Seeds of change planted, time now for broader and deeper reforms

This is Akbayan’s press statement on PNoy’s 1st year:

On the first year of President Aquino’s term, Akbayan Party today lauded the government for the significant gains it achieved while proposing broader and deeper reforms in the coming years through a social contract, which the group said Aquino must enter into with the people.

In an official statement titled “The rough and rugged road toward change” (, Akbayan commended the government on the significant gains it made even as it challenged the government to sustain the momentum in effecting reforms in the government.

“We laud the government’s achievements in the anti-corruption campaign, political reforms, and urgent actions to address some of the people’s economic problems,” Akbayan Spokesperson Risa Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros pointed to the removal of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez from office, the swift handling of the cases filed against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the filing of tax evasion charges against big-time tax evaders including Mikey Arroyo, the passage of the ARMM election synchronization law and the support for women’s rights via the Reproductive Health bill, among many.

GMA made things more difficult

However, the former partylist lawmaker also recognized the disappointment of the public as they welcomed the first year of the Aquino government. Hontiveros encouraged the government to” embrace and keep near its heart” the sentiments of the people.

“We understand the people’s disappointment as they welcome the government’s first year because they believe this administration is different from the previous carpet-bagging Arroyo administration and is capable of effecting necessary reforms,” Hontiveros said.

“What is important, though, is that the people continue to hope albeit in a cautious way. Thus, it is imperative on the government to reassure the concerns of the people by pushing through with more reforms in the future with unwavering resolve,” Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros said the straight path toward change was made more difficult by the Arroyo camp.

“The change we are direly working for does not happen overnight, especially because of the legacy of corrupt and ineffective governance that was put into practice by the Arroyo government, which like a stubborn stain, is hard to wash off. Not satisfied with this, Arroyo’s henchmen are now busy subverting our aspirations for reforms by making the journey toward change more difficult and the straight path crooked,” Hontiveros stressed.

Hontiveros asked the public not to be seduced by the Arroyo camp’s political rancor and lies. “We must not let them exploit our occasional impatience and distract us from the straight path toward change. We must not let Gloria Macapagal Arroyo win in the end.”

Social Contract to Effect Broader and Deeper Reforms

Akbayan said the Aquino administration and the people definitely have planted the seeds of change, and have emerged victorious in important battles against corruption. However, it said the seeds need proper nurturing and the war against corruption has yet to be won.

“Thus, as much as we celebrate our triumphs in the struggle for reforms, the Aquino government must sustain the momentum of change. We believe now is the time for President Aquino to enter into a social contract with the people to implement broader and deeper reforms in the political and economic fronts,” Hontiveros said.

Akbayan Party Representative Walden Bello said the social contract would include more strategic programs to not only contain poverty but also significantly reduce it.

Bello proposed to the government to implement labor- intensive infrastructure programs that generates jobs and gives the economy a boost. He also proposed the implementation of emergency employment programs to poor households that were not included in the CCT. The economist-turned lawmaker said this would go together with the CCT, which is basically a poverty-containment strategy.

Bello also pushed for a comprehensive debt audit starting with the illegitimate debts accumulated by the previous administration to curb the country’s debt problem and called for the passage of the Security of Tenure bill.

President’s stand on Spratlys lauded

Bello also lauded the Aquino government’s firm stand on the Spratlys issue.

“We appreciate the government’s resolve in standing up for Philippine sovereignty and fighting for our country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Bello said.
Government must defend human rights

Hontiveros also called on the government to immediately certify as urgent the Marcos Compensation bill that would give indemnification to the victims of the Marcos dictatorship. She also called for swift action on the alarming incidents of human rights violations.

“The President should certify as urgent the Marcos Compensation bill since it will give some measure of justice to the victims of the Marcos dictatorship. There should also be swift action against the incidents of extrajudicial killings against activists and political advocates. Government must ever be vigilant against such abuses by state and non-state actors,” Hontiveros said.

Need for a better energy policy

Bello also urged the government to veer away from a coal-centered energy policy towards a policy that supports renewable energy.

“The president already did the right thing by signing E.O. 23 which provides an indefinite log ban in all national and residual forests. That shows that the government is taking the environment seriously. It should now veer away from coal and focus on developing our renewable energy resources,” Bello said.

Promise of Agrarian Reform and Social Justice must be fulfilled

Meanwhile, Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao expressed concern regarding the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program- Extension with Reforms (CARPER) expiration in 2 years and the need to distribute around 1 million hectares of undistributed agricultural lands.

“The government needs to urgently finish the process of distribution in order to fulfill the promise of social justice,” according to Bag-ao.
Commenting on the impending Supreme Court decision on the Hacienda Luisita issue, Bag-ao urged the president to push for eventual distribution regardless of the decision.

“Whether or not the SC’s decision is advantageous to the farmers or not, the President should use his political capital in ensuring that justice is indeed served and ensure that Hacienda Luisita ends up in the hands of the farmers,” Bag-ao said.

Challenges that the President must face

Bag-ao said her group’s proposals are some of the daunting tasks the administration must tackle in the coming years.
“From planting the seeds of change and winning several important battles, the Aquino government must now lead the people into a vision of a better future where the people can reap the fruits of what they sowed,” Bag-ao said.

Hontiveros said while one year is too short to judge the performance of a new government, it is already enough to give a fair appraisal of its commitment to meet the promises it made to the Filipino people.

“Clearly, in its one year, the Aquino government has proven its sincerity and resolve in accomplishing the challenging tasks of restoring the integrity of democratic institutions, social justice and ensuring the economic welfare of the people.

However, Hontiveros reminded President Aquino that the next 5 years would be filled with even greater challenges for his administration.

“The President can easily choose the path of least resistance and renege on his promises. He can do that just like how Arroyo betrayed the public during her term. However, we are hopeful that the government will maintain if not strengthen present efforts to make the corrupt pay and ensure genuine reforms are made. The straight path may be a rough and rugged road and is indeed the hardest path, but that is what the straight path is,” Hontiveros ended.