sona 2010

No VFA

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivered his first State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2010. In his speech, he spoke of what little money the country has left; the irregularities in the previous administration; the need for more classrooms, cash transfers, ad social services; and the poor investments his predecessor made in several sectors which were actually not returning any profit. He also called upon Congress to support him in passing measures on fiscal rationalization; land use; witness protection; break-up of monopolies; and the often talked about, but also often forgotten, armed forces modernization. But there was no VFA.

The VFA or Visiting Forces Agreement, a remnant of the Estrada administration’s national security policy and the license given by the Arroyo administration for the, albeit prolonged, visit of US forces in the country remains a burning issue of national sovereignty for most of the country’s nationalists.

Just seven years after the Magnificent 12 of the Philippine Senate voted to reject a news treaty which would allow American forces to stay in the country, the GI Joes were once again, allowed to return to the country for military exercises. The first of these exercises were held in June of 2001. But 9/11 attacks changed the character of the exercises, the troops participating in them, and also the duration of the stay of American forces in the country.

By January of 2002, elements of the Joint Task Force 510 of Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) headed by Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster arrived in the country and were deployed to Western Mindanao. Later, JTF 510 would be de-activated after the formation of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines or JSOTF-P. With this, the country became another front in the Bush’s administration’s Global War on Terror. In fact, the presence of the US troops in the country and their activities are collectively part of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines.

In November 2002, the country signed another agreement with the United States, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, which allowed US forces to select locations and build upon these locations, support facilities for their activities in the country. While the agreement was supposedly to be in effect for only five years, it was extended in 2009, after the both Philippine and American negotiators concluded that the arrangement benefitted both parties. The agreement has been viewed by several sectors as “virtual basing” and in violation of the constitutional ban on foreign bases.

But the VFA would be put to test when Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was accused by a Filipino woman under the name Nicole, of rape. The incident, later to be called the Subic Rape Case, served as a litmus paper for the provisions of the agreement which has always been believed by many to serve only the interest of the American government. While the lower court convicted Smith on the charges, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision and set him free. The case though, has become another rallying cry for review of the VFA, so much so that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has waged a personal battle for a review of the agreement.

While protests and criticism of the VFA have become staple activities of progressive groups in the capital, locals in Zamboanga City, Basilan, and Sulu are ambivalent.

In a 2006 report made by David Santos of ABS-CBN Zamboanga on the anniversary of 9/11 a local was asked on what he feels with the presence of American troops, he answered that he felt safe and that the end is near for the Abu Sayyaf. It would be important to point out that the report was made at the height of Oplan Ultimatum or the intensive military operations of the armed forces against the Abu Sayyaf that resulted to the deaths of several of its leaders.

The interviewee’s thoughts are not isolated. There are some in Mindanao who actually think that the presence of American troops is actually needed. The reasons for this feeling vary. Some adhere to this because they lack faith in the integrity of the AFP in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, especially after the controversial Lamitan siege; others think that the American forces are more sufficiently equipped to conduct more demanding operations against the bandits; and then there are also those who think that the US presence guarantees the creation of a Bangsa Moro state a.k.a. the BJE or the Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity. Of course, the last one is the result of centuries of enmity between Muslims and Christians in this country which can best be understood by reading Samuel K. Tan’s A Critical Decade.

At its 12th year, the Visiting Forces Agreement remains a heated issue of sovereignty, national security, and justice from the halls of power in Metro Manila to the barangays of Basilan and Sulu. It is still one of the rallying cries of the progressive groups whenever they hold protests whether infront of US Embassy, the Congress, or President Aquino’s house on Times Street. Yet the agreement has largely remained in effect and unquestioned. Since it was declared constitutional early this year, not much has been heard from political scientists, the academe, and the policy-makers. And it was not even mentioned in the recent State of the Nation Address.

Aquino should make a definite stand on the VFA.  And he should call for its review If it has achieved or failed its purpose then it should be abrogated. If it has not, then it should be revised and formalized as a treaty with the concurrence of the Senate and the House of representatives. Otherwise, if it remains a treaty, it will always be a bone of contention against the policy of the United States in the Philippines.

With the on-going withdrawal of US troops in Iraq, and the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by next year, it is not a remote possibility that there would be a reduction, if not full withdrawal of US troops from the country. The problem is if the US maintains its posture against China. Now that would be an entirely different matter.

A delayed reaction to the thief who stole in the night

Ako lang ba, o kumulo din ba dugo ninyo sa simula ng SONA ng bagong Pangulo?

Let’s itemize the anomalies PNoy started with:

  • in the first half of the year, the government spent more than it earned
  • national deficit has increased to nearly Php 200B (can someone make an accounting of how much the Arroyos spent on their trips and houses?)
  • we were short nearly Php 24B in tax collections
  • we exceeded Php 45B in spending
  • the 2010 budget is Php 1.54T, and just passing the half-year mark, only 6.5% of this budget remains for us to spend
  • we just entered typhoon season and already, Php 1.4B (70%) of the Calamity Fund has been spent (…on what?!)
  • of this 1.4B, 108M was spent in Pampanga
  • of 108M, 105M was spent in a particular district in Pampanga (take a guess)
  • …while Pepeng-ravaged Pangasinan province received only 5M for the damages from Typhoon Cosme, which happened in 2008
  • that particular district in Pampanga received those funds during election season, a full 7 months after Ondoy-Pepeng

With me so far? Let’s continue.

  • MWSS employees received more than Php 211M in 2009
  • payroll amounted to more than Php 51M
  • they were also awarded Php 160M in allowances and benefits (ano ito, Wall Street?)
  • that makes 24% salary, and the rest bonuses
  • members of the MWSS Board of Trustees get Php 14k per meeting attendance
  • that can reach Php 98k each per month, plus grocery incentive
  • they have mid-year bonus, productivity bonus (?!), anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, not to mention Financial Assistance, their Christmas bonuses and an additional Christmas package (while many Filipinos don’t even get a simple paycheck!)
  • that amounts to Php 500k per year per board member, excluding cars and loans
  • they get this while their retirees are fighting for the pension funds

I’ll stop there, although PNoy mentioned many more (not the least the surplus rice bought with taxpayer money that was left to rot while people were starving! What shame and what waste!)

Sabi nga naman ni PNoy na mashoshock tayo sa mga revelation niya sa SONA. But shocked as I was, I thought, well, what did we expect? That the corruption scandals against Gloria that we had already known about were the only anomalies? Who are we kidding. Personally I am elated that there is a government body looking into the misappropriation of public funds, not only to justify the “protest vote” that won PNoy the presidency in the first place, but because, very simply, to solve a problem you have to be able to identify it. It’s not just “corruption.” That’s an abstract idea. What are the forms of corruption and how are the corrupt corrupting?

I will echo what PNoy said in expressing my hope that if those who have abused the system have any shame left, please, resign. If you’re not caught now you’ll be caught later. The era of impunity is at a close.

The second half of the SONA cooled my blood a bit, although I suffered a few spikes in blood pressure with mentions of the shoddy state of our nation. Where are our taxes going, seriously. Thirty-two boats for an archipelago of 7,000 islands? What am I missing here.

But I particularly appreciated the new contracts being negotiated – if true – would rake in millions of dollars for our overly emaciated budget without spending a peso. We need to better learn how to take advantage of what we have and make money off it. Marunong na tayo noon e, implementation lang ang kailangan. After all, only Pinoys can turn Fun Chum basura into bags that sell for 25 pounds sterling in a London market. (I also recently saw lacquered bowls made of clippings from a Pinoy daily bashing FG being sold at a chi-chi “Oriental gifts” store in Amsterdam for 50 euro a set!) The same goes with resources at our disposal that we have not tapped for lack of ingenuity, or lack of investors.

The day before the SONA I had a discussion with a former colleague who, despite being English, is more Asian than I am, and is planning on retiring somewhere in Asia. I asked him why not the Philippines, you love it there. He says past business experiences in the Philippineswere not good. Why, I ask. “The people are great, the labor is reasonable for both parties, life is good. It’s the corruption I can’t stand. Maybe Hong Kong.”

A Belgian friend on the other hand, congratulated me (being Filipino) on the Aquino win when I saw him a few weeks ago. He was rooting for PNoy to win. He told me it’s because he wants to open business there, and is now making more concrete plans with his partners in Manila. I was happy to hear this.

A Filipina living in Holland told me she only sent money to her family. Are you building a house? She has plans but isn’t acting on them yet. Do you want to go home? “I really do,” she tells me, “Pero anong gagawin ko doon? Gusto ko magtayo ng business, pero masgugustuhin ko sa abroad. Ayokong maipit sa Pilipinas.”

We have to get our OFWs to invest at home. Otherwise, the dollars coming in that keeps our economy afloat – it’s not sustainable. It’s a temporary measure for our OFWs until they can bring all their families abroad. We need to make them want to come back home.

I hope the new Press Office opens its doors soon and will deliver on their two-way communication promise. I hope the Witness Protection Program improves, and that the Whistleblower’s Bill is passed. There was no mention of the Freedom of Information Act on the SONA, even if PNoy had mentioned some time ago, after the impasse at Congress, that it was one of his priorities. All these, plus a heightened awareness by the citizenry will keep the windows open, fresh air, sun shining in, and more investment money pouring in. While we need financial aid, we shouldn’t rely on them. Aid breeds corruption and dependence, and we lose the incentive to find sustainable solutions on our own. Nation building is a task for us, and we get nowhere by moping, complaining and playing the blame game. The next time you do that (or are tempted to do that), stop and ask yourself: Have I done something that could have prevented this situation I am whining about? And then ask yourself, Am I whining within reason? Chances are you’re not. You wouldn’t be whining if you’re being reasonable. you’d be proposing alternative solutions instead.

I end with something PNoy said in his SONA:

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.

Rep. Edcel Lagman's Counter-SONA

SOUND AND FURY OF PRESIDENT AQUINO’S SONA
(Counter-SONA Speech delivered by Minority Leader
Edcel C. Lagman on 27 July 2010 at the House of Representatives)

Mr. Speaker and distinguished colleagues:

The Minority in this House has publicly declared that it will not be obstructionist nor will it be obstinate.  It has offered the hand of amity and cooperation to the Administration. It would support the Administration’s agenda for sustainable human development and programs to alleviate poverty, protect the marginalized and strengthen the economy.

We in the Minority keenly awaited the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be informed of concrete and meaningful legislative agenda of President Benigno Aquino III – a shopping list of well-explained proposals from which the Minority could select and prioritize what measures it would adopt and jointly advocate.

The SONA frustrated the expectations of the Minority. Instead of being a blueprint for development and policy direction, the SONA was generally a partisan press release, a complaint sheet, a compendium of motherhood statements and a continuation of campaign rhetoric.

Instead of presenting a roadmap on policies and programs, the SONA was a discourse on “inherited problems” which overwhelm the President and painted an atmosphere of woe with very tentative and deficient solutions.

Yung SONA kahapon ng Pangulo ay bitin, kulang at kapos. Ano naman ang susuportahan ng Minorya kung walang binigkas na maliwanag na programa ang Pangulo? Just like a tele-novela: abangan ang susunod na kabanata. Talagang bitin.

The SONA was bereft of specifics or particulars. His proposals were virtually hanging in the air and most probably, he expected Congress to fill in the blanks. Or was it purposely vague or “safe” so that the people could not hold him accountable for a concrete program once it fails?

I have been cautioned to go slow on the SONA because President Aquino enjoys a tremendously high approval rating. But when the Emperor wears no clothes, can I honestly tell you that his robe is regal and majestic?

Yesterday afternoon the sound and fury emanating from the first SONA of President Aquino reverberated in this august Chamber.

“Sound” from the crafted “sound bites” on alleged misdeeds of the previous administration which the current dispensation considers “excesses” to solely rake up and expose, but not as pitfalls to avoid and hard lessons to learn from.

“Sound” echoing the voices of presidential subalterns who were specifically ordered to find past faults of the agencies they are now heading, for inclusion as inputs in the SONA, which contributions could have been contrived or hastily prepared.

And “sound” from the much-ballyhooed “speech from the heart”, which was indeed more cardiac than cerebral.

“Fury” from the ferocious campaign of perceived vengeance spearheaded by the Presidency whose “prosecutor’s complex” projects the creation of a “Truth Commission” which will only duplicate, if not supersede, the statutory and constitutional mandates of existing government prosecutorial and judicial agencies, aside from becoming a convenient launching pad for conviction by publicity of expected respondents.

“Fury” from the divisive disposition of the Presidency which plants a wedge among our people and leaders, instead of integrating and unifying sectors of society and institutions.  The SONA must integrate, not divide, the nation.

“Fury” from misleading accusations and denunciations which defy the facts, violate the truth and trivialize probity.

We do not intend to defend the officials of the previous administration who could ably defend themselves from denunciations and innuendoes. What we are going to do is to clarify the statements of the President to establish the accurate facts and figures; buoy up the people’s faith in government institutions; maintain investors’ confidence and prevent capital flight consequent to an errant presentation engendering doubt and despair.

Now, let me go to the particulars included in the SONA:

1.  Mention was made of former functionaries who committed criminal and/or administrative infractions. If officials of the previous administration have violated the law, then their cases must be pursued, filed and submitted to the independent assessment and fair adjudication of the proper prosecutorial and judicial fora. The rule of law, not the role of interference, must be strictly observed and judiciously upheld.

No more similar presidential interventions in the judicial domain like in the Trillanes case; no more affront against a co-equal branch of government like the defiance of the valid appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona; and no more projected creation of a “Truth Commission” which may suffer from constitutional infirmities like usurping the power of Congress to create and fund offices and commissions and violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

It must be underscored that the intended creation of a “Truth Commission” to investigate allegations of corruption against the former President has no international moorings. Invariably, truth commissions since the mid-1970s have been created “to investigate past history of violations of human rights in a particular country.”

It is also reported that “the international human rights community has advocated truth commissions as an important part of the healing process, and they have been suggested as part of the peace process of virtually every international or communal conflict that has come to an end”.

Truth commissions provide a “forum for victims, their relatives, and sometimes the perpetrators of the crimes to give evidence and testimony of human rights abuses.”

Verily, a truth commission is created to look into human rights violations usually perpetrated under dictatorial regimes which had been successfully supplanted by a democratic government and is instituted as part of the process of closure.

Consequently, it is not established to investigate alleged acts of corruption, the jurisdiction over which is lodged with the existing judicial system. Should a “Truth Commission” be created, it should be consistent with its history, practice and objective which is to hold human rights violators accountable and give justice to the victims and their families.

Since the very first truth commission in Uganda was formed to bring to justice perpetrators of enforced disappearances, President Aquino should be challenged to certify the Anti-Disappearance bill as an administration measure and for the Philippines to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

2.  The previous administration has been faulted for incurring a huge deficit of about P196.7 billion from January to June 2010. But impartial economists have unequivocally said that the deficit is manageable so much so that the country’s credit rating has been maintained.

Even the Aquino fiscal managers are reported to have increased the 2010 deficit target of P233.44 billion, or 2.8% of GDP to P293.2 billion or an increase of almost P60 billion to pump prime the economy, as what the previous administration did.

As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), both the actual fiscal deficit and the original 2010 projected deficit are lower than the previous deficits in relation to the GDP which was 5.13% in 1986, 3.45% in 1990, 3.75% in 1999, 4.0% in 2000, 4.05% in 2001, 5.32% in 2002, 4.63% in 2003 and 3.84% in 2004.

Not having a fiscal deficit or attaining a reduced deficit is not sacrosanct. Even the more advanced and progressive nations have deficits of their own at varying high levels.

The prioritization of public expenditures and pump priming programs should be the economic mantra, instead of aspiring to have no or reduced deficit which results in an anemic or regressive growth.

3. As if to seek pity, the President said that what remains of the P1.540 trillion 2010 national budget is only P100 billion or 6.5% of the total annual appropriations.

The President is grossly misinformed, to say the least. According to the Bureau of the Treasury, the total cash disbursement or national government expenditures as of 30 June 2010 amounted to 788 billion 833 million pesos. In other words, 751 billion 767 million pesos or 48.78% of the budget remains unspent.

The problem in the President’s accounting must have been caused by a lack of understanding of the difference between “allocation” as covered by a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and actual disbursement to pay accrued or matured obligations.

This is also compounded by failing to appreciate the import of the three general items of expenditures on personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay vis-à-vis release of funds.

In the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, personal services amount to 493 billion 034 million 210 thousand pesos; MOOE totals 824 billion 669 million 228 thousand pesos, which expenditure item includes interest payment, Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and other MOOE; and capital outlay amounts to 222 billion 896 million 562 thousand pesos or a total budget of 1 trillion 540 billion 600 million pesos.

Under the National Budget Circular 523, 100% of personal services for filled items and 75% of the MOOE and capital outlay are authorized to be released at the start of the fiscal year.

Accordingly, in Fiscal Year 2010, 356 billion 168 million 327 thousand pesos or 72.245% of the personal services had been released, while 402 billion 329 million 083 thousand pesos or 48.79% of the MOOE and 117 billion 740 million 884 thousand pesos or 52.82% of the capital outlay had been released or a grand total of 876 billion 238 million 294 thousand pesos had been released as of 31 May 2010. Thus leaving an unreleased balance of 664 billion 361 million 706 thousand pesos.

The lament of President Aquino that the remaining appropriation is only P100 billion is inaccurate and misleading because he must have been looking only at the capital outlay where the exact balance as of 31 May 2010 is 105 billion 155 million 678 thousand pesos or 47.18% of the total appropriation.

In fact, instead of releasing 75% of the MOOE, only 48.79% had been released leaving a balance of 51.21% or 422 billion 340 million 145 thousand pesos and only 52.82% of the capital outlay, thus leaving a balance of 47.18%. Perforce, President Aquino has to go back to the drawing board or consult his advisers to get the accurate figures.

Consequently, it is best to reiterate that 100% of the personal services for filled positions and 75% of the MOOE are authorized to be released at the start of the fiscal year to the agencies concerned to assure the prompt payment of the salaries of government personnel and the unimpeded operations of the government.

The front-loaded appropriations already amount to 876 billion 238 million 294 thousand pesos or 56.88% of the national budget and the total combined unreleased balance of about 664 billion 361 million 706 thousand pesos or 43.12% of the budget is for disposition of the new administration.

4. The releases for a district in Pampanga is only a small percentage of the Calamity Fund and the allocation is barely disbursed as the projects are still in the process of implementation.

The comparison with Pangasinan which reportedly got only P5 million from the Calamity Fund is obviously misleading as other rehabilitation projects in Pangasinan were adequately funded from other budgetary sources like the outlay for public works.

These misleading statements are aggravated by a lack of understanding of the utilization of the Calamity Fund. The President is of the impression that the fund is limited to current year calamities. It is not. It also covers rehabilitation projects necessitated by prior years’ calamities and pre-calamity preparations. The range covers past, present, and future calamities pursuant to the General Appropriations Act.

5. The President’s tirade against NAPOCOR is apparently misplaced. The P200 billion debt of NAPOCOR which was assumed by the National Government did not represent losses when it sold electricity at a loss to subsidize consumers. This loan assumption is mandated by Section 32 of the EPIRA Law.

6. With respect to the President’s exposé on alleged anomalous fund utilization of the MWSS, I am informed that the salary adjustments also accrued in favor of the rank and file personnel and the rates are in compliance with Collective Bargaining Agreements way back to the 1950s and all bonuses have legal basis like the Salary Standardization III.

7. The revelation of the President on reported excess importation of rice by the National Food Authority (NFA) and the alleged subsequent spoilage of the excess is a premature denunciation because the NFA, as earlier admitted today by NFA officials, has not even started the requisite audit and investigation.

The import of the President’s SONA can also be assessed or judged by what it failed to say:

1. There is no mention on how the new Administration will pursue and achieve sustainable human development and how it would improve and enhance the principal human development indicators like health, education, food security, employment, mass housing and the environment.

2. No mention was made about the incontrovertible linkage between population and sustainable human development, which significant nexus is adequately addressed in the Reproductive Health bill.

3. The agrarian reform program was completely forgotten despite having been the centerpiece program of the late President Corazon Aquino. The agricultural sector being a major market for consumer goods and agricultural inputs produced by the industrial sector, the SONA should have stressed the imperative of agricultural development and agrarian reform in sustained industrial growth and, concomitantly, sustained employment generation.

4. There was also a default on the promotion of human rights and protection of civil liberties, except a passing mention of six extrajudicial killings very early in the Aquino administration which are claimed to being addressed.

5. Likewise, there was no mention of the Aquino administration’s policy on enhancing the condition of the workingman, here and abroad, or his labor agenda.

6. The agenda on climate change mitigation and adaptation was also completely overlooked even as climate change principally affects women, children and the disadvantaged sectors.

7. The Freedom of Information bill, which should be revisited, debated, refined and amended, is nowhere to be found in the SONA.

8. There is no debt service reduction policy and how the administration will address the issue on fraudulent loans.

9. Nothing was disclosed on the development of Mindanao and other chronically depressed areas.

10. The SONA was likewise silent on the new administration’s thrust on foreign relations in the context of a global community.

The initiation of national policies generally belongs to the administration or the Majority. But the Minority is ready to discharge this role if the administration continues to default on this obligation.

There is much to be desired in the President’s actualization of his proposed legislative agenda as represented by his announced priority bills.

(a) With respect to the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, there are no parameters and requisite exceptions. We cannot totally enjoin the filing and passing of bills without specified sources of funding because there are certain measures which come to fore that need immediate enactment with the funding source from savings, available funds and subsequent appropriations provided for in the GAA.

(b) In the review of fiscal incentives, the President failed to identify which incentives must remain and which incentives should be foreclosed.

(c) There has been no mention whatsoever of what should be amended in the procurement law.

(d) The President’s endorsement of an Ant-Trust Law remains nebulous except for a sweeping statement against monopolies and cartels.

(e) There are a number of National Land Use bills introduced in past Congresses. Which bill does the President favor?

(f) While there is a need to update the National Defense Act, again the President failed to disclose what amendments are to be effected.

(g) How will the Witness Protection Program be strengthened, the President again failed to specify.

(h) The Whistle Blower’s bill is not a major legislation but can be prioritized with further inputs from the President.

With all of the inordinate inaccuracies in the facts and figures cited to in the SONA, it is obvious that the President was fed wrong information by assistants and some members of the Cabinet. Nakuryente ang Presidente despite the fact that his SONA was not electrifying. Not realizing that he was given wrong data, false statistics and flawed analyses, he still appealed to Congress that these errant appointees should breeze through the Commission on Appointments. This is shockingly aggravating.

Despite the generally gaping void of the SONA, we appreciate the proffered adoption and continuation of the following programs of the previous administration:

1. Public-private partnerships on capital expenditure projects with the reservation that the simplistic understanding of the President that “nang hindi gugugol ang estado kahit na po piso” or cost-free to the government, fails to realize that investors would have to recoup their investments and make profits so much so that the people will ultimately bear the burden of the project cost. Moreover, the President has to disclose who these businessmen with hearts of gold are who have made such selfless proposals to him.

2. The program on conditional cash transfer with possible increased funding support.

3. The national household index project being undertaken by the DSWD to accurately document poor families in order to prioritize and rationalize financial assistance

4. Universal coverage under the Philhealth social insurance whose benefits could be maximized if those who could afford pay the small annual premium of only P1,200.00 are self-enrolled and if physicians can perform effective but less expensive medical procedures.

On the whole, President Aquino’s first State of the Nation Address was both defective in what it said and deficient in what it failed to say. Its “sound” has now vanished and its “fury” dissipated.

The Minority criticizes the SONA as a way of telling the President to validate the information given to him by his subalterns and to use the SONA as an instrument to advocate reform and development, and not as a weapon to vilify and destroy.

SONA

“Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jor-El to save the Planet Earth.”  – Barak Obama in a light moment

I showered and dressed early last Monday. It was the SONA and I didn’t want to be late. Only the vice president has the privilege of arriving late.

I started my preparations for the SONA a week ago.  I had my physical therapist work on my neck and arms for the inevitable rubber-necking and elbow-rubbing that I expected to do at the Batasan. I visited my Binondo herbalist for a special tea that would suppress vomiting in case I caught sight of certain politicians.

And so I seated myself, one hour before the SONA, in front of my television. I did not get a ticket for the show. The House protocol office said they were tapped out, all seats taken, no standing room allowed. I told them they were liars, that I knew Cong. Gloria Arroyo’s high chair was available.  They said my only chance was for vice president Binay to arrive late again, in case, this time, his motorcade is stopped for running through a red light.

I heard Gloria skipped town because she feared arrest after the SONA. I guess nobody told her that the cops surrounding the Batasan were not a posse. They were there for security and crowd control, to restrain lynch mobs. Anyway, newsclips showed that she left for Hongkong in the company of her husband Mike and Mike Defensor.

Watching the SONA on TV is not all that bad. One can smoke, drink, snack, and even go on a bathroom break. But it has a drawback: TV anchors and on-scene reporters who tell us what we just saw and heard. They remind me of sports announcers who never made the shift from radio to TV.

Now the post mortem with pundits is okay. There are some things that do need a little explaining. Besides it’s fun to watch pundits pretend objectivity and intelligence. But it’s the post SONA interviews that provide true comic relief.

Senator Loren Legarda was asked about her reaction to the SONA. She said she liked it. And then she used the rest of her time talking about herself.

By the way I liked her new hairdo. It took years off. But that’s what prompted a friend to comment – “Parang bagong hiwalay (recently divorced).” I raised my eyebrows so she explained that Loren’s reaction to her electoral debacle, adopting a new younger look, is typical of scorned middle-aged women.

Former Agriculture secretary Yap claimed he was surprised by the President Aquino’s mention of over-importation by the National Food Authority. He said why blame him and Gloria when the decision on import volumes was done by collegial bodies.  Too bad his interviewer was sharp. She asked him who chaired those bodies.

I liked the SONA. It was what I expected of a chief operating officer, a presentation of facts followed by plans and courses of action. But I was disappointed there was no mention of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI). I presume the president thought there is no need for it now because he will have nothing to hide. But the FOI is not personal. I hope one of these days Aquino realizes that the bill is the antidote for the culture of opacity and impunity.

Finally, ANC, the news channel, totally distracted me with an inset at the bottom left corner of the screen. What was a magician performing hand tricks doing in the SONA?

1st State of the Nation Address of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III

2010 SONA President Benigno S. Aquino III

State of the Nation Address

of His Excellency

Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Philippines

to the Congress of the Philippines

Session Hall of the House of Representatives

July 26, 2010

[Batasan Pambansa Complex, Quezon City]

PANIMULA

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?

CALAMITY FUND

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.

MWSS

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.

NEGOTIATED CONTRACTS

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.

NAPOCOR

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.

MRT

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.

NFA

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.

ZERO BUDGET

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.

IMMEDIATE STEPS

TAX EVASION

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.

EXTRALEGAL KILLINGS

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.

TRUTH COMMISSION

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.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

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.

STREAMLINING PROCESSES

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

EDUCATION

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.

PHILHEALTH

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.

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

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.

PEACE PROCESS

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.

PANAWAGAN

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.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

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.

Maraming Salamat Po!