POSTSCRIPT / July 29, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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SONA an extension of defense, offense

TRUE STATE: Whatever President Noynoy Aquino said or did not say yesterday in his penultimate State of the Nation Address is overshadowed by what the individual Filipino feels in his gut.

The true state of the nation is the sum total of the personal state of us 100 million Filipinos. No glowing statistics can brighten up any of the people’s dark foreboding. But neither can protest marches or caustic comments of critics dampen any optimism.

So what is the true state of the nation?

The question will have to be answered by each one of us, because it is a personal subjective assessment that is being asked of us to give.

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VARIANCE: Why don’t we just take President Aquino’s word for it as delivered in his SONA? Sorry to say this, but his official declarations have not always been found to be consistently true.

The variance is more apparent when he/we talk about the use of public funds, the prosecution of corrupt officials (past or present, foes or allies), poverty, jobs, food and prices, power rates, and disaster rescue, relief and rebuilding.

After four years of improvising from one crisis to another, here we are still unable to show remarkable improvement in the quality of life of the Filipino and the building of infrastructure that both residents and foreign investors need.

We are already into the last two minutes of the game and the Team Aquino has yet to score big. It looks like the captain is getting panicky.

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THREE POINTS: As we did last year and in previous years, we will look for three things in the SONA:

• A review of the Road Map wherein the President, like a Moses, points to the destination of this nation — where we are going and what route to take.

• A Scoreboard showing after his first four years at the helm the promises made on the basis of the Road Map versus what he has delivered. There should be some comparative measurement.

• A clearer and more reassuring Preview of what lies ahead, plus a recapitulation of what the President plans to do in the coming year before the nation is overrun by the election hemorrhagic fever in 2016.

Somebody is bound to express surprise why at this late date we are still asking about a road map. If the Aquino administration ever had a kind of map they should not have kept it folded in their vest pocket, but shared it with us the people.

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REPORT CARD: The SONA is similar to a student’s report card, except that it should be the taxpayer (who in a manner of speaking is sending the student to school) and not the President who grades his own performance.

In a more technical fashion, part of the SONA should almost resemble a Commission on Audit report showing what funds had been disbursed for certain projects and activities and what the results had been.

The CoA way of looking at disbursements is timely and appropriate in view of the current public interest in the auditing of congressional and presidential pork barrel billions. People want to know where and how their taxes are being (mis)used.

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P-NOY’S PORK: Yesterday’s SONA should have been the perfect stage, for instance, for President Aquino to wave audited records showing how much, if any, he had received in his nine years as congressman from Tarlac and three years as neophyte senator.

Many people find it hard to believe that in his 12 years as lawmaker, Mr. Aquino never received a pork barrel peso. If he did, it is not enough for him to say simply that the money went to projects benefiting his constituents. Such statement is self-serving.

It will be better for the CoA to report, without prodding and before its own integrity is tarnished in the ongoing controversy over pork audits, how Mr. Aquino, among other top officials, had used public funds entrusted to him.

Publishing a CoA report on the pork use of Mr. Aquino, first as congressman and later as senator, will help clear the air and reaffirm his good faith in going after big-time raiders of the national treasury.

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HITTING HIGH COURT: As this Postscript is being written before the delivery of the President’s SONA, we cannot divine his thoughts nor anticipate his words.

But if his latest pronouncements are any indication, President Aquino is likely to continue battering the Supreme Court — on the theory that the best defense is offense? — over its trashing of his questioned Disbursement Acceleration Program for being unconstitutional.

He cannot retreat on this question. Once the dam breaks on DAP, the deluge could bring down a slew of other big basic issues hanging on tenuous constitutional threads. It could mean President Aquino’s impeachment.

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STICK TO ISSUE: One sample issue is the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law carving out a new federal state in Mindanao. Filing of the BBL final draft has been delayed largely because some of its substantive provisions are in conflict with the Constitution.

The negotiators of Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who laid the contractual basis for the BBL went all the way to the edge, because President Aquino himself vowed to amend the Constitution to accommodate the MILF’s dream state.

The President has become so sensitive and evasive on DAP that he has been trying hard lately to shift focus from its being unconstitutional – the core issue – to its allegedly having benefitted many people.

Assuming DAP has socially redeeming elements, that does not make legal or constitutional the cross-border diversion of funds and the impounding as forced savings of appropriations for specific projects or activities in the national budget.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 29, 2014)

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