President Aquino’s first 100 days are consistent with his electoral promises — Barely 100 days in office, a truth commission is readied to investigate key players of the previous administration and exact accountability for their corrupt practices, GMA’s “untouchable” ombudsman is taken to the committee on justice, SDO was rejected in the HLI issue and RH was firmly pushed. This is a far cry from the performance of the Arroyo administration.
That things impossible under the previous administration were made possible by the new Aquino administration is a clear indication that some of the important elements necessary to implement reforms are already in place and that we are well on our journey through what the administration has called “matuwid na daan.”
100 Days Without GMA
There is a reason to celebrate Aquino’s 100 days in office despite the criticisms hurled against it. Lest we forget, this is the first 100 days where the Filipino people are free from Ms. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government, which was deemed as the most corrupt, inept and hated regime since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. On its own, to be unshackled from a government which should have been ousted years ago, is cause for celebration; a concrete reminder of the political significance of Aquino’s victory—an electoral victory which justly belongs to the people, and a victory that must be translated into a triumph of reforms.
Reformers in Government
As such, we commend the Aquino administration for putting into place the necessary elements to pursue and realize reforms. Its choice of reformers with unassailable records of accomplishment such as the appointments of Secretary Leila De Lima in the Department of Justice, Secretary Jessie Robredo in the Department of Interior and Local Government, Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales in the Commission on Human Rights, Chairperson Joel Rocamora in the National Anti-Poverty Commission and Secretary Proseso Alcala in the Department of Agriculture is a step in the right direction. It sends a strong signal to the public and the different layers of the administration that the president is sincere and committed in providing justice to the people and in introducing reforms at the grassroots level.
We also praise the Aquino government’s initiative to rid the government of erring public officials who for the longest time were seen as obstacles in the dispensation of justice, corroding the very fiber of the government by consenting to if not participating in large-scale corruption and plunder. Accordingly, we commend and support the impeachment proceedings initiated against Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez led by the House Committee on Justice under Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas. We believe her removal from public office will jumpstart the process of cleansing public institutions of corrupt government officials and pave the way for making Ms. Arroyo and her family accountable for the crimes they committed against the people.
Moreover, we welcome the establishment of a truth commission tasked with the important job of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity during the previous regime. We expect the commission to shed light to the various anomalies linked to the past administration like the “Hello, Garci” election scandal, the botched US$329-million NBN-ZTE telecommunications deal, the P728-million fertilizer fund scam and cases of extrajudicial killings. There must be a day of reckoning to all those that are answerable for all of these.
SDO Repudiated in HLI
In the same breath, we welcome the Department of Agrarian Reform’s repudiation of the flawed Stock Distribution as a solution to the Hacienda Luisita issue. From the onset, we asserted that this scheme is the main source of dispute in Luisita and, hence, should never be part in the just resolution of the case. We hope in the coming days the Aquino administration will make the agrarian reform question central to its asset reform policy. We look forward to the government fully and satisfactorily resolving this issue with the goal of democratically distributing lands to the farmers as a show of strong political will on the part of the president.
Reproductive Health Pushed
Furthermore, we would like to congratulate the Aquino government for making a firm stand on the issue of reproductive rights. Amid strong opposition from several sections of the church, Aquino’s support for the reproductive health advocacy is remarkable. This shows the government’s strong commitment to provide the people with the widest possible variety of options in the planning of their families and in safeguarding the reproductive rights of women.
As much as we commend the achievements made by the new government in its 100 days, we would also like to register our concerns regarding a number of important issues that we believe, if left unattended would have severe implications on the government’s initiative to pursue meaningful reforms.
From the start, we made it clear that while we support the government’s effort to realize change, there will be times where we will rationally disagree with the administration on some issues. Hence, we would like to address this by constructively engaging the government living up to the idea of “hindi lang nakikialam, kundi nakikilahok.”
For one, we are very concerned on how the government’s economic policies are developing. The government’s effort to push public-private partnerships (PPP) and to make conditional cash transfers (CCT) central to its anti-poverty program is alarming. We believe PPP is privatization disguised as “constructive partnerships” between the public and private sectors. In reality, it has succeeded only in allowing private corporations and a handful of executives to amass wealth while the government’s debt burden increases and basic services remain inaccessible to a good portion of the population. The people’s experience with PPP like those between MWSS, Manila Water and Maynilad is a proof of this. It failed not only to provide efficient water services to the public; it also resulted in higher water rates. We hope the Aquino administration will seriously reconsider the PPP as one of its “solutions” to poverty.
Similarly, we raise our concern on the government’s CCT program. While CCTs may provide temporary assistance and relief to poor families by increasing their meager income, this is mainly a stopgap measure, a stimulant program to keep the local economy afloat and liquid during serious economic crises. To use emergency funding as a central and strategic part of any government’s anti-poverty program is off beam. It is worse that these funds are sourced from international financial institutions, the outdated conditionalities they demand in exchange weakens developing government’s ability to combat poverty and causes the people’s further indebtedness. W believe it is through a combination of the creation of real jobs, the protection of labor’s security of tenure, the improvement of minimum wage and government assistance to the poor, and not merely through emergency dole outs, that any poverty alleviation program will succeed.
Lastly, we are worried with the accusations of incompetence and squabbling involving some of Pres. Aquino’s people in government. As there is growing public criticism against the President’s alleged practice of sheltering friends in his cabinet, he must respond with decisive action that demonstrates his intolerance for involvement in corruption and ineptitude especially from members of his cabinet and closest aides, regardless of social or family ties.
PNoy Passed the 100 Days Test
However, taken as a whole, Pres. Aquino passed the 100 days test. We are confident that the new administration, in partnership with progressive political parties such as Akbayan, and in consistent consultation with the broader civil society and social movements, will succeed in restoring the people’s trust and confidence in public office, rebuilding the democratic institutions the previous administration has corrupted, and improving the state of the economy and the quality of lives of the Filipino people.