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On June 30, President Noynoy Aquino will have completed his first year in office. Following Rizal’s enduring words—“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kanyang paroroonan”—we take a moment to look back.

Noynoy being suddenly thrust into the presidency by a landslide showed how strong our democracy is now. Of course, elections have been our national pastime. But, it was the opportunity to judge former President GMA’s stolen tenure. Indeed, it hammered the point that our Nation has gone past “people power”, that is, regime change must be by the ballot.

Notably, elections are a great stabilizing factor for the national economy. And with Aquino in office, private investments began coming in again. World Bank Philippines Country Director Bert Hofman observed, thus: “Strong private investment in the fourth quarter of 2010 and bullish business confidence are encouraging signs that the economy can attract investments needed to boost potential growth and generate more jobs.” (WB Press Release, Feb. 23, 2011)

However, the World Bank observed that “[f]or all the macroeconomic resiliency and strength that the economy manifested in recent years, growth continues to bypass many of the poor.” (Id.)

Indeed, massive grinding poverty remains our country’s biggest challenge.

President Aquino campaigned on the platform that “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Unfortunately, his flagship vehicle for this drive—the Truth Commission—was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Either his legal advisers did not do their homework or we are simply stuck with an “Arroyo Court” as his administration claimed until new appointees come in.

Stung, Aquino trained his guns on another front instead: population control through the RH Bill. But this has only led to unnecessary waste of time and effort on a matter that should really be left to the private sphere.

Corruption is a cultural or value thing. And certainly, it can’t be solved by simply running after wrongdoers in the previous administration. Let the wheels of justice do that job no matter how slowly they grind. What’s more important is how Aquino’s government conducts itself on the ground. Values are caught, not taught. To his credit, there seems to be no corruption issue so far against him or his administration.

Unfortunately, what has come out is the question of competence, that is, his leadership and the capability of the people he has surrounded himself with. Add to that the arrogance of some. For one, we sadly recall the tragedy of the bus hostage-taking in Luneta where a number of Hong Kong tourists were killed and injured by a former policeman at that.

Let’s not forget that incompetence is corruption, too. It is stealing from the people since it wastes taxpayers’ money for officials’ salaries and government resources that could otherwise have been spent for poverty eradication.

Thus, the real challenge for Aquino’s second year is competence. And this begins in defining a workable plan against poverty that he can deliver.