House minority to Aquino: Where's the road map?
MANILA, Philippines – A week after President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address (SONA), House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora finally delivered his "kontra-SONA" (counter-SONA) on Monday, July 29.
Zamora stressed that he was not out to point out the incompetencies of the President but to "provide an alternative," although he took a swipe at Aquino's nearly-two-hour speech for talking "at length [about] personal accomplishments" but failing to deliver a road map for the next 3 years.
"Hindi po para sa akin sabihin na mali kayo sa inyong SONA. Hindi para sa akin na sabihin sa inyo na ito dapat ang inyong sinabi o kayo ay nagkulang dito o dito rin at diyan pa," Zamora said in his speech. (It's not for me to say that you were wrong in your SONA. It's not for me to tell you that you missed this or that.)
He added: "Ito ang ambag at alay ng minorya." (What I have is the input of the minority.)
"The president should spell out in black and white what he needs to do toward providing our country with a vision of the future and a sense of how he will do it," he said.
But Zamora said the Philippines needs not just a "mahusay" (competent) president but a "katangi-tangi" (exceptional) one.
Zamora failed to deliver his kontra-SONA speech right after Aquino's SONA on July 22 as the minority could not resolve whether the 16 solons who voted in favor of his then rival for House Minority Leader, Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez, would still join the minority.
In his speech, Zamora revealed the minority currently has 19 members, the same number of lawmakers that voted for him.
Gear up for budget deliberations
Zamora said he chose not criticize Aquino's SONA line by line. He would rather use the upcoming budget deliberations to grill members of the administration. The House hopes to start budget deliberations on August 7.
First in the minority's agenda would be to scrutinize the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which Aquino hailed in his SONA.
Zamora said Aquino's CCT program would not provide enough leverage for inclusive growth and curb poverty.
"We can't do it with CCT alone," Zamora said. "CCT is not and cannot be permanent. It should be viewed as a temporary pallative intended to remove the worst features of poverty such as family illness and hunger."
Probe pork scam
With the exposé on the alleged multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam now making the headlines, the minority is set to file a resolution for a congressional probe on the scandal.
Zamora said the House must give lawmakers a chance to explain, especially as "majority of whom do not deserve to be maligned by suspicion or as equally convicted in the public mind as the few who are truly guilty."
"Let us jail whomever deserves to be jailed, and then let us throw away the key," he said.
Senators are divided on whether the Senate must conduct its own probe, but Senate President Franklin Drilon has taken a hands-off approach.
Although he understands the Senate's position, Zamora said "it is not doing itself any favor on the issue that is truly the elephant in the room."
No to constitutional amendments
Zamora expressed his opposition against amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, saying he would rather engage in a long debate in a constitutional convention rather than focus on changing just certain parts.
Amending the charter was not mentioned in Aquino's SONA, but House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr has been pushing to amend economic provisions of the Constitution, especially the 40% limit for foreign ownerships of businesses.
"It is not the inability to purchase land or invest in certain percentages in certain industry that is stopping investors," Zamora said. "It is the absence of rules and the constant changing of policies that discourage investors and these are not constitutional issues but rather administrative ones."
Instead of a constitutional convention, Zamora said the government should focus on the peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the development of Mindanao, the plight of overseas Filipino workers, and the belligerence of China. – Rappler.com