ULY 24, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) by LEENA C. CHUA NEWS EDITOR -  THE first half of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term of office has yielded nothing but promises, the entrenchment of elite governance and political dynasties, according to think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG).

As the President delivers another State of the Nation speech today, the group based in the University of the Philippines assessed the his performance and found him wanting. It said Aquino’s first three years in power “entrenched elite rule in all major aspects of governance, politically and economically.”

Prof. Bobby Tuazon, CenPEG director for policy studies, said the economic growth was sustained by the marginalized sector, particularly by the ever-growing remittances of overseas Filipino workers and election spending. He added that the GDP growth did not trickle down to the masses but only widened the gap between the super-rich and the poor.

“Three years of empty promises nuanced by vacillations and inaction only point to an “ampaw presidency”—deceptively solid outside but only hot air inside,” Tuazon said. “In the end, Aquino’s vaunted ‘Kayo ang boss ko’ [the masses are my boss] shibboleth is hypocritical and meaningless. Such deceptive phrase has been repeated over and over again a la Goebbels the motive being to hide the truth. And the truth is that Aquino’s real bosses are his fellow political oligarchs, big business, and the Obama administration.”

Tuazon summed up the assessment of CenPEG’s panel of eight analysts during its pre-SONA 5th State of the Presidency forum held in UP Diliman.

He said Aquino “defied the constitutional ban and a burgeoning mass movement calling for an end to political dynasties by campaigning openly for a cousin for the Senate and numerous leaders of traditional clans to ensure their election at all levels in the recent mid-term elections.”

He added that despite the public outrage over the latest pork barrel scam, the President made no move to remove the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers in the 2014 budget. This is a clear message “of presidential tolerance if not tacit endorsement of corruption in the guise of seeking “friendly relations” with Congress to ensure passage of Malacañang’s priority bills,” Tuazon said.

He also bewailed Aquino’s failure to set up a comprehensive and institutional reform to curb corruption. In fact, Tuazon said, recent reports show an upsurge in corruption at the local level and the police.

On the other hand, Prof. Temario Rivera, CenPEG Fellow and Board chair, said the May elections resulted in the entrenchment of political dynasties in 95 percent of 81 provinces.

Another CenPEG analyst, Prof. Ben Lim, said the 7.8 percent GDP does not tell the whole truth.

“While Aquino’s economists and business cronies as well as foreign financial experts extol about the phenomenal rise in the country’s GDP growth, they were silent on the fact that along with the GDP rise is the sensational rise in the prices of all basic commodities including tuition,” he said.

Lim said the economy may be at a breakneck pace, but there has been no improvement in people’s lives. He said 25 million Filipinos, or 27.9 percent of the population, are living in poverty.

But Tuazon said the number of unemployed has grown by one million to 11 million under Aquino. He cited IBON Foundation and Fortune magazine reports that the net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos has increased dramatically under Aquino—from $22.8 billion in 2010 to $47.4 billion in 2012.

Their combined net worth is equivalent to the combined income of 60 million Filipinos and is equivalent to over one-fifth (21 percent) of the 2012 GDP.

“Income inequality and social injustice has worsened under Aquino,” he said.

Tuazon added that the country’s foreign policy has never been tied more closely to the US’ war policy than under Aquino.

UP Prof. Roland Simbulan, another CenPEG Fellow, said since 2010, the President has placed foreign policy “in the hands of Albert del Rosario and security policy with Voltaire Gazmin, both considered to be very close to Washington circles. Lately, the two have been arrogating foreign policy and security policy formulation from the President, and have acted as articulators and spokespersons of Washington and Pentagon in Malacañang.”

Simbulan said Aquino’s foreign policy “highlights a restoration of US military forces in the Philippines. Not only that. On a strategic level, this foreign policy has adjusted itself to be beyond being a supporting column of Pentagon policy in the Asia-Pacific. It has become like a drone, directed by Washington and Pentagon for surveillance and as an attack dog to those who challenge US hegemony in the Asia Pacific region.”

Dean Julkipli Wadi of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies criticized Aquino’s non-inclusive peace road map saying that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF) is not enough in establishing peace in Bangsamoro.

Wadi said the peace process will be protracted and unsettling because of “lingering issues with the MNLF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Sabah claim.”

Wadi, who is also a CenPEG fellow, doubted if the peace process with the MILF would be completed when Aquino steps down in 2016.

Tuazon said Filipinos should stop pinning their hopes on Aquino because he has done no institutional reforms.

“The country’s social, economic, and political challenges are beyond the presidency and prudence dictates that the country’s future should be laid squarely in the people’s hands themselves,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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