National Situationer: It starts with the first 100

Honeymoons don’t last long. Noynoy Aquino’s honeymoon with the Filipinos, as the new president, certainly didn’t.

The anti-wangwang [siren] campaign, Aquino’s first, was a promising entry point for his administration. It gave the impression that the Aquino administration can empathize with what is a daily problem for Filipinos.

His first issued memorandum on the retraction of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (PGMA) controversial appointments also proved that his administration meant serious business.

“Kayo ang boss ko,” Aquino reaffirmed during his inaugural address that garnered positive reactions from the Filipinos. Aquino’s first approval rating in the July Pulse Asia survey reached 85%.

The good start of the new administration didn’t last long though.

The Aug. 23 hostage taking crisis in Manila took the lives of eight Chinese nationals. Critics branded the ineffective damage control of the police as the first failure of Aquino’s government. Many observers said that the crisis could have been prevented if only the local police and government units responded quicker.

Sen. Joker Arroyo called the administration “a student government” when the palace remained evasive during the half-day siege.

Vice President Peter Perfecto of the Philippine Investment and Management Corporation (PHINMA), a non-profit organization management industry, says that the evasion of the president during the hostage taking was most likely due to the in-fighting between the factions in Aquino’s government, which he traces back to Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay’s victory.

“This keeps them [the administration] from progressing. But I think it’s on Noy’s part also, [if] he does want to listen to both [Binay’s and Liberal Party’s] sides,” affirms Perfecto.

Binay wasn’t the running mate of Aquino when they ran for office last May. Former Sen. Mar Roxas ran side by side with Aquino in the Liberal Party (LP) slate while Binay ran as vice president of former Pres. Joseph Estrada in the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) slate.

Tanya Hamada, executive director of non-government organization International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (InciteGov), explains that it is vital for a president to have an infrastructure, a theme or foundation all throughout his or her administration.

To achieve good governance, these infrastructures must assess a situation well and allocate the right amount of resources to address national problems. The delegations and appointments made by the president should also supplement the infrastructures.

Hamada also comments that Aquino’s list of appointments took time before it was completed. The completion of these appointments is one of the things that are usually done within the president’s first 100 days. Some of the Cabinet members currently in office were not included in the list submitted to the Commission of Appointments, which is in charge of confirming the president’s appointments.

Days before the 100th day of the administration, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno even expressed his plan to resign from his post; his name surfaced during the jueteng expose conducted by concerned citizens and members of the Church.

The undersecretary was also questioned for his department’s unpreparedness during the Manila hostage crisis.

Aquino rejected Puno’s resignation letter because he opted to give the accused due process. Trust has also become a deciding factor on whether Aquino keeps an official.

Aquino’s to-do list

Aquino has been very clear on his stand on the Philippine Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, poverty alleviation and the government’s austerity program since his campaign started. His stance on responsible parenthood and informed choice has raised concerns in the religious sector.

With no bill in place to protect the rights of women and population control, Aquino is pushing for a series of dialogues between the government and the Church to resolve the matter.

Aside from the controversial issue regarding the RH Bill, the Aquino government is also allocating funds for its anti-poverty programs. The conditional cash transfer or monetary grants directly provided to poor Filipino families are also sparking controversy among critics.

The project aims to incentivize parents to bring their children to school and to health centers for immunization and check-ups, but with an expensive price tag for the government. The cash transfers will be funded by an $805 million loan from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

For Perfecto of PHINMA Corporation, Aquino does not need to borrow money from foreign financial intermediaries, but rather focus on eliminating corruption and use the government funds spared from corrupt officials in his poverty alleviation projects. “He should put in jail corrupt government officials,” he recommends.

The Aquino administration was however applauded for spending little on their first out-of-the-country trip last month. Aquino stayed away from eating in expensive restaurants to minimize the costs of his visit. At the same time, he secured a little more than $2 billion worth of foreign investments from the United States.

Arnel Casanova of Asia Society Philippines, an organization that values the role of education in protecting Asia’s culture and arts, warns though that the administration still hasn’t finalized its foreign policies to harness enough stable investments. Casanova said in an interview with GMANews.TV that the Aquino’s government should also include the welfare of the more than 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in his priorities.

Scorecards up

Aquino has established a good rapport with the people in his first 100 days. Seven out of ten Filipinos gave the president a passing mark in the recent Philippine Information Agency survey. What he has to improve is to get his team in place and lead it to the best of his ability, according to Hamada of InciteGov.

He must also attest his capacity to lead since the hopes of people are high, especially when he won as president.

Assessing the performance of the president is one of the many responsibilities of the Filipino people. “In taking that responsibility and putting yourself in that state of expectation, you really have to comment and assess on this administration as a voter and as a student, as an institution or even a school. Base it on the assumption that you’re in this with him for the next six years,” says Hamada.

The media has branded the first 100 days of the administration as a primer for what the new government can provide its constituents.

“I would give him a pass, with high honors. He’s not perfect, but he is way better and he has his own say,” Dino de Leon, DLSU law student, comments.

University of St. La Salle Integrated School President and Chancellor Br. Ray Suplido agrees, “I’d give him a pass; he’s started the process of making [the] government more transparent, injecting hope in our people and attracting competent people to serve. He and/or his people also made mistakes and the opposition is also there to put his government down.”

On a similar note, Br. Arian Lopez FSC gave Aquino a passing grade, given all the problems he inherited from the last administration and all the reforms he needs to implement.

“I’d give it [the Aquino administration] a passing grade because the economy is doing well and the business community is still upbeat and happy,” Perfecto of PHINMA Corporation supports

While some believe that Aquino’s first 100 days deserve a high mark, there are others who agree but on a different level.

“It’s a pass, but it’s not something to be proud of. If the first 100 days is the first ten seconds of a dragon boat race, and Aquino is the team drummer, they (administration) are off to a rocky start,” Nikki Cruz, assistant professor of the Political Science Department, explains.

On the contrary, Edward Limosnero, a student of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, says that Aquino deserves a failing grade because his works were a follow through of PGMA’s administration. He adds that some of his appointed officials are undeserving of the responsibility entrusted to them.

“Aquino lacks the political will at times of crisis and it is manifested on how indecisive his government has become. He also tends to have an unclear stand which makes it [administration] more dubious,” Limosnero furthers.

Ricardo Caballero (III, ECM-APC) also comments on the appointments made by the new administration.  “I think that Noynoy should lessen how he gives favors to the people who supported him in the campaign. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to put inexperienced leaders in office,” Caballero argues.

Casting votes does not mark the end of a voter’s duty. It also calls for continuous support; at least those who voted for Aquino are expected to stand by their chosen leader in his first 100 days and all throughout the rest of his term.

Sandi Suplido

By Sandi Suplido

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