Poe to Aquino: What about FOI, MRT, agri?
MANILA, Philippines – To Senator Grace Poe, it's a job well done for President Benigno Aquino III but his successor has a lot left to do.
The front-runner in presidential surveys urged Aquino to use his final year in office to push for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, fix the notorious Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system, and improve agriculture.
“Siyempre ito ay sentimental, dahil ilalarawan niya, sasabihin niya ‘yung mga nagawa niya nung ilang taon pero siyempre ako naman po ay partial, gusto ko sana mabanggit niya ‘yung Freedom of Information. Sa tingin ko, isang legasiya iyan na maiiwan niya na magkaroon ng lakas ang mga tao na busisiin ang lahat ng ginagawa at dokumento ng gobyerno,” Poe said before the opening of the Senate session on Monday, July 27.
(Of course, this is sentimental because he will describe what he has done in a few years but of course, I am partial. I want him to mention Freedom of Information. I think it's one legacy he can leave behind that people will have the power to scrutinize government activities and documents.)
Aquino will deliver his 5th and final address to Congress, called the State of the Nation Address (SONA), where he will outline his achievements in his first 5 years, and push for his legislative agenda in his remaining months in office.
The President has been in talks with Poe to be drafted as an administration candidate, but he was reportedly unsuccessful in convincing her to run as the vice president of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II in the 2016 elections. Poe is expected to run for president as an independent candidate.
The senator is the sponsor of the Senate version of the FOI bill, which aims to institutionalize transparency by setting up a system for citizens to access government records and data.
It was Aquino's campaign promise to push for the measure but the bill is still languishing in Congress 5 years into his presidency despite his anti-corruption campaign.
The neophyte senator also asked the President to address the perennial MRT woes after a series of service disruptions that led commuters to walk tracks back to train stations. Poe led a Senate inquiry to look into the problems with the system.
“Ano ba talaga ang mangyayari diyan? Ano ang maintenance diyan at anong ang long-term goals? Kasi siyempre ang Pangulo matatapos na ang kanyang termino, anong gusto niyang ipasa sa susunod na mamumuno?”
(What is really happening there? What is up with the maintenance and long-term goals? Because of course the President's term is about to end, what does he want to pass on to his successor?)
Poe added that the Aquino administration must focus on the agriculture sector, whose growth slowed down and continues to require more government support.
The senator said she is still thinking about her plans for 2016.
“It is important that the President set an example in showing he is honest, and he does not steal from the government. I think in the next 6 years, it is important to continue the economic growth but there is still a lot left to do like in the transportation and agriculture sectors,” she said.
Marcos: 'Standard peace line'
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, another senator reportedly eyeing higher office, said he expects the President to again urge Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Known as the BBL, the bill aims to create an expanded autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao as part a historic peace deal between Aquino's government, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The BBL aims to end 4 decades of poverty and conflict in Mindanao yet a January encounter between elite cops and Moro rebels that killed 67 Filipinos made it unpopular.
“I'm sure he will say it is already well on its way to passing into law. I'm not sure what else he will say. His line is always the same to pass the BBL immediately. I think he will repeat that,” said Marcos, who chairs the local government committee handling the bill.
Marcos rejected the BBL, and is set to propose his own version of the measure by August 3.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who expressed interest in running for president, said Aquino must secure the gains of his administration.
Cayetano credited Aquino for going after suspected corrupt officials including 3 senators who are absent from the SONA for the second year. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr are in detention for a year now over the pork barrel corruption scam.
Echoing Poe, Cayetano said Aquino must institutionalize the reforms.
“We still don't have the Freedom of Information Act. Even the media has suffered setbacks, with the persecution and dangers getting worse in this period. We need continuity because we'll have one good president then a bad one. It's like we're playing yoyo. It's more continuing, strengthening the administration, and having a 'normal government,'” Cayetano told Rappler.
The Nacionalista Party (NP) senator has expressed interest in running for president but said he is still “soul-searching” as he continues to lag behind in surveys.
Opposition senator JV Ejercito said Aquino “improved the image” of the Philippines but his government was slow in building infrastructure to cope with the growing population and economy.
“This should be the focus in the remaining months, to lay down the power generation and railway system to serve as catalysts of the economy,” said Ejercito, son of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
Under Aquino, the Philippines earned investor grade credit ratings, and had one of Asia's best performing economies although growth slowed down this year.
Senator Loren Legarda, an ally of the administration, said the President must focus on an issue his critics repeatedly harp on: inclusive growth.
“For so long, we've looked at GNP, GDP, growth in terms of statistics. It should not just be about numbers but also quality of life: the air we breathe, the food we eat, our seas and mountains, the resilience in the life of Filipinos. I want inclusive, sustainable growth,” said Legarda, an environment advocate.
She added: “Growth is not just statistics but quality of life.” – Rappler.com