, JUNE 29, 2011 (MALAYA) BY ELLEN TORDESILLAS - ONE area where the year-old Aquino government has made reforms, slow it may be, is in the fight against graft and corruption through reforms in the justice system.

This is not to say that Aquino has eliminated graft and corruption or there is no graft and corruption being committed by his own appointees. I merely recognize some reforms made in the justice system that could help in the fight against graft and corruption that was the campaign battle cry of Aquino -"Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap."

Number one ‘achievement’ is the removal of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and her subordinates either through dismissal, resignation or suspension. As long as Gutierrez was head of the anti-graft body, her benefactor Gloria Arroyo, her husband and members of her family could feel safe from prosecution.

Not making Arroyo accountable for the violations of the law that she committed would be an injustice to the Filipino people.

Last March 22, Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives showed they have the numbers when they approved the impeachment of Gutierrez. The trial which would have been conducted by the Senate was aborted when Gutierrez resigned.

A new Ombudsman will soon be named that will preside over the plunder charges that have been filed against Arroyo. So far, former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, who has declined the nomination for Ombudsman, has filed two. Chavez said that would not be the last.

Aquino has correctly linked graft to poverty that characterizes the lot of a third of the more than 90 million Filipinos. Reducing graft and corruption in government would redirect the billions that are diverted to the officials’ pockets to much needed funds for education, health and other social services to improve the lives of the underprivileged Filipinos.

Aquino should also be credited for encouraging participation of officials in congressional hearings on anomalies particularly involving military funds unlike during Arroyo’s time when her infamous Executive Order 464 prohibited Cabinet members and subordinate officials from testifying in congressional hearings without presidential clearance.

By encouraging transparency, the Aquino government helps in empowering the people with information that is needed for them to participate in governance.

Based on his still-high, although declining satisfaction and trust ratings, the public has a good sense of Aquino’s good intentions. But it is his capability in carrying out his intentions that is in doubt.

Aquino has not been helpful in erasing this doubt with his appointment of friends and shooting buddies in important positions. He even stood by them when they faltered in their jobs. The most controversial of them are Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno, a pathetic figure during the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage crisis and Land Transportation Chief Virginia Torres, who continues to remain in her position despite results of investigations of questionable actions in the controversy involving Stradcom, the Information Technology provider.

In his inaugural speech last year, Aquino declared that "from presidential appointees chosen mainly out of political accommodation to discerning selection based on integrity, competence and performance in serving the public good: a civil service based on merit and not political patronage."

This is where Aquino has fallen short and it is a major stumbling block in his governance.


You need a roadmap? Aquino gives it today BY REGINA BENGCO

[PHOTO - President Benigno Aquino III is congratulated by congressmen after delivering his First State-Of-The-Nation-Address at the opening of the Joint session of 15th Philippine Congress at the Lower House at suburban Quezon city north of Manila on Monday July 26, 2010.]

ON his first year in office today, President Aquino will launch the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan and renew the commitments he made to the Filipino people when he launched his candidacy in 2009.

The PDP, which took almost a year to be formulated, is supposedly the road map and comprehensive program of action of the Aquino administration.

"We are affirming the spirit of people power and volunteerism that gave President Aquino an overwhelming mandate to lead the country last year," said Presidential Communication Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Coloma said Aquino will lead the launching of the Pilipinas Natin program, a campaign for renewed volunteerism and unity and partnership between government and the Filipino people, at the Philippine Sports Complex in Pasig City.

Asked why there is a need to renew Aquino’s commitments, Coloma said the President is confident that he could still command respect and positive response from majority of the Filipinos.

Sen. Ralph Recto, an Aquino ally, said the President should accelerate his reform programs.

"Like a giddy married couple fresh from a sizzling honeymoon, the Aquino government now begins the more serious task of housekeeping like ‘hanging out the wet laundry’ to dry and ‘paying the utility bills,’" he said.

He said the laundry list, which is composed of problems the country is facing and which the Aquino administration promised to solve, "has long been soaking, while the utility bills are the mounting expenditures requiring revenues."

At the House, minority leader Rep. Edcel Lagman said Aquino continues to fail to deliver on promises after a year in office.

Lagman said the electorate should be blamed for putting Aquino in power.

"The people should be prepared to expect the worst because their mistaken choice is the big problem. Blunder begets disaster."

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, reacting to Lagman, said Lagman was "playing fast and free with the facts, making assertions that are obsolete, misleading, or patently false. Here he goes again, because this is not the first time in what is turning out to be a litany of misrepresentations by him."

Coloma said Aquino’s audience at the Philsports Arena will be composed mostly of volunteers, citizens and people’s organizations all over the country who will affirm their support for the President and his program of government. He said mood is expected to be "upbeat and positive."

Coloma said the PDP will be explained in the coming weeks by the Cabinet secretaries who are in charge of each of the Cabinet clusters.

On the celebration of his first year in office, Aquino will also sign into law the bill postponing the August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He will also witness the signing of a memorandum of agreement among the Department of Education, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and Gawad Kalinga for the construction of 1,000 new school buildings nationwide.

Coloma said under the MOA, Pagcor will channel some of its resources to finance the construction of 1,000 additional classrooms. The classrooms will be turned over to the DepEd immediately after completion.

He said Gawad Kalinga will provide manpower or "sweat equity" for the construction of the public school buildings.

Another administration ally, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, said Aquino deserves a better grade than the "pasang-awa" grade of 75 percent given by business group Management Association of the Philippines.

"Ang pag-upgrade ng credit ratings ng Pilipinas mula sa Fitch and Moody’s ay isang patunay na mali o hindi accurate ang 75 o pasang-awa na grade nila kay Pnoy. Maaaring hindi pa ramdam ng mga negosyante ang impact ng pagtaas ng ating credit ratings dahil bago pa lamang inilabas ito," Lacson said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said more than simply grading Aquino, the business sector "should express and show their approval by investing more and showing confidence in our economy and country." – With JP Lopez and Wendell Vigilia

Just ‘ad-libbing,’ Palace says of Noy remarks in Cebu BY REGINA BENGCO MALAYA

MALACANANG yesterday said President Aquino was just resorting to ad-libs last Monday when he remarked that he might find love in Cebu.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters that the President is a jovial person. "I’m sure you’ve seen how palabiro si Pangulong Aquino," he added.

"If he’s serious in anything that would involve the affairs of his heart, it would be something that he would keep to himself and obviously that was spoken in jest in appreciation of the beauty of the Cebuanas which is not disputed," Lacierda said.

He said the President’s humor is "kinda dry," something that Filipinos are not very used to but should familiarize themselves with.

Aquino, in his speech at the inauguration of the 200-megawatt Kepco power plant in Cebu Monday, said, "Kailangan buhayin na ang Malacañang de Sugbu. Baka dito na rin tayo magkatuluyan."

One of the emcees, TV-radio personality Grace Lee, who was born in Korea, apparently caught the eye of President Aquino who he referred in his speech as "our guest."

"I thought she’s Pinay, but she is Korean. Even the Koreans here (in Cebu) are beautiful," he said.

Aquino also praised Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia "for looking even more beautiful every time I visit Cebu."

In another development, Lacierda said President Aquino will not terminate Cabinet members who are bearers of bad news.

"The President is not allergic to bad news. It’s part and parcel of his work to receive all news, whether good or bad," he said.

Aquino has said he considers two or three Cabinet secretaries as his "penitence" because they always give him bad news when they see him.

"It’s not a ground to terminate someone based on the fact that he provides bad news. Incompetence would be one but not certainly a bearer of bad news," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved