PHILIPPINES WELCOMES 100 MILLIONTH BABY 

A nurse holds the symbolic “100 millionth Filipino baby”, the baby making the Philippines’ population hit 100 million, during a ceremony shortly after its birth early on July 27, 2014 at a government maternity hospital in Manila. One in three newborns in the Philippines is unwanted or unplanned, the government said, as the country struggles with a population explosion officially reaching 100 million-strong population on July 27. The number of women dying while giving birth in the Philippines had remained high over the past two decades, and the nation was expected to miss a 2015 development target to cut maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births.

A baby girl born early Sunday has officially pushed the population of the Philippines to 100 million, highlighting the challenge of providing for more people in the already-impoverished nation. The child, Jennalyn Sentino, was one of 100 babies born in state hospitals all over the archipelago who received the symbolic designation of “100,000,000th baby.” “This is both an opportunity and a challenge… an opportunity we should take advantage of and a challenge we recognize,” Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the official Commission on Population, told AFP. While a growing population means a larger workforce, it also means more dependents in a country where about 25 percent of people are living in poverty, he said. He said the Philippines had to find a way to bring services to the poorest families while also lowering the average number of children that fertile women will bear in their lifetimes. “We’d like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman’s) lifetime,” from the current level of an average of three per woman, he said.

While celebrating the birth of the babies with cake and gifts of clothing and blankets, the government will also monitor each of the designated 100 children over the coming years to see if they are receiving the required health services, Perez added. Jennalyn’s father, 45-year-old van driver Clemente Sentino, said he was grateful for the government aid, but expressed confidence he could support his child and his partner. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Filipino Muslims in PH appeal for end to violence in Gaza 

Muslims in Mindanao said the Eidl Fitr celebrations, which could start Monday in some areas, would not be as meaningful because of violence affecting Palestine. Twenty-eight-year-old Nash Camo, a devout Muslim, said the Eidl Fitr celebrations would always be “painful” if the perceived persecution of Palestinians by Israel would not stop. Camo, one of the more than 300 participants at Thursday’s fun run sponsored by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the celebrations would be meaningless as the casualty figure among Palestinians was mounting.

“More than 1,000 Gazans were killed, including mothers, children and obviously non-combatants while the Israelis suffered only about 37 or 40, there is imbalance, there is injustice and there is oppression, it must stop and it should be right now,” Camo, who ruled the male category of the fun run, said. (Israel has said their missile attacks on Gaza have been justified by the stockpiling of Hamas — the dominant armed group in Palestine — of missiles and other weaponry — even in supposed-to-be civilian and neutral areas such as United Nations centers and schools. Israel has accused Palestinian militants of using civilians as human shields.) Other Muslims in the Philippines described the Gaza offensive as “insanity of the highest order.” “Killing innocent people is abomination to Allah, regardless of tribe, color or creed,” said ARMM executive secretary Rasol Mitmug, Jr. * READ MORE...

ALSO: On eve of Sona, Aquino in ‘high spirits’ as DAP issue looms large 

Despite threats of protests and controversies surrounding his administration, President Benigno Aquino III remains in high spirits as he works on his speech for Monday’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), Malacañang said Sunday. “Sa pagkaalam ko po siya ay nasa—in high spirits po. Siya ay naghahanda ng kanyang pagtalumpati sapagkat para sa kanya ito ay mahalagang pakikipag-usap sa kanyang mga boss,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said over the radio. (He is in high spirits. He is getting his speech ready because he considers the Sona an important dialogue with the people.) He said Aquino’s determination was hard to beat.
“Hindi po nagbabago ‘yung kanyang masidhing commitment na maihatid sa kanyang mga boss ang mga ipinangakong reporma, matupad ang mga priority initiatives ng ating Philippine Development Plan,” Coloma said.
(His intense commitment to push for reforms and implement the priority initiatives of the Philippine Development Plan has not changed.) The Secretary declined to discuss the possible content of the speech but the public expects it will include a discussion on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Aquino has been vocal in questioning the high tribunal’s ruling and defending the DAP. This has led to the filing of two impeachment complaints accusing the President of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Technical Report --* READ MORE...

ALSO: President must quit playing lawyer; the country needs a statesman 

PHOTO: President Aquino walks to interact with his guests following his address to the nation in a live broadcast from the Presidential Palace in Manila on July 14, 2014. The President defended the government’s position in the now controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.We must rise above the din of partisan maneuvering and see that what rages today is not just a contest among political titans but a clash between two competing bases of legitimacy. The first is the law, which antigraft crusaders deploy against both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) enjoyed by legislators and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) enjoyed by the President.
The second is common sense and the public good, which President Aquino has invoked to explain what he has done to jump-start the economy and deliver social projects. He would go beyond legalism and return everyone to the big picture.

It’s not just that these claims clash with one another. Worse, the protagonists take turns switching from one frame to another whenever it suits their cause. It’s as if we’re watching gladiators fight, but the ground beneath the coliseum keeps shifting. What a difference a year can make. In July 2013 when the Inquirer broke its investigative report on the pork barrel scam, who would have imagined that eventually all three branches of government would be accusing one another of dipping their hand in the public till? Just like the Watergate scandal that began with a bungled burglary, the pork barrel exposé began as the abduction and rescue of, as we would later discover, the insider-turned-whistle-blower. No, this wasn’t the handiwork of constitutional checks-and-balances operating sua sponte (on their own) like “a machine that would go of itself.” Instead, it took a free and courageous press to expose Janet Lim-Napoles’ racket, which in turn provoked a Million People March to abolish pork barrel, and today the three senators of the realm who profited most from Napoles’ operation are under arrest.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino unpertuirbed by challenges rocking admin; in ‘high spirits’ ahead of today’s SONA 

FARMERS’ PROTEST OUTSIDE AQUINO HOUSE – Protesting farmers face off with riot police just outside the family residence of President Aquino on Times Street, Quezon City, yesterday.In “high spirits” regardless of the impeachment threats and protest actions mounted against him, President Aquino is expected to highlight his reform programs on promoting economic growth and good governance during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today. The President may also seek national unity in attaining the country’s goals when he delivers his annual address before a joint session of Congress, according to Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. The President’s SONA, which underwent several revisions, will be delivered in Filipino and accompanied by visual aids. The annual speech serves as an opportunity for the President to trumpet his accomplishments in the past year as well as tick off his fresh list of ideas for the coming year.

“Based on the previous SONAs of the President, this will be an opportunity to explain the important reform programs implemented by his administration in fulfilment of the social contract with the Filipino people that served as basis of our Philippine Development Plan — the roadmap for the country’s development from 2011 to 2016,” Coloma said in Filipino. “In his report to his bosses, the President will try to explain to the people the various aspects of important reform programs and encourage the people to support the renewed effort to attain the country’s goals,” he added. The President will be delivering his SONA at a time when his administration faces difficult changes compared to a year ago. For the first time since he assumed office in 2010, the President is battling a number of impeachment complaints in Congress over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. His public trust and approval ratings have also fallen based on recent polls shortly after the Supreme Court issued a ruling against the DAP. UNPERTURBED  --Coloma, however, maintained that the President is unperturbed by recent tough challenges that have rocked his administration. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Philippines welcomes 100 millionth baby


A
nurse holds the symbolic “100 millionth Filipino baby”, the baby making the Philippines’ population hit 100 million, during a ceremony shortly after its birth early on July 27, 2014 at a government maternity hospital in Manila. One in three newborns in the Philippines is unwanted or unplanned, the government said, as the country struggles with a population explosion officially reaching 100 million-strong population on July 27. The number of women dying while giving birth in the Philippines had remained high over the past two decades, and the nation was expected to miss a 2015 development target to cut maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births. AFP

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (INQUIRER) Agence France-Presse - A baby girl born early Sunday has officially pushed the population of the Philippines to 100 million, highlighting the challenge of providing for more people in the already-impoverished nation.

The child, Jennalyn Sentino, was one of 100 babies born in state hospitals all over the archipelago who received the symbolic designation of “100,000,000th baby.”

“This is both an opportunity and a challenge… an opportunity we should take advantage of and a challenge we recognize,” Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the official Commission on Population, told AFP.

While a growing population means a larger workforce, it also means more dependents in a country where about 25 percent of people are living in poverty, he said.

He said the Philippines had to find a way to bring services to the poorest families while also lowering the average number of children that fertile women will bear in their lifetimes.

“We’d like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman’s) lifetime,” from the current level of an average of three per woman, he said.

While celebrating the birth of the babies with cake and gifts of clothing and blankets, the government will also monitor each of the designated 100 children over the coming years to see if they are receiving the required health services, Perez added.

Jennalyn’s father, 45-year-old van driver Clemente Sentino, said he was grateful for the government aid, but expressed confidence he could support his child and his partner.

* He and the child’s mother, Dailin Cabigayan, 27, are not yet married. “She just happened to get pregnant. But we do have plans to get married,” he told AFP.

“I make just enough to get by but at least my job pays regularly. We will find a way to make it fit,” he said.

Efforts to control the Philippines’ population growth have long been hampered by the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which counts about 80 percent of Filipinos as followers and which disapproves of all forms of artificial birth control.

It was only in April that the government finally overcame over a decade of Church opposition to implement a reproductive health law providing the poor with birth control services.

Perez said with the law’s implementation, about two to three million women who previously did not have access to family planning now do.

Meanwhile, Father Melvin Castro, head of the commission on family and life of the country’s Catholic bishops, was quoted by a church-run radio station as praising the ballooning population, as there would be more “young workers” to power the economy.

FROM THE INQUIRER

PH Muslims appeal for end to violence in Gaza By Allan Nawal, Edwin Fernandez and Charlie Señase |Inquirer Mindanao5:43 pm | Sunday, July 27th, 2014
 


Israel Gaza Tension 3--Palestinian Mahmoud Elbiss, 19, holds copies of the Holy Quran, Islam’s holy book, that he salvaged from the rubble of houses, destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. AP

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Muslims in Mindanao said the Eidl Fitr celebrations, which could start Monday in some areas, would not be as meaningful because of violence affecting Palestine.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nash Camo, a devout Muslim, said the Eidl Fitr celebrations would always be “painful” if the perceived persecution of Palestinians by Israel would not stop.

Camo, one of the more than 300 participants at Thursday’s fun run sponsored by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the celebrations would be meaningless as the casualty figure among Palestinians was mounting.

“More than 1,000 Gazans were killed, including mothers, children and obviously non-combatants while the Israelis suffered only about 37 or 40, there is imbalance, there is injustice and there is oppression, it must stop and it should be right now,” Camo, who ruled the male category of the fun run, said.

(Israel has said their missile attacks on Gaza have been justified by the stockpiling of Hamas — the dominant armed group in Palestine — of missiles and other weaponry — even in supposed-to-be civilian and neutral areas such as United Nations centers and schools. Israel has accused Palestinian militants of using civilians as human shields.)

Other Muslims in the Philippines described the Gaza offensive as “insanity of the highest order.”

“Killing innocent people is abomination to Allah, regardless of tribe, color or creed,” said ARMM executive secretary Rasol Mitmug, Jr.

* On Friday, a congregational prayer was held near the Office of the Regional Governor building here, where hundreds of Muslims converged and asked for peace in Gaza.

Israel had agreed to a short ceasefire and was expected to resume offensive against what it said were Hamas’ positions in Gaza.

“We strongly condemn Israel’s ruthless offensive against the helpless people of Gaza and call for an end to its military occupation of Palestinian territories,” ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said.

“Israel must, once and for all, uphold international laws and stop escalating its mounting war crimes. The illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people continue to fuel an endless cycle of violence,” he added.

Rajah Buayan Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan said the ceasefire that Israel and Hamas agreed to proved that talks would be able to end the violence in Gaza.

“It was that easy if only both sides agreed,” Ampatuan said in a post on his Facebook account on Sunday.

He said Tel Aviv and Ramallah should adopt what the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had left as a legacy – the two-state solution.

Hataman said world leaders should also help pressure both sides so the slaughter of innocent civilians would stop.

On eve of Sona, Aquino in ‘high spirits’ as DAP issue looms large By Kristine Angeli Sabillo |INQUIRER.net3:57 pm | Sunday, July 27th, 2014


President Benigno S. Aquino III Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Despite threats of protests and controversies surrounding his administration, President Benigno Aquino III remains in high spirits as he works on his speech for Monday’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), Malacañang said Sunday.

“Sa pagkaalam ko po siya ay nasa—in high spirits po. Siya ay naghahanda ng kanyang pagtalumpati sapagkat para sa kanya ito ay mahalagang pakikipag-usap sa kanyang mga boss,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said over the radio. (He is in high spirits. He is getting his speech ready because he considers the Sona an important dialogue with the people.)

He said Aquino’s determination was hard to beat.

“Hindi po nagbabago ‘yung kanyang masidhing commitment na maihatid sa kanyang mga boss ang mga ipinangakong reporma, matupad ang mga priority initiatives ng ating Philippine Development Plan,” Coloma said. (His intense commitment to push for reforms and implement the priority initiatives of the Philippine Development Plan has not changed.)

The Secretary declined to discuss the possible content of the speech but the public expects it will include a discussion on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Aquino has been vocal in questioning the high tribunal’s ruling and defending the DAP. This has led to the filing of two impeachment complaints accusing the President of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Technical Report

* Coloma revealed that while the public can expect the usual presentation during the Sona, Malacañang would also release a detailed report on the issues and programs Aquino will be discussing.

“Kaya katulad din ng nakaugalian, meron pong kaakibat na Sona technical report. Ito po ay komprehensibong pag-uulat ng mga pangunahing naisagawa ng iba’t ibang kagawaran, national government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations,” he said.

(As practice dictates, the Sona has a technical report. It contains the comprehensive report of concerned departments, agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporation.)

The report will be uploaded in the Official Gazette website after Aquino delivers the Sona.

Coloma said the report would contain additional details of the topics that will be discussed by the President, as well as accomplishments.

He urged the public to also visit the website of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), which features a “report card” on the Aquino administration.

President must quit playing lawyer; the country needs a statesman By Raul C. Pangalangan; Publisher |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:51 am | Monday, July 28th, 2014


President Aquino walks to interact with his guests following his address to the nation in a live broadcast from the Presidential Palace in Manila on July 14, 2014. The President defended the government’s position in the now controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. AP|

We must rise above the din of partisan maneuvering and see that what rages today is not just a contest among political titans but a clash between two competing bases of legitimacy.

The first is the law, which antigraft crusaders deploy against both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) enjoyed by legislators and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) enjoyed by the President.

The second is common sense and the public good, which President Aquino has invoked to explain what he has done to jump-start the economy and deliver social projects. He would go beyond legalism and return everyone to the big picture.

It’s not just that these claims clash with one another. Worse, the protagonists take turns switching from one frame to another whenever it suits their cause. It’s as if we’re watching gladiators fight, but the ground beneath the coliseum keeps shifting.

What a difference a year can make.

In July 2013 when the Inquirer broke its investigative report on the pork barrel scam, who would have imagined that eventually all three branches of government would be accusing one another of dipping their hand in the public till?

Just like the Watergate scandal that began with a bungled burglary, the pork barrel exposé began as the abduction and rescue of, as we would later discover, the insider-turned-whistle-blower.

No, this wasn’t the handiwork of constitutional checks-and-balances operating sua sponte (on their own) like “a machine that would go of itself.”

Instead, it took a free and courageous press to expose Janet Lim-Napoles’ racket, which in turn provoked a Million People March to abolish pork barrel, and today the three senators of the realm who profited most from Napoles’ operation are under arrest.

* While the press can try to bridge this gap between the two conversations, the legal and the moral, it abides by the old wisdom that the ultimate check against the abuse of power lies not in institutions but in ourselves. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”

The turning of the tide

Remember that when the Supreme Court struck down the PDAF, the bad guys were the legislators, and the biggest winner was the President.

The high court said that Congress should limit itself to enacting the annual budget, the General Appropriations Act (GAA), and should leave to the President the discretion on how to carry it out.

The court frowned upon any “postenactment” powers by legislators, e.g., to choose which bridge or school to build, and which builder will get the contract.

But that precisely is the patronage power, to reward friends and punish enemies.

In effect, the high court reposed the largess solely in the hands of the President … and people didn’t seem to mind.
Fast forward to the DAP, and the conversation suddenly changed.

What troubled the public was the broad discretion that the President had exercised outside the GAA.

By rather broadly construing all remaining funds as “savings,” the President gained discretion to “realign” them to other uses not covered by the GAA.

The turning of the tide was unexpected.

To this day, President Aquino has not been accused of having pocketed any public money.

His reputation for honesty stands. He insists that all the funds had been directed to projects that benefit the people.

The accusation is merely that he has taken constitutional shortcuts. Yet today he faces three impeachment cases, tarred and feathered no differently from those who actually thieved and stole with neither guilt nor shame.

His critics argue that the ends do not justify the means, and insist that the public good requires good governance.

The power of legalese

The strongest challenge against President Aquino’s insistence of what he calls “the simple, nonlegalistic mind” is that his daang matuwid—the right path—has itself relied on the power of legalism.

Sure, it was substantive justice that triggered the public’s outrage over the PDAF. Sure, it was that outrage that pushed the Supreme Court to declare the PDAF unconstitutional, because the court, left to itself earlier, had thrice validated the PDAF as God’s gift to budgetary flexibility, even praising it as the protector of minority congressmen against the party in power.

But the final blow against the PDAF was entirely legal, namely, that the legislators had encroached into post-GAA implementation, a power that belongs to the President.

That has set the legal tone of the ensuing debate on the DAP. And now the coup de grace against the PDAF becomes the opening salvo against the DAP.

2 boundaries

To summarize briefly, there are two relevant, bright-line boundaries laid down by the Constitution.

One, “no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

Public money can be spent only according to the GAA enacted by Congress.

Two, “no law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations.”

Once Congress approves the GAA, no one may tinker with it—but the President and the heads of the other departments may “augment any item in [their budgets] from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

The Supreme Court said the President’s definition of “savings” was too broad; he deemed all unspent funds “savings,” which he then “realigned” for other projects not covered in the GAA.

Next, the “augmentation” of funds may be made only within each branch of government, but the President had made “cross-border” transfers outside the executive branch, e.g., to the Commission on Audit.

Et tu, Meilou?

The legalistic approach has its limits. That was President Aquino’s point when he turned the tables on the Supreme Court for itself attempting “cross-border” transfers, and balked only after the DAP had been exposed.

These involved P1.865 billion and P100 billion, respectively, which crossed the border, so to speak, in both directions, from the executive to the Supreme Court, and vice-versa. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. “Why behold the mote in thy brother’s eye, but consider not the beam in thine own?”

The legalistic approach also feigns indifference to the real world consequences of the court’s obiter dicta (or side comments, distinguished from the “ratio” or the core ruling).

The court, having struck down the DAP, held that as far as possible the DAP-funded projects should not be reversed or undone, citing a doctrine called “operative fact.”

But when the court added that the doctrine “cannot apply to the authors … of the DAP, unless there are concrete findings of good faith,” the learned magistrates certainly knew that they were laying the groundwork for future prosecution, and not merely talking off-the-cuff. Thus the President’s query: Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

But its true limit is its indifference to public opinion. When the court rejects the taxman’s request to see their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), saying they had shown them to others anyway in the past, they were making a legal point (“You need our permission”) but missing the political point (“If you don’t have anything to hide … ”).

Finally, the court has its own discretionary fund, the P1.775-billion Judiciary Development Fund. A Marcos-era law gave the Chief Justice the “sole discretion” over how it is spent, save for one motherhood guideline, “for the benefit of the members and personnel of the judiciary to help ensure and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.”

The Commission on Audit questioned the P3.19 billion in savings that the Supreme Court prematurely declared in 2012, in much the same way for which it had chastised the President, and has called upon the court to adopt more specific spending rules and abandon its unfettered discretion.

‘He who rides the tiger …’

In this context, the law is an instrument that can enslave its maker. As the ancients have said, “He who rides the tiger cannot dismount.”

Locally we tend to read the Constitution as if it were a user’s manual or a technical code. But John Marshall, widely considered America’s greatest chief justice, warns: “We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding.” It is “intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” That is why legal scholars have called for a return to “popular constitutionalism” lest we, Harvard law professor Richard Parker warns, “inflat[e] constitutional law, its grandiose puffing as law imagined to be ’higher’ [and feed] on disdain for the political energy of ordinary people.”

President Aquino is getting mixed signals from the Filipino people. He waved the banner of a moral crusade aimed at lofty goals, and, many times in the past, they cheered him on even as he defied the Supreme Court and its traditions.

But today the Filipinos seem to want a rule-bound daang matuwid, that is, confined by the rules President Aquino has used against its enemies.

The President must by now understand why the moral high road is the road less traveled, but he must refuse to play lawyer when what the country needs is a statesman.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Aquino unpertuirbed by challenges rocking admin; in ‘high spirits’ ahead of today’s SONA July 28, 2014


FARMERS’ PROTEST OUTSIDE AQUINO HOUSE – Protesting farmers face off with riot police just outside the family residence of President Aquino on Times Street, Quezon City, yesterday. (Michael Varcas)

In “high spirits” regardless of the impeachment threats and protest actions mounted against him, President Aquino is expected to highlight his reform programs on promoting economic growth and good governance during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today.

The President may also seek national unity in attaining the country’s goals when he delivers his annual address before a joint session of Congress, according to Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

The President’s SONA, which underwent several revisions, will be delivered in Filipino and accompanied by visual aids. The annual speech serves as an opportunity for the President to trumpet his accomplishments in the past year as well as tick off his fresh list of ideas for the coming year.

“Based on the previous SONAs of the President, this will be an opportunity to explain the important reform programs implemented by his administration in fulfilment of the social contract with the Filipino people that served as basis of our Philippine Development Plan — the roadmap for the country’s development from 2011 to 2016,” Coloma said in Filipino.

“In his report to his bosses, the President will try to explain to the people the various aspects of important reform programs and encourage the people to support the renewed effort to attain the country’s goals,” he added.

The President will be delivering his SONA at a time when his administration faces difficult changes compared to a year ago.

For the first time since he assumed office in 2010, the President is battling a number of impeachment complaints in Congress over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. His public trust and approval ratings have also fallen based on recent polls shortly after the Supreme Court issued a ruling against the DAP.

UNPERTURBED

Coloma, however, maintained that the President is unperturbed by recent tough challenges that have rocked his administration.

* Asked about the President’s mood on the eve of his SONA, Coloma said: “He is in high spirits. He is preparing his speech because this is an important discourse with his bosses.”

“The President’s commitment to deliver reforms, to fulfill the priority initiatives of the Philippine Development Plan, has not been diminished,” he added.

When asked if they are confident the President could survive the latest political turmoil, Coloma said: “The President is determined to implement the programs and serve the people in the best way possible. The President is committed to fulfilling his responsibilities and recognizes the importance of decisive action with two years left in office.”

This year’s SONA was conceptualized and written by the President with the help of speech writers, according to Coloma. He said the speech will come with a technical report that will detail the accomplishments of various departments and agencies in the past year.

Coloma also described the SONA as a the government’s annual “grading period,” adding that a “report card” of the government’s achievements could be seen in the website of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB).

ECONOMIC ACHIEVEMENTS

Ahead of the President’s SONA, Coloma took pride of the administration’s economic achievements in the past year.

Citing information from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Coloma said the government performed well in facilitating a robust gross domestic growth, job generation, and lowering fiscal deficit. “We will now have more funds for social services and social protection measures instead of just paying debt interests,” he added.

Based on the Statistical Indicators Philippine Development (StatDev) 2013, the PSA reported that in terms of overall performance, two of the nine PDP sectors, namely social development and competitive industry and services, had at least 70 percent of its indicators exhibiting good probabilities of achieving the PDP target by 2016.

On macroeconomy, the PSA said the local economy has performed beyond the target set by the government registering an annual growth rate of 7.2 percent in 2013. The economy however slowed down to 5.7 percent in the first quarter of the year.

The government also earned “good performance” on “accelerating infrastructure development” and “towards a dynamic and resilient financial system” based on the StatDev report. It earned an average performance in the competitive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sectors.

58 TARGETS

The government, however is unlikely to achieve 58 targets set in the Philippine Development Plan based on the StatDev report. Among these targets are associated with improving the country’s exports, good governance and the rule of law, health coverage for poor families, fighting private armed groups and protection of the environment.

The StatDev report revealed that “more than half of the indicators showed poor performance” for the good governance and rule of law sector. Among the problematic areas are regulatory quality and enforcement, accountability, control of corruption, open government and criminal justice system.

On peace and security, the StatDev indicated that the government has improved its crime solution efficiency but performed poorly in dealing with private armed groups and other threat groups.

The government is also performing poorly in increasing the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) enrollment rate and increasing the number of poor senior citizens covered by social pension.

It is also not doing well in the conversation, protection and rehabilitation of the environment and natural resources, specifically the rivers. Of the 26 rivers being monitored, 10 rivers still have to be given high priorities, including the Manila Bay, Parañaque and Pasig River.

SENATORS’ HOPE

Senators yesterday expressed hope that Aquino would no longer discuss the controversial DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in his SONA and tackle instead what his administration intends to do in the next two years of his term.

They also said they wish the President would refrain from engaging in another verbal tussle with the Supreme Court which declared the Aquino administration’s DAP activities as unconstitutional.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III pointed out the President have had at least three speeches on the DAP already prior to his scheduled SONA today, July 28.

“Sana nga huwag na (dahil) nasabi na naman niya lahat ng gusto niyang sabihin. Sabihin na lang niya specific plans, general plans niya sa (I do hope he won’t because he has already said all he has to say. I hope he would just tell his specific plans, general plans in the) last two years of his administration,” Pimentel said in an interview over Radio DZBB.

Senate President Franklin Drilon agreed with Pimentel and said it is high time the administration “moves on.”

“The President has already said the DAP has been terminated. The Supreme Court recognized that the program has already achieved the purpose for which it was established. The government has filed a motion for reconsideration with the SC, where the legal issues are now pending. The President will abide by the final resolution of the SC on these issues. We should now move forward,” Drilon said in a text message.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he wants to hear President Aquino’s “legacy” projects—things, he said, “which need to be done which maybe his administration won’t (be able to) finish because they are of a long-term nature but which would be of great benefit to the nation and must be done.”

Both Angara and Pimentel vouched that the President will provide the public “concrete” solutions to the country’s power crisis.

Meanwhile, Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, a member of the Senate minority, said he wish to hear how the Aquino administration has so far addressed the rising criminality and illegal drugs problem in the country.

“It’s up to the President on what he wants to say. I just hope he will give emphasis to the problem of dangerous drugs and the peace and order in the country,” Sotto said.

POLICE PREPARATIONS

Meanwhile, the police have intensified preparations to secure Metro Manila especially from protesters whose number is expected to increase at the vicinity of Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City where the Chief Executive will deliver his speech.

Policemen in nearby provinces were also tapped to compose the more than 10,000 policemen who will secure Metro Manila. Many of them will be deployed on the protesters’ usual points of convergence, according to Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, chief information officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“We are ready. Security measures are now in place and in fact, full alert status has already been hoisted in Metro Manila in preparation for this,” said Sindac.

Compared to Aquino’s past four SONAs, police are anticipating an increase in the number of protesters due to the controversy sparked by the Supreme Court ruling declaring some portions of DAP as unconstitutional.(With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and Ben R. Rosario and Aaron Recuenco)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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