#SONA2015: Has President Aquino fulfilled his promises?

Blog Watch takes a look at President Aquino’s promises from the time he was running as a candidate to the time of his oath taking as 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines. These 24 promises were compiled by Blog Watch in June 2010. The fact that these all came from his own mouth makes it better than those put together by his staff. Out of 24 promises, only 13 or 54% were fulfilled and partially fulfilled as of July 27, 2015.

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The quick answer: mostly NO. He has only fulfilled and partially fulfilled 13 promises. However, to avoid being tagged as haters, crabs, and perennial pessimists and impossible-to-please paid lackeys of opposition politicians, it’s important to go into the details of how and why President Aquino failed in his promises. What are these promises? How much of these promises has been fulfilled? Is it possible to explain why he failed? With less than a year left before his term ends, perhaps the time is already more than ripe enough to demand for the results of what President Aquino promised as he assumed the highest post in the Philippine government.

The following are the latest developments in the second Aquino president’s promises as he sought to be elected and when he was elected to lead the nation

1. Expanded Irrigation Development Program

Status: Fulfilled, but progress has been slow

In his Cauayan City, Isabela visit last March 2010, President Aquino vowed to expand the irrigation development program. It’s wrong to say that the President did not do anything to undertake irrigation projects under his term. The National Irrigation Administration website has comprehensive lists of ongoing and completed irrigation projects. Billions have been allocated and spent for irrigation under the government of Aquino. A number of irrigation projects, especially in Region II where Aquino made the relevant promise, have been completed including the Chico River Irrigation Project, which now serves over 16,000 hectares of farms. The Magat River Multipurpose Project – Stage 1, on the other hand, has been rehabilitated and expanded that it now serves nearly 80,000 hectares. In general, the promise of more irrigation projects has been fulfilled but progress in constructing irrigation facilities has been slow and more could have been done.

gloria-arroyo-5-192. Probe on the 2004 vote rigging

Status: The case is ongoing

The Aquino administration successfully had its predecessor arrested over election fraud charges. The case is now rolling in the courts. As to when a verdict could be achieved, only time can tell.

3. Review or Scrapping of GMA’s flagship programs

Status: Fulfilled, curiously and controversially

The results of the “review” were rather suspicious as many think that Aquino kept those he thought would benefit his government and scrapped the rest. Nevertheless, President Aquino mostly succeeded in scrapping GMA’s flagship programs. That Aquino decided to keep (and rename) the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program shows what kind of “review” he was really thinking when he made the promise. CCT is viewed as a tool to buy popularity among the poor and opportunists who pretend to be poor. He opted to suspend or cancel infrastructure projects in ways that pleased some and offended others. The cancellation of the much needed flood control projects, in particular, raised questions on Aquino’s real reasons and policies on reviewing his predecessor’s projects.

4. Upgrading the army and increasing defense spending

Status: Partially fulfilled

Under President Aquino’s term, defense spending has increased and will have its biggest ever allocation yet for 2016 at P25 billion. However, the Department of National Defense admits that around P60 billion worth of projects have been delayed or will be facing delays as Aquino still has to scrutinize them. Some of these projects are the multi-billion peso acquisitions of “Navy frigates (P18 billion), long range patrol aircraft (P5.98 billion), naval helicopters (P5.4 billion), air support aircraft (P4.97 billion), lead-in fighter trainer jets ammunition (P4.47 billion), surveillance radars (P2.68 billion), night fighting system (P1.116 billion), and multi-purpose attack craft (P864.32 million).”

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5. Closure to extrajudicial killings

Status: Failure

A United States State Department report released in February 2014 claimed that extrajudicial killings remain under the Benigno Simeon Aquino rule. The report called on the Aquino government to step up its efforts to end the problem. While government officials claim that the killings and human rights violations have already been reduced, the problem continues to exist and is at a state that is nowhere near the closure Aquino promised.

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6. Putting an end to favoritism and the practice of extending favors to allies and friends

Status: Massive failure

If you read the news, no explanation is needed in concluding that President Aquino massively failed on this promise. Just a few keywords: KKK, PNP Chief Purisima, Secretary Butch Abad, LP politicians tagged by Napoles in the PDAF scam, Virginia Torres, Bong Naguiat, MILF, DAP, resurrected and concealed PDAF (that continue to allow senators to pinpoint projects), Customs Chief Lina.

7. Strict enforcement of environmental laws

Status: Failure

Last month, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) slammed the Aquino administration for being a polluter and anti-environment particularly for its policies on mining, use of fossil fuels, and the failure to strictly enforce Philippine laws that supposedly protect the environment. The issue on the numerous trash-filled containers from Canada, in particular, shows Aquino’s spinelessness in addressing environment-related concerns.

8. Freedom of Information (FOI)

Status: Failure – Pending, and unlikely to be passed

The prospects are dim. It is unlikely for the Freedom of Information Bill to be signed into law under the Aquino government. Despite Aquino’s promise of passing it within his term, many are no longer expecting it to advance any further. Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II himself said that the House might not pass the FOI bill. This is because Congress will be preoccupied with the BBL deliberations (a priority measure of President Aquino) from August to October, and will be most likely focusing their efforts on their reelection bids after the filing of certificates of candidacies in October.

9. Streamlining the government bureaucracy

Status: Improving but still mired with significant issues

There have been efforts to improve the processes of dealing with the government. In 2012, a nationwide client satisfaction survey showed promising results. The government claims that efforts to streamline the permits and licensing system have paid off as they contributed to the improvement of the country’s competitiveness. However, major issues continue to exist. Early in 2014, several government offices failed in the anti-red tape tests conducted by the Civil Service Commission. The Yolanda rehabilitation system is one big example of how the government still fails to completely transition into something more efficient and transparent. Issues hounding the Land Transportation Office also reflect the challenges that persist in the government bureaucracy.

10. Adjusting government pay scale

Status: Partially fulfilled

Aquino updated the Salary Standardization Law but there are still sectors that complain that his efforts are not enough. In April 2014, Senator Trillanes moved for the passage of a Salary Standardization IV to raise the pay of government employees, proving that even Aquino’s allies acknowledge the need for further improvements. When it comes to employees (particularly in GOCCs) who are said to be receiving excessive compensation, the President ordered for the imposition of caps on their salaries and reductions in their benefits. However, this year, the President is having a change of heart, as he now wants increased benefits for GOCC executives.

11. Preventing the rise of a dictatorship

Status: Fulfilled technically, as there is no direct dictatorship.

Dictatorship in the Philippines is something most commonly associated with the Marcos regime. While President Aquino successfully prevented a Marcos-like presidency from taking over the country, he practised his own style of dictatorship by effectively taking control over public funds through the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP). Started in 2011, DAP made it possible for President Aquino to exercise overarching control on the government’s budget by unilaterally suspending or canceling projects to declare savings that can be pooled into a fund that the President can capriciously assign for uses not necessarily listed in the General Appropriations Act. Additionally, President Aquino dictated over many decisions on how the government is to be run by effectively controlling the Legislature, with the Lower House unfailingly acting as his rubber stamp. He also attempted to create a Judiciary that will bend to his desires by impeaching the Supreme Court Chief Justice, installing a controversial new chief justice (with qualifications that leave much to be desired), lowering the Judiciary’s budget, and attacking its “special funds.” Fortunately, President Aquino’s popularly has considerably weakened that further attempts to impose his will on other branches of government are bound to fail.

12. Exploring safer sources of energy

Status: There have been no palpable or significant results yet although the focus on renewable energy is commendable.

It’s unfortunate that President Aquino has not addressed the power problem, and that another Aquino gets associated with power crises. The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ACCP) said that it would take at least two more years before Mindanao’s power supply becomes adequate to address the growing demand. On the bright side, though, the President is bent on exploring safer energy sources instead of resorting to nuclear power. He launched the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) that serves as the Philippine government’s basis for implementing RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

13. Population management through responsible parenthood

Status: Fulfilled

Two words: RH Bill. In one of the few instances when he wisely used his political capital, President Aquino successfully pushed for the passing of the RH Bill or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The Law is expected to educate Filipinos on planning their families although it came with the price of offending the Catholic Church mainly due to the legally backed wider availability of contraceptives and legally mandated sex education.

14. Charter change through ConCon

Status: Pending

President Aquino once said that he would support the creation of a body to determine if there is public clamor for amendments to the Constitution. However, until now there hasn’t been a body created to determine public sentiment over charter change. Businessmen, groups, and even politicians have called for constitutional amendments but there have been no significant developments so far. To put things in the right perspectives, though, President Aquino is not really vigorously pushing for charter change. He only promised to support it only through a constitutional convention and not through other means like a constitutional assembly or “people’s initiative.”

15. Local jobs creation

OFW-overseas-filipino-worker

Status: The touted economic gains have not been translated to local jobs.

President Aquino proudly declared that his government would not pursue overseas employment as a development strategy. However, according to a 2014 IBON Foundation research, more Filipinos were deployed to overseas jobs compared to those who were hired domestically. The Philippines continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the ASEAN region. The Department of Labor and Employment regularly holds job fairs nationwide but many of the available jobs are for overseas deployment.

16. No tax increases, no new taxes

Status: Failure

His predecessor already raised taxes (with EVAT in particular) so he doesn’t and shouldn’t have to. However, earlier in his term, President Aquino agreed to the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s assertion that toll fees should also be subjected to 12% VAT. This is something opposed by many because tolls are said to be already a form of tax so imposing tax on it is like imposing tax on tax. The previous administration did not impose such a tax. Additionally, Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Bill into law. This law is meant to raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco. If it’s any consolation though, Aquino approved a law that raises the ceiling (to P82,000) for the tax exemption on bonuses.

17. Distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to farmers

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Status: Fulfilled technically, failed in actuality

Despite a favorable Supreme Court ruling, Hacienda Luisita farmers continue to cry for justice as they claim that the Aquino government is working doubly hard to concoct ways that would lessen the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hacienda Luisita land distribution case.

18. Justice for the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre

Status: Failure – Matter is pending

Has the Aquino government really done everything to expedite the Maguindanao Massacre case? With barely a year left in his term, nothing significant has been achieved in the quest for justice over the brutal death of more than 60 people in Maguindanao. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the Maguindanao Massacre, is already dead but there are no indications that the courts will be releasing a verdict soon. In a World Press Freedom Day forum in April this year, Presidential spokesperson Secretary Herminio Coloma acknowledged public disappointment over the Maguindanao Massacre case but asserted that its resolution lies in the hands of the Judiciary, not on the President. This is a reasonable argument although not enough to console the families of the victims.

19. Ending decades-long insurgencies through peace talks

peace panel iqbal

Status: Controversially still being pushed, too focused on the MILF

Aquino’s efforts to address the insurgency problem of the country are apparently limited to the MILF. His centerpiece solution is the controversial Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL), which is being rejected by more than half of Mindanaons (62%) and nearly half of all Filipinos nationwide according to a Pulse Asia survey released in March this year. BBL is still being aggressively pushed in Congress with a new approval timeline set after it failed to be passed in the last Congress session.

20. Prosecuting Gloria Arroyo

Status: Fulfilled

The former president alleged to have cheated her way to a reelection and stolen millions from the public coffers is now under hospital arrest. Four of the cases filed against her have already been dismissed but she still has to face the PCSO plunder charge, for which she has not been allowed to post bail. President Aquino vows that if the verdicts will favor Arroyo, his government will be refiling the charges.

21. Avoiding foreign trips

Status: Failure – impossible to fulfill to begin with

Even before he was declared the new president, Aquino made the naive vow of avoiding foreign trips. Of course, he is bound to fail with this promise although he somehow successfully trimmed his delegation down to minimize expenses.

22. Lean, Graft-free Government

Status: Partially fulfilled

Selectiveness best describes President Aquino’s efforts in eliminating graft and corruption in government. While he quickly moves and brings out all the resources of the government to prosecute political opponents, he is quick to shrug off allegations against his allies. Moreover, the infamous Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) and the alleged reincarnation of PDAF in the 2015 budget evidence the likelihood of failure in President Aquino’s anti-corruption drive.

23. Comprehensive public health care system

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Status: Partially fulfilled

In June 2014, doctors and healthcare specialists declared a workforce crisis. The Philippine Orthopedic Center is set to be privatized along with several other public health services. However, President Aquino launched a comprehensive health program aimed at providing primary health care for the country’s poorest of poor. Billions of funds have also been released to provide insurance coverage for poor families. There seems to be confusion in Aquino’s health programs and policies.

24. Quitting smoking

Status: FAILURE!

Then Senator BS Aquino said that he would quit smoking if he would win the presidency. Of course, everyone knows what happened next.

Apparently, President Aquino’s smoking is a good indicator of the kind of president he is. He finds it extremely difficult to let go of things he is fixated to – like blaming the previous administration, getting linked to younger girls, wearing the divisive yellow ribbon and promoting divisiveness, and putting tremendous amounts of trust in his KKK circle, to name a few. He fulfills promises when it’s convenient to do it and when he really wants to do it. His term, though, has not ended yet and maybe he can still do something to leave a sensible legacy.

Stock photos via Blog Watch . Some rights reserved.

As originally published on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles . Part 1 and Part 2

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine (Dine) Racoma is a writer, researcher, and multi-awarded blogger. You can find Bernadine Racoma at Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter. She is an advocate, and co-founder of Blogwatch.

Profile as of March 9, 2017.

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