MANILA, JULY 24, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Karen Boncocan - President Benigno Aquino III declared in his third State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa Complex Monday afternoon that the country is now truly open for business.

Citing information that the Philippines is now enjoying positive credit, he told the nation that the stock exchange index now no longer went below 5000 from the earlier 4000, drawing him applause from the audience.

“Dati tayo ang nangungutang, ngayon tayo na ang nagpapautang. Dati namamalimos tayo ng investments, ngayon dumadagsa,” he added, quoting comments on the Philippines being “Asia’s next tiger.”

He claimed that growth in the economy was reaching the masses through the government’s Pantawid Pamilya program, which has more than 700,000 beneficiaries.

By 2013, Aquino expressed hope that the government can provide the poor with 3.8 million more housing units.

No mention of RH bill in Sona, says Sotto By Matikas Santos

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III never mentioned the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III (photo) said Monday.

“[Aquino] said ‘responsible parenting’ but he did not say ‘bill’. He only said ‘we should practice responsible parenting.’ Correct, we are in favor of that, all of us are in favor of that,” Sotto said in an ambush interview after Aquino’s hour and a half long speech.

“He did not mention anything about contraceptives, abortion, birth control, and population control, nothing about that. That is what is contained in the RH Bill. There’s nothing (in his speech about that),” Sotto said.

Aquino said in his speech that he hoped the now shrinking backlog in education would not become a problem again because of the large number of students. He added, “I think, responsible parenthood is the answer,” for which he got the loudest applause from the audience in the gallery.

Sotto said that “even those who are opposed to RH Bill are in favor of responsible parenting.”

“When you want to declare contraceptives, IUDs, injectibles, and condoms as essential medicines, that’s not responsible parenting. When you are consenting to abortion, that is not responsible parenting. When you are going to spend P3 billion to buy contraceptives, that is not responsible parenting. So the President did not say anything about that,” Sotto said.

When asked to rate Aquino’s speech, Sotto said, “I believe this is the best Sona of the president. He covered everything, he was confident, he exuded confidence, he exuded sincerity in what he was saying.”

Mining, sin tax bills should be passed, says Drilon By Fat Reyes 9:14 pm | Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Manila, Philippines—Senator Franklin Drilon (photo) on Monday said he was one with President Benigno Aquino III in pushing for the passing of the sin tax and mining tax bills.

Drilon said this when asked about his reactions to Aquino’s State of the Nation Address delivered Monday at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Drilon said that the passage of the sin tax bill could give the country extra funds.

“Dapat po gawin namin ang sin tax bill dahil yan po ang makakapagbigay ng investment grade sa ating ekonomiya. Kapag nagkaroon po tayo ng investment grade ay malaki ang matitipid natin sa ating interest payment at iyan po ay mapupunta sa karagdagang pondo para sa mahihirap,” Drilon said.

Drilon said that the same effect of more funds for the country was seen if the mining tax measure was passed.

“Sinusuportahan ko po ang mga panukalang magdagdag ng pondo sa ating bayan,” Drilon said.

Drilon noted however that these funds should be used transparently, and he noted that Aquino has shown in his two years of presidency that he used the country’s funds rightly.

Senator Estrada: Aquino’s Sona ‘realistic’ By Fat Reyes 7:49 pm | Monday, July 23rd, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Jinggoy Estrada (photo) said that it made him “proud” to be under the leadership of President Benigno Aquino III after hearing the latter’s third State of the Nation Address (Sona) Monday afternoon.

Aquino delivered his Sona at 4 p.m. at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Batasan Hills, Quezon City.

According to Estrada, Aquino’s speech was “realistic” and “doable.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO “Doable in the sense that all his promises are achievable in terms of infrastructure, CCT (conditional cash transfer) program…,” Estrada said.

Estrada said that he expected Aquino to mention the plunder cases against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the impeachment of Former Chief Justice Renato Corona in his speech.


Brokers, analysts air SONA expectations Details Published on Monday, 23 July 2012 00:00 Written by ALBERT CASTRO .

Today, July 23, President Aquino will have to show the administration’s goals for the next four years and clearly assess how far his government had gone in attaining the vision and mission he outlined when he first came to power, brokers and stock analysts said.

While it is expected that the president will outline his achievements particularly in the last 12 months in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), Francisco Liboro, PCCI Securities, Inc. president, said the president should also include an assessment how far the government has gone in achieving its vision for the country.

“There is a vision that the president has for this country. He articulated this in his campaign inaugural speech. And we shared this vision with him. Two years into his term. We need to know where we are in fulfilling this vision,” said Liboro.

“Give it to us straight so we can better appreciate what lies ahead. I personally believe he has set us on the correct path. My question is are we getting in the time frame that we wanted to at the start? Or will there be delays in fulfilling this vision,” he added.

Eduardo V. Francisco, BDO Capital and Investment Corp., president, meanwhile said that as much as he is “satisfied” with what the Aquino administration has done that past 18 months of its term, the president should outline his plans for the remaining months of his contract with the citizenry, apart from elaborating on what his administration has already done.

“While mentioning accomplishments is ok, I hope he focuses more on plans next four years,” he said.

“I am very much satisfied and hoping for more action and result,” Francisco added.

Jun Calaycay, a trader at brokerage firm Accord Capital Equities Corp., elaborared on what in particular the President should discuss when he presents to the Congress what it has done for the past year.

“The Anti-Corruption drive has netted a big fish -- the conviction of CJ Corona and the cases filed against erring government officials. We expect some statistics to be presented comparing it with previous administrations,” Calaycay said on the government’s campaign of “Tuwid na Daan.”

“He should also discuss about the social justice and agrarian reform effort of the administration, although we may not hear of the Hacienda Luisita case except in passing,” he added.

Calacay said the President should also include an update for the search for the new Chief Justice as well as the on-going territorial conflict with China.

“The over-all economic performance through the first quarter, highlighting the 6.4 percent growth that surprised many, should also be elaborated as well as the progress on the PPP big ticket items for bidding,” Calaycay said.


CONCENSUS: Noy’s ‘well-packaged’ Sona hollow inside Written by TribuneTuesday, 24 July 2012


The concensus on President Aquino’s third State of the Nation Address (Sona) yesterday was it passed with flying colors in terms of packaging but again failed miserably in defining where his administration is heading after two years of his presidency.

Noted economist Benjamin Diokno (photo below), a former budget secretary, said “he has specific details on certain social programs but he missed the big picture.”

“Where will he get the money to finance his ambitious programs like the K+12 education program, universal health care, expanded conditional cash transfer, Armed Forces modernization, public infrastructure program, project Noah and so on,” Diokno said.

He added lacking were specifics on attracting more foreign direct investments, his administration’s position on the strengthening of the peso which is hurting both exporters and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the government’s steps to complete the agrarian reform program and the government programt to stop the contraction of the local manufacturing sector.

For instance, in agrarian reform, “will individual titles be issued or will the titles remain collective in nature?” Diokno asked.

“Sadly, he started and ended with GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) bashing,” Diokno said.

Legislators acknowledged the Sona provided a comprehensive picture of what the government has done and has been doing for the past two years but they expressed disappointment with what the president uttered in his speech that spanned an hour and a half.

Deputy Speaker, Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla (photo at right) said the speech was indeed wanting as it failed to provide a roadmap for the future. “It’s a comprehensive report of events but does not provide a roadmap for our future as a people,” said Remulla.

Opposition stalwart, Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay on the other hand, was more critical, even questioning the data used by the President.

“I thought I was attending a budget briefing,” Magsaysay said of Aquino’s speech which tackled more on the budgetary projections for many of Aquino’s line departments.

“Sadly, the President failed to address the concerns of his “boss,” Juan dela Cruz because as he was speaking, prices were going up including the pump prices of oil products, the rates of electricity and water, the prices of basic commodities,” Magsaysay stressed. “His presentation in his speech was quote superb but ironically, his Juan dela Cruz cannot understand those kasi nga kumakalam ang sikmura niya. Hindi niya alam pano niya papakinabangan ‘yung mga sinabi ng Pangulo.

The Zambales solon added Aquino has to check on his figures as they do not match with results from surveys conducted by opinion polling firms.

Former President Joseph Estrada, in reaction to Aquino’s speech, urged the speeding up of the filing of charges against various government officials who are being linked to anomalies during the Arroyo administration.

Estrada praised Aquino for his anti-corruption drive, saying the impeachment and subsequent removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona will send a warning to corrupt government officials.

He said the charges filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, including graft, plunder and electoral sabotage, are lacking after she was linked to various anomalies.

He also urged the President to continue to bring justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, which saw 58 people killed in November 2009 in an election-related killing.

Aquino, however, spent much of its one and a half hour long speech on Arroyo, her administration and threats against personalities known to have something to do with the previous government.

Aquino, clad in signature Barong Tagalog custom tailored by his celebrity sister’s fashion designer Paul Cabral, opened his salvo on what he described as the Arroyo-inflicted nightmares that continue to hound the Filipinos.

Despite being tagged as the modern day dictator seen over the administration’s efforts to control all three branches of the government, Aquino described his predecessor’s ten years of presidency as reminiscent of the Martial Law area.

“Let it not be forgotten: Martial Law was borne because a dictator manipulated the Constitution to remain in power. And to this day, the battle rages: between those who seek a more equitable system, and those who seek to preserve their privileges at the expense of others. The specters of a lost decade haunted us from our first day in office”.

Likewise hit by Aquino’s early stride was Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos under whose presidency Aquino claims to have been a victim of what he braded as abuse of power.

“Like many of you, I have been a victim of the abuse of power. I was only 12 years old when Martial Law was declared. For seven years and seven months, my father was incarcerated; we lived in forced exile for three years. I saw for myself how many others also suffered”.

Playing the role of a superhero from then Marvel classics, Aquino offered himself as an ally of the aggrieved.

“The principles I now live by: Where a citizen is oppressed, he will find me as an ally; where there is an oppressor, I will be there to fight; where I find something wrong in the system, I will consider it my duty to right it”.

He went on with his SONA with more attack on Arroyo under whose presidency he claims alleged corruption proliferated. Among those he mentioned include the North Rail project, limitless bonuses in government-owned and -controlled corporations, and the supposed anomalies in the sale of second-hand choppers to the Philippine National Police that saw Arroyo’s husband lawyer Mike Arroyo dragged as among the suspects.

He added that the Arroyo administration left only 6.5-percent of the national budget for his government’s perusal in 2010.
In an apparent effort to make a grand display of an administration embarking on a clean government, Aquino vowed to secure conviction on Arroyo, who recently was charged with another non-bailable Plunder case emanating from alleged malversation of funds in relation to alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence budget for the 2007 election.

He likewise called the act of filing the latest case against Arroyo as “Justice”.

Aside from Arroyo, the President made sure not to leave behind the issue on the ouster of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona

“The unfolding of history seen on May 29 is best described as Justice. It was during that day that we got to prove something: Justice on top of those who consider themselves to be on the peak”, says Aquino who also dropped the name of one Delsa Flores of Panabo town, Davao del Norte whom he claims to have said:

“So it is possible that a lowly court employee like me before could actually see the same magnitude of law being used on a Chief Justice”. Flores was the court interpreter who was relieved from her post for the non-declaration of a store on her SALN.

The Senate, acting as impeachment court convicted Corona on May 29, for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for failing to properly disclose his assets on his statement of assets and liabilities (SALN).

Aquino also grabbed the chance to ask members of the Philippine Congress to pass the controversial reproductive health bill and the sin tax reform bill, which has already been passed by the Lower House and is now with the Senate for deliberation.
The President, who has been in an on and off speaking term with the Church leaders, also endorsed the RH bill, which earned him the longest applause during his 90-minute SONA speech.

In the same speech, the Malacanang chief executive also pushed for the passage of the “sin tax” bill, which he said will fund government projects for maternal health care.

Conspicuously missing was an endorsement to lawmakers to pass the Freedom of Information bill — something that surprised journalists covering the SONA.

Claming to be doing its best to distribute all lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to its tillers, Aquino was seen to earn plus points over his renewed promise to the peasant sector who have yet been awarded their torrens title corresponding their share of the agricultural land they have been tilling for ages.

Aquino said that the farmers would get their land as provided under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, before he gets to step down in 2016. However, certain provision under the agrarian reform law is giving farmers only until next year to comply — otherwise would deem failure to comply as “waiver”.

Interestingly, the President’s family which owns the 9,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac has yet to comply with a Supreme Court decision ordering the family corporation running the hacienda plantation to start distributing land to their farmers, while ordering the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to fast track on the others.

The Malacanang chief executive also Aquino boasted on the Aquino administration’s economic performance, even as he claimed to have healed what used to be “The Sick man of Asia”, apparently referring to the Philippines.

He added that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012, while making proud remarks on what he referred to as record breaking performances of the Philippines on the Philippine Stock Exchange index.

Aquino also boasted of the eight international financial and economic upgrades that took place under his presidency.
“Based on the results of the survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS), 23.8 percent of the Filipinos said they were going hungry, 55 percent claims they have gone poorer while unemployment had been placed at 26.8 percent. All these statistics were higher than those during the previous administration,” said Magsaysay. “sho how do you reconcile his speech with this figures?”

In his speech, Aquino placed unemployment under his watch at 6.9 percent.
Magsaysay also chastised Aquino for claiming there were new taxes under his administration as he promised, saying the President had contradicted himself in his own speech.

“He said there were new taxes as he promised. But he asked Congress to expedite the passage of the Sin Tax bill to increase government revenue. And then, there is this new policy to have bikers register their helmets for no less than P100,” Magsaysay said, “Aren’t these new taxes?”

The lady solon also scored the President for heaving praises on both the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for their efficient tax collections saying both agencies have missed their target collections by the billions of pesos.

Aquino also lashed at the previous administration for allegedly leaving him just 6.5 percent of the total budget in 2010 but this had been refuted since with no less than his Cabinet members admitting there was enough budget left when they assumed office.

“He also claimed there new businesses being out up in the country by investors but where,” said Magsaysay.
Magsaysay said she was expecting the President to illustrate a concrete roadmap for the country’s economy, security, environment, job creation and other vital concerns but he failed to do so.

“The country needs a clear direction in terms of these vital issues so that we may properly gauge the successes of the programs that the government is implementing especially those that are targeted towards the poor,” she said.

“In totality, the President failed to present a concrete roadmap for our future,” Magsaysay lamented.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño (photo at left) undermined Aquino’s claim the country’s gross domestic product rose by 6.4 percent this year saying this was not a result of a his sound economic policy but more on the delayed spending of last year’s budget.

“Nothing had changed,” said Casiño. “The GDP grew because the government spent a huge amount of the budget which it failed to spend last year.”

The militant solon described Aquino’s SONA as “a smorgasboard of success stories and select statistics put together to paint a rosy story but one-sided view of his administration’s performance with any of the feel good anecdotes and glowing numbers are negated by the harsh realities on the ground.”

For instance, Casiño said the increased budget for education cited by Aquino, is still below the figures requested by the education agencies themselves.

The party-list solon echoed Magsaysay’s position on the figures cited by Aquino saying the statistics on unemployment and conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are belied by independent figures on rising poverty and hunger.

“Perhaps because there was nothing positive that could be said,” said Casiño.

The militant lawmaker also noted that Aquino was visibly silent on the issues of high prices, human rights the freedom of information bill, workers’ low wages, contractualization and mass housing.

Even his allies said Aquino should have dealt with more on what the government should do to improve the economy.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara (photo) said the Filipino people do not yet benefit from the improved economy.

“We are hoping a lot of on economy,” Angara said even as he acknowledged the increase in the budget of the education sector.

“It is part report card and part marching orders. The thing to do now however is not to hail the achievements but to heed the challenges. What the President has told us is that while our journey along the tuwid na daan has been fruitful so far there are miles to go before we can rest,” Alvarez of the Nationalist Union Party said.

Alvarez explained that the SONA is not a cure-all for the country’s ills but a guideline for what should be done.
“There are those who will criticize him for omitting some items in his speech. These people should remember that it would be impossible to cram all the solutions to our myriad problems in one speech,” he said.

“The SONA is not Wikipedia that catalogues the cures to our perceived ills. But in so far as charting the nation’s course, in tackling the great problems that try our collective resolve, in identifying what needs to be done, the President was able to enumerate them with clarity and conviction in the SONA,” Alvarez said.

An Waray Rep. Florencio Noel (photo) shared Alvarez view that the President has given clear guidelines on what the government and the people should do to address its problems.

“The President, in effect, exhorted us today to help in the pursuit of his administration’s reform agenda. But more significantly, I think he gave us clear guideposts: that we can work together in creating more jobs, building more hope, and of course giving more opportunities for our people. We, from Eastern Visayas, is specially thankful for the commitment of the Aquino administration for the much needed rehabilitation and improvement of our airport which we have been lobbying for the past three years,” Noel said.

“The support that we can contribute can very well be a well-deserved legacy of this 15th Congress,” Noel added.
“It was a very comprehensive sona. Practically all aspects of governance were covered,” Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said.

San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito (photo) thanked the President for increasing the budget allotment of the State Universities and Colleges.

Ejercito noted that the P16-billion or 43.61 percent increase in SUCs budget and the additional P115.7-billion for public elementary and high school is an investment in “our future generations.”

“Lubusan tayong nagpapasalamat sapagkat kinunsidera na sa wakas ni Pangulong Aquino ang resolusyon natin noong nakaraang 2-taon, na siyang panawagang dagdag na pondo para sa ating edukasyon,” Ejercito said in a statement yesterday.

Ejercito said that the move to increase the budget for education is a well thought of decision.

“In the name of the students, parents, teachers and workers at the SUCs, we would like to thank President Aquino for heeding our call,” Ejercito said.

For House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II, this is the best SONA he has ever heard.

“This is the best ever SONA,” Gonzales said. Fernan J. Angeles, Charlie V. Manalo, Gerry Baldo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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