filipinos at home and abroad by creating a space for ideas, trends and analyses about the Philippines and the global Pinoy community to inspire informed discussion and transformative action.