MANILA, Philippines (July 24 2012) - Flattering the Filipino people no end, President Aquino gave the nation reasons to hope for better life as he delivered his third annual report to the nation yesterday, telling his “bosses” the people that significant changes have been achieved “because in unity nothing is impossible.”
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), delivered in Filipino and which lasted for about one-and-a-half hours, the President also assured the people that the fight against corruption would ensure fair justice and prove that “there are no poor where there are no corrupt in government.”
He said the people should not just “forgive and forget” as he recited a list of gains achieved by his administration because of proper allocation of resources.
Aquino, who won on a platform of people power and volunteerism in 2010, also took the opportunity to rouse the people from apathy and make them participate more actively in improving their lives.
“I stand before you today as the face of a government that knows you as its boss and draws its strength from you. I am only here to narrate the changes that you yourselves have made possible,” he said.
“I repeat: what was once thought impossible is now possible. I stand before you today and tell you: This is not my SONA. You made this happen. This is the SONA of the Filipino nation,” he said.
The President had been saying he is bent on making growth inclusive – meaning to make every Filipino feel the effects of economic developments brought about by better governance.
His campaign two years ago was anchored on this platform and he told the people this had bore fruits as underpinned by positive ratings and perception from foreign agencies and governments.
“This is why, to all the nurses, midwives, or doctors who chose to serve in the barrios; to each new graduate who has chosen to work for the government; to each Filipino athlete who proudly carries the flag in any corner of the globe, to each government official who renders true and honest service: You made this change possible. So whenever I come face to face with a mother who tells me, ‘Thank you, my child has been vaccinated,’ I respond: You made this happen,” Aquino said.
“Whenever I come face to face with a child who tells me, ‘Thank you for the paper, for the pencils, for the chance to study,’ I respond: You made this happen. Whenever I come face to face with an OFW who tells me, ‘Thank you, because I can once again dream of growing old in the Philippines,’ I respond: You made this happen,” he said.
“Whenever I come face to face with a Filipino who says, ‘Thank you, I thought that we would never have electricity in our sitio. I never imagined living to see the light,’ I respond: You made this happen. Whenever I come face to face with any farmer, teacher, pilot, engineer, driver, call center agent, or any normal Filipino; to every Juan and Juana dela Cruz who says, ‘Thank you for this change,’ I respond: You made this happen,” Aquino said.
The President gave these statements toward the end of his speech apparently to highlight the need for people’s continued support for the administration to sustain the momentum.
“I remember well those early days when we first started working. I was keenly aware of the heavy burden we would face. And I was among those who wondered: Is it possible to fix a system this broken?” he asked.
“This is what I have learned in the 25 months I have served as your president: Nothing is impossible. Nothing is impossible, because if the Filipino people see that they are the only bosses of their government, they will carry you, they will guide you, they themselves will lead you towards meaningful change,” he said.
“It isn’t impossible for the Philippines to become the first country in Southeast Asia to provide free vaccines for the rotavirus. It isn’t impossible for the Philippines to stand strong and say, ‘The Philippines is for Filipinos—and we are ready to defend it.’ It is not impossible for the Filipino who for so long had kept his head bowed upon meeting a foreigner—it is not impossible for the Filipino, today, to stand with his head held high and bask in the admiration of the world. In these times—is it not great to be a Filipino?” the President said.
Forgive and forget not
While the President enumerated the changes that occurred in his two years in office – from the prospect of rice self-sufficiency to zero backlog in classrooms and books to better health care – he acknowledged there was much to be done and warned those who are still involved in wrongdoings, even local officials, that their happy days are over.
He stressed the filing of plunder charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds as well as the removal of former chief justice Renato Corona from office were signs that no one would be above the law.
“With every step on the straight and righteous path, we plant the seeds of change. But there are still some who are committed to uprooting our work. Even as I speak, there are those who have gathered in a room, whispering to each other, dissecting each word I utter, looking for any pretext to attack me with tomorrow. These are also the ones who say, ‘Let go of the past. Unite. Forgive and forget so we can move forward as a people,” he said.
“I find this unacceptable. Shall we simply forgive and forget the 10 years that were taken from us? Do we simply forgive and forget the farmers who piled up massive debts because of a government that insisted on importing rice, while we could have reinvested in them and their farmlands instead? Shall we forgive and forget the family of the police officer who died while trying to defend himself against guns with nothing but a nightstick?”
“Shall we forgive and forget the orphans of the 57 victims of the massacre in Maguindanao? Will their loved ones be brought back to life by forgiving and forgetting? Do we forgive and forget everything that was ever done to us, to sink us into a rotten state? Do we forgive and forget to return to the former status quo? My response: Forgiveness is possible; forgetting is not. If offenders go unpunished, society’s future suffering is guaranteed,” the President said.
“True unity and reconciliation could only emanate from genuine justice” and that “justice is the plunder case leveled against our former president; justice that she receives her day in court and can defend herself against the accusations leveled against her.”
“Justice is what we witnessed on the 29th of May (Corona conviction). On that day, we proved that justice could prevail, even when confronted with an opponent in a position of power. On that day, a woman named Delsa Flores, in Panabo, Davao del Norte, said ‘It is actually possible: a single law governing both a simple court reporter like me, and the Chief Justice.’ It is possible for the scales to be set right, and for even the rich and powerful to be held accountable,” he said.
Aquino said this was the reason why the people would demand much of the next chief justice.
“We have proven the impossible possible; now, our task is reform towards true justice that continues even after our administration. There are still many flaws in the system, and repairing these will not be easy. I am aware of the weight of your mandate. But this is what our people tasked us to do; this is the duty we have sworn to do; and this what we must do,” he said.
“Our objectives are simple: If you are innocent, you will appear in court with confidence, because you will be found not guilty. But if you are guilty, you will be made to pay for your sins, no matter who you are,” the President said.
Aquino also lashed out at illegal loggers whose activities had brought in so much environmental problems as well as loss of lives and properties due to flooding caused by forest denudation.
“From the time we signed Executive Order No. 23, (Butuan City) Mayor Jun Amante has confiscated lumber amounting to more than P6 million. He has our gratitude. This is just in Butuan; what more if all our LGUs (local government units) demonstrated the same kind of political will?” Aquino asked.
He said the timber confiscated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were handed over to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, which then gave the timber to communities where residents were being trained in carpentry.
“From this, DepEd (Department of Education) gets chairs for our public schools. Consider this: What was once the product of destruction has been crafted into an instrument for the realization of a better future. This was impossible then—impossible so long as the government turned a blind eye to illegal activities,” he said.
“To those of you without a conscience; those of you who repeatedly gamble the lives of your fellow Filipinos—your days are numbered. We’ve already sanctioned 34 DENR officials, one PNP (Philippine National Police) provincial director, and seven chiefs of police,” he said.
“We are asking a regional director of the PNP to explain why he seemed deaf to our directives and blind to the colossal logs that were being transported before his very eyes. If you do not shape up, you will be next. Even if you tremble beneath the skirts of your patrons, we will find you. I suggest that you start doing your jobs, before it’s too late,” Aquino said. (From Philstar.com)