MANILA , JULY 22, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - After his first three years in office, President Benigno Aquino III remains to be perceived by the public as a leader without clear priorities while the changes in the country are unfelt by all, a political analyst said.

Dr. Clarita Carlos, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines (UP), said Aquino had been addressing the ills of the society and scored some achievements during the first half of his term. However, ordinary citizens have yet to see their effects, along with the President's road map and vision for the people.

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“Maybe from their (government’s) point of view they have a strategy which they call the National Development Plan and this would have various components - eradicate poverty, create employment, attract direct investments,” Carlos said in an interview with

The UP professor was referring to the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, which serves as the blueprint of the Aquino government in solving the country’s woes. But despite having this thick document, Carlos still wants to see the administration to clearly sort out its priorities and assure that nobody is left behind.

"I think what everyone is looking for would be for the government to really identify for us which are the priorities in terms of where you will put the money,” said Carlos.

“I now it’s a tall order, really. It’s a very big thing... but that one has to be very clear to us. Ano ‘yung nangungunang concern natin, kasi ibig sabihin doon mo ilalagay yung pera,” she added.

She said the government, which is “drowning in problems,” needs to guarantee the various sectors of that they are included in these priorities. For instance, while the problems in the military are being addressed, teachers on the other hand should not be overlooked.

“What we need from the government is a clearer articulation of ‘Okay, we are paying attention to our defense concerns, but at the same time, we are not forgetting education.’”

“Many times information is very valuable... just for them (teachers) to know that they are next line [is a good step],” she said.

Corruption on the Tuwid na Daan?

And while the government’s priorities look unclear to the public, the impact of Aquino’s “triumphs” also seems to be unfelt by everyone.

After allegations of corruption hounded the past administration, Aquino’s apparent main platform was centered on transparency and accountability, where the government made some accomplishments. Under his term, a Supreme Court Chief Justice was found guilty of non-disclosure of wealth while a new leadership was also established in the anti-graft court.

However, Carlos believes that corruption remains even under Aquino’s term since the problem has become institutionalized.

“Even while the President himself is not corrupt and perceived as not corrupt, still other things are happening around him,” she said.

Also, attempts to weed out corruption have yet to happen in the lowest parts of the government, according to Carlos.

“Wala pa rin talagang nangyayari on the ground,” she said. “I’m sure you've had your horror stories of applying for clearances [and other government documents].”

According to the the latest Global Corruption Barometer of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, 35 percent of 1,000 Filipino respondents said corruption in the country had gone down a little in the past two years during Aquino's term. About 31 percent believed it had stayed the same.

Nineteen percent said corruption had increased a lot, while 12 percent thought it had increased a little. However, only two percent thought corruption in the country had decreased a lot.

Some survey respondents also admitted to paying bribes in the last 12 months. Nineteen percent admitted to bribing the police while 14 percent did the same for registry and permit services.

Malacañang said last week the survey showed that Filipinos believe that the issue of corruption is being addressed by the Aquino administration.

“Our fight against corruption has been recognized from six percent (in 2010) to 38 percent and we continue to fight corruption in all levels,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. “We recognize that there are still some levels of corruption but the people have seen that there is a consistent fight against corruption under this government."

Economic inequality

At the same time, every Filipino has yet to experience the effects of the economic gains that the Aquino administration has been trumpeting, Carlos said.

She praised the government for these accomplishments, which include the recent credit upgrades for the Philippines and the 7.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2013.

“Bigay natin where commendation is due. Yes, our economy really grew but the growth is unequal,” she said. “’Yung mga nasa baba, hindi talaga naabutan nung growth na ‘yun.”

Although the UP professor admitted that these gains take time to trickle down, she said “immediate” effects should already be felt. For one, taxpayers should now see better public roads, which can be perceived as signs of an improving economy.

“Even in a small scale, kailangan ma-feel ng greater many na merong pagbabago,” she said. “Just pay close attention on how to reduce inequality. Give everybody a chance to be rich, to raise the quality of his life.”

Carlos also reacted to Aquino’s apparent excuse that the problems under his leadership, including corruption and economic inequality, were just handed down by the previous administration.

“Hindi naman rason ‘yun [na minana mo ‘yung problema]... Dapat sabihin mo minana ninyo pero sundan mo ito ng ‘ang ginagawa natin ay…’” she said.

“Gusto nating malaman yung quantitative and qualitative effect ng ginagawa ninyong reporma,” she also said.

Earlier this year, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) revealed that poverty incidence in the country practically remained the same with almost three out of 10 FIlipinos living below the poverty line in the first half of 2012.

NSCB Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert reported that poverty incidence was estimated at 27.9 percent during the first semester of 2012.

"Comparing this with the 2006 and 2009 first semester figures estimated at 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively, poverty remained unchanged as the computed differences are not statistically significant," the NSCB said.

The NSCB said 22 out of 100 families were estimated to be poor in the first six months of 2012 while 13 in 100 Filipinos lived in extreme poverty in the same period.

The agency said both of these figures remained unchanged from similar periods in 2006 and 2009.

Aquino had been assuring that his administration is working to spur inclusive growth and that nobody will be left behind.

Next 3 years: Reforms needed with public’s help

To ensure government accountability and effectiveness, Carlos said one of the biggest challenges for Aquino in his remaining years in office is to reform the bureaucracy – one way is to change the leadership in inefficient offices.

Carlos said the President, who has been scoring high approval ratings, must take advantage of his political capital to remove ineffective officials and demonstrate the power of the rule of law.

“Because of the strength of friendships and utang na loob, Aquino, despite the fact that he uses the iron hand once in a while, is less likely to change leaderships in organizations that really are not working well,” she said.

“Bureaucratic reform and boldness and courage to dismiss people who are not performing – ‘yan ang hinihingi natin sa kanya,” Carlos said. “Let the axe fall where it should fall.”

She said Aquino should diagnose government offices to determine those non-performing and to see which need to be abolished or merged.

But while the President tries to reform the government, Carlos said the public should also do its part.

“I think there is a genuine effort to reform and to address mainly the economic concerns but it means tremendous cooperation from everyone to make it happen. Having a president who is not corrupt is not enough. We need more from the local executives' cooperation. We need more from the non-government organizations,” she concluded.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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