AFTER all the promises made, it’s time to walk the talk.

President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has vowed to solve the problems he has inherited from the Arroyo administration by fighting corruption, creating jobs, improving the education system and establishing a credible judicial process.

“For almost a decade, we suffered under an administration whose mandate has been mired in corruption and cheating. But now, I have been given an opportunity to uplift people’s lives,” Aquino said in a letter sent to the Varsitarian.

He said he would improve the quality of education and health, generate jobs, and implement judicial reforms.

In his first months in the Palace, Aquino also plans to create a commission that will study possible amendments to the Constitution.

“When amendments are proposed, it will be ensured that they reflect a broad public consensus,” he said.

He added that he wants to create a body to probe graft-ridden transactions left by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“We will coordinate with the [Office of the] Ombudsman to investigate and gather evidence related to pending corruption issues [involving the Arroyo government], and file charges as warranted by evidence,” Aquino said.

Aquino said he would select public officials who are competent and passionate.

“Qualification standards, especially on eligibility, will be strictly enforced,” Aquino said.

Aquino is being bombarded with suggestions to increase taxes. But he said there would be no new tax measures, dropping Finance Secretary Margarito Teves’ proposal to raise the value-added tax rate to 15 percent from 12 percent.

Despite opposition from the Church, Aquino believes sex education will help parents deal with teenage pregnancy.

“We are not talking about overpopulation, but the state’s lack of capacity to start addressing the problems that are already here,” Aquino said.

Taking a leaf of fate

On the economy, Aquino said he would invest on farms and rural enterprises to achieve food security.

He also plans to create more jobs in the country, so that working abroad will be “a choice rather than a necessity.” But when citizens choose to work overseas, their rights will still be protected, he said.

According to Alvin Ang, director of the UST Research Cluster for Cultural, Educational and Social Issues, one of the worst problems in the country today is failure to create quality jobs resulting in the growing number of Filipino workers abroad.

“There is not much ‘quality’ jobs available here in the country. There is also a huge mismatch between what firms want and what schools offer,” he said.

If Aquino fails to address that, people will choose to work abroad instead, he said.

Faculty of Arts and Letters political science professor Zenia Rodriguez echoed Ang, saying that Aquino must be able to provide jobs so that the country will not lose competent students after their graduation.

Ang said that while Aquino plans to the sustain economy’s growth at 7.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, he must also consider the “external environment.”

“Euro (currency) is facing crisis and [the United States of] America is still recovering. Our economy is a part of the global market so the sustainability [of the economy] hinges on some external factors,” Ang said.

Environmental protection is also included in Aquino’s main concerns, saying he will plan alternative urban development programs and encourage sustainable use of resources.

Love's spells, pains and cupidity

However, in Aquino’s official written platform, no specific program for education has been discussed yet.

“From my vantage point, one of the concerns that President Aquino considers most important is education,” said Ronald Llamas, Akbayan party-list president and former Varsitarian staff member. “An educational program cannot be created in a vacuum. Planning must be in relation to economic and political goals.”

Llamas pointed out that in order to change the political system of the country, the people must first be well-educated.

Asked where Aquino should focus, Ang said, “that is everybody’s question.”

“The President cannot focus on so many aspects. He has to focus on something first. He has to attack one problem at a time,” Ang added.

But for Rodriguez, Aquino should not single out an issue.

“All the problems that we are facing now are interrelated with each other, and he has to give equal importance to all of these,” Rodriguez said.

Aquino’s campaigns are anchored on his mantra: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

Rodriguez said that it would be hard to eradicate corruption but it can be lessened or minimized.

“His (Aquino) mantra is too idealistic but it makes sense,” she said. “He can make initial steps.”

Cynics doubt Aquino’s gratifications, citing his failure to author any law during his nine and three years as a representative and senator, respectively.

“He has co-authored many laws. But as to whether he had or had not solo-authored a law, it will have no impact on his presidency for it does not mean that he is a lousy or a leader who does not have a stand,” Rodriguez said.

JEN Workshop generates new breed of critics

For Llamas, Aquino is a politician who does not brag about his accomplishments.

“He does not publicize just to create a legacy for himself. After all, people chose him not because of what he can do, but because of his character—the lesser evil,” he said.

Akbayan first supported the presidential bid of Manuel Roxas II in 2009 but later endorsed Aquino’s candidacy after Roxas withdrew from the presidential race.

“He may neither be an intellectual nor a manager. His leadership may still be questionable, but for us (Akabayan), his tendency to perpetuate himself is lesser, if there is any,” Llamas said.

Rodriguez said people should not judge Aquino at the moment.

“We cannot conclude anything yet because he (Aquino) has not even started yet,” she said. “Let us re-judge him after six years.”

Llamas hopes Aquino will first repair “damaged” institutions left by ex-president Arroyo—that is to remove corrupt officials in departments and agencies.

“Now, only a few believe in what the government can offer. People’s trust has long been lost,” Llamas said.

Despite Arroyo’s exit, many say that there is still a number of “pro-Gloria” lawmakers in the House of the Representatives who may hamper Aquino as legislative agenda.

Aquino said he cannot make a paradigm shift with no sufficient support from the people.

“I cannot save those who do not want to save themselves. It must be a collaboration of you and me,” Aquino said. Alexis Ailex C. Villanor, Jr with Ian Antonio and Monica Ladisla


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