2011

Mr. Sta. Ana coordinates Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the January 2, 2012 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

 

Consider the following events:

More than a thousand people have died from the wrath of Sendong, a tragedy that could have been avoided.

The economy has been sluggish, even performing below the forecasts of both government and the private sector

Although the number of employed as a percentage of the labor force increased, what accounted for it was unpaid family labor, not something to crow about. In the same breath, self-poverty and people experiencing hunger increased, said the September 2011 survey of the Social Weather Stations.

Reforms that require legislation are stalled. The main stumbling block to the early passage of access to information, despite overwhelming support for it even within the administration, seems to be PNoy himself. The bill on the rationalization of fiscal incentives, despite being certified a priority in 2010, still has to be approved by the Senate. Worse, the version passed by the House undermines the very purpose of limiting and giving purpose to incentives.

And it is disheartening that decent and competent men in the Cabinet, namely Ping de Jesus and Bertie Lim, resigned.

May I add that the national psyche was upset by Manny Pacquiao’s controversial victory over Juan Morales and the heartbreaking experience of the Angela Jolie of the Philippines, KC Concepcion.

I want to cry. And I do not want to listen to the longer series of complaints from senior columnists like Amado Doronila, TeddyboyLocsin, and Father Joaquin Bernas. We have heard them before.

So was 2011 a sad and disappointing year for the Philippines?

It’s here where I do a kambyo, where I shift gears.Despite the tragedies and frustrations, 2011 was a good year, paving the way for a better 2012.

The common Pinoys are optimistic that their quality of life will improve in 2012, and they are satisfied with the President’s performance. Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia say so. And I agree.

Hope and optimism pervade the country because the PNoy administration, despite its trials and errors, are doing things that the people expect it to do.

For me, the defining moments of 2011 revolved around accountability:  the arrest of the fake president Gloria Arroyo and the burjer king Benjamin Abalos, the manhunt for a fugitive butcher named Jovito Palparan, the removal of Gloria’s servant Merceditas Gutierrez as Ombudsman, and the impeachment of the blind justice Renato Corona.

Even the removal of smaller fry like Congressman Hermilando Mandanas as Chair of the Lower House’s Ways and Means Committee, was about accountability.  We must dispel the allegation that he was removed from the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee because he did not sign the impeachment complaint against Justice Corona. He defied the leadership of the House and of his political party by not supporting the legislative tax reforms that we was supposed to sponsor, and worse, by pursuing measures that undermined the reform objectives.

Or is this all about political vendetta?  The PNoy administration has shown that its crusade against bad governance is not selective.  One example stands out:  Let us be reminded that the Secretary of Finance and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue removed the tax exemption, an irregularity ab initio, for the controversial PEACe bonds, a scheme associated with some of the administration’s closest supporters.

Or has PNoy become Hitlerian and corrupted democracy and the rule of law?  Let us be reminded that the Philippine presidency since the time of Manuel Quezon has always had vast powers.  Some lawyer-scholars like our colleague Nepomuceno Malaluan contend that the Philippine President is more powerful than the US president.

Gloria Arroyo did not only use such powers to pursue personal greed and ambition but also expanded her powers through extra-constitutional means, blessed by a pliant Corona Court.

In PNoy’s case, he is using the powers that the Constitution granted to the Executive to serve the public good. As Hunter Thompson said, “This is our country, too, and we can goddam well control it if we learn to use the tools.”

But it is the Corona Court that is circumscribing the President’s legal instruments.

Why give premium to accountability?  Because the issues relating to bad government, corruption, and impunity—which found concentrated expression during the Marcos and Arroyo regimes—have historically obstructed Philippine progress and development.

So, as we welcome a new year, we say: Out with the old, ugly, and despicable. In with the new—honest and accountable institutions.

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