VICE President Jejomar Binay tore into the Aquino administration in his “True State-of-the-Nation Address” Monday, deriding it as a callous and bungling government that has failed over the last five years to improve the lot of most Filipinos, who are still poor, hungry and unemployed.
Speaking at the Cavite State University in Indang, Cavite, one week after President Benigno Aquino III’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA), Binay also criticized the President for thanking so many people who helped him, including his hair stylist and fashion designer, but failing to mention the 44 police commandos who were killed in Mamasapano in January.
Speaking in front of a mural depicting the 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) commandos, Binay paid tribute to the fallen policemen, calling out their names one by one.
“They are the ones who fulfilled their sworn duties, who offered their own lives. They are true Filipinos,” Binay said, speaking in Filipino throughout his speech.
In his speech, Binay recounted four examples of the administration’s incompetence and insensitivity: the Luneta hostage crisis, the Zamboanga siege, the Yolanda disaster and the Mamasapano massacre, none of which were mentioned in Aquino’s SONA.
During the Luneta hostage crisis of 2010, the Aquino administration allowed eight Hong Kong tourists to be taken hostage and be killed.
“They termed it as collateral damage, unintentional,” Binay said.
“In Tacloban, in the midst of the damage brought by super typhoon Yolanda, while bodies lay scattered, people roamed hungry, thirsty, crying, and pleading for relief, did the administration not say, ‘Oh, but you are still alive, aren’t you?’” Binay said.
Binay said that while a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan worth P170 billion was drafted, the money and donations given by other countries appear to have also been swept away by the typhoon.
“The United Nations itself just recently presented its conclusion: the government was lacking. It did not do enough to alleviate the problems of the people affected by Yolanda,” he said.
Five years of economic growth under the administration’s “straight path” policy have failed to benefit millions of workers, farmers and the urban poor, Binay said.
Instead, the rewards of this growth—measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and other economic indicators--remained exclusive to those who were already rich and those close to the President like his friends, classmates and members of his Liberal Party.
“It is so easy to throw numbers around. Numbers that, at first glance, seem brilliant and desirable,” Binay said. “But the glaring truth cannot be suppressed: the majority of Filipinos are still poor, hungry and unemployed.”
Binay said while the country’s economic indicators have gone up, the numbers “conceal the painful truth” that growth has benefitted only a handful.
“Among them are the rich who have become even richer in the past five years, including our President’s friends, classmates and colleagues in the Liberal Party,” he said.
Binay also noted that while the country’s foreign direct investments (FDIs) exceeded P6 billion in 2014, Aquino did not say this was the lowest FDI among the other original member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Even if the 2014 foreign direct investments were indeed record-breaking, they did not result in employment for the majority,” Binay said, noting that 21 percent of the FDIs went to financial and insurance activities that did not generate many jobs.
In contrast, labor-intensive sectors such as manufacturing and mining only got 6 percent of the FDIs, he added.
Moreover, Binay said that while the country’s upgraded credit ratings helped attract the interest of foreign investors, they did not translate into actual investments. They remained just that: an interest to invest and nothing else, he said.
“Why? Because the administration’s refusal to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution that prohibit the entry of FDIs,” he said.
If the economic provisions of the Constitution were amended, he added, the primary sectors of the economy would be open to foreign investors, resulting in increased jobs and employment opportunities for Filipinos, he said.
Binay also mocked the President for claiming during his SONA that the number of poor Filipinos has gone down, saying this was made possible after the administration used a low poverty threshold of P58 a day per person.
In contrast, he said, the Social Weather Stations survey showed that five in every 10 Filipinos believed themselves to be poor.
He also dismissed Aquino’s claim in his SONA that third year college students were being recruited for jobs, noting that thousands of graduates are still looking for employment.
“If this were only true for the majority, we would not be the country with the most number of poor and unemployed in the ASEAN region,” he said.
He also belied the President’s claim that there were fewer overseas Filipino workers now because of job opportunities in the country.
According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration itself, there has been an increase in the number of Filipinos wanting to leave the Philippines to find work in other countries, Binay said.
From 2,500 average daily deployments before Aquino became president, the number rose to 6,092 during the first quarter of this year, Binay said.
While it is true that many Filipino workers were returning, the real reason that the administration refuses to admit is war and the financial crisis.
Binay said three acronyms symbolized the administration’s incompetence – MRT, BBL and DAP.
Each day, thousands of commuters suffer while taking the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), Binay said. In 2010, 20 trains and 60 coaches were running. After five years, only seven trains and 21 coaches remained functional. New trains have not arrived even though P4.5 billion was allocated and released four years ago, Binay said.
“There was a budget of more than P5 billion for the Department of Transportation and Communication to overhaul the MRT-3 in 2014, but this has not been carried out until today. And, despite the poor service, they raised the MRT fares,” the vice president said.
Despite being in control of the MRT for five years, the administration continues to blame others for the bad service and poor maintenace, Binay said.
“Why has the government been incompetent and inefficient in their services? Because they switched maintenance providers. They replaced Sumitomo, who had extensive experience, with the fledgling PH Trams Company. And who is behind PH Trams? The allies and party-mates of the former and the current secretaries of the DOTC,” he said.
The Palace response to the poor service, he added, was to tell commuters: “If you do not want to ride the MRT, then take a bus.”
Binay also slammed the decision by the Ombudsman to file a case only against the former MRT general manager, and to spare the former and current secretaries of Transportation and Communication, who knew and approved of the anomalous maintenance contract.
“In this case, it is true that failure and theft by allies and party-mates go together in following the straight path,” Binay said.
Binay then blasted the administration’s view that those who opposed its Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were automatically against peace.
“The administration has no monopoly in wanting peace. All of us have prayed and longed for a peaceful and well-developed Mindanao,” he said.
However, there are certain conditions to ensure a successful and lasting peace agreement, the first of which is that the agreement must be in accordance to the Constitution, Binay said.
Second, different groups, sectors, and recognized representatives must be involved, and third, Malacañang must not pressure or bribe Congress to pass the law.
Binay also blasted the administration for its Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was used to shuffle billions in public funds without congressional approval. The program was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
“It’s clear that the DAP is the most glaring example of wanton waste of public funds in our history,” Binay said. “This is also an open violation of the Constitution. But as the administration’s favorite blogger said, I’ve got your back. So the mastermind of the administration’s budget scam is untouchable.”
Three administration officials lambasted Binay for criticizing programs that he was a part of until he left the Cabinet last month.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that Binay, when he was part of the Cabinet, had always applauded the projects of the administration. After he resigned from the Cabinet, however, he suddenly began attacking the same programs.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said he does not listen to Binay.
“I did not listen to Binay. I hope he was as specific, factual and evidence-based as [Aquino’s] SONA. I hope he was as uplifting as PNoy was. I hope he inspired hope in the future. If not, I am lucky then to have used my time with work,” Abad said.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya also defended the administration from the failures at the MRT.
“Two things are clear from the Vice President’s speech: first, he does not have any solutions at all to MRT-3’s problems; and second, he does not even understand the root of the problem, which is the onerous BLT (build-lease-transfer) contract,” Abaya said in a statement.
“This is proof that you cannot solve a problem that you do not understand.”
Palace allies also pooh-poohed Binay’s version of the SONA.
“That’s his opinion. Let us respect his views. At the end of the day, the Filipino people will be the ones who will judge on who they think is telling the truth,” House deputy majority leader and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Jorge Banal said.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice also deplored Binay, saying he had no moral ascendancy to talk about corruption in government.
“He is making a fool of Filipinos,” he added.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, who have spearheaded a long-drawn investigation against Binay in the Senate, said the vice president had no credibility to criticize the administration because he faces corruption charges himself.
“Wrong messenger,” Trillanes said. “Right message for some, wrong messenger for all.” – With Sandy Araneta, Maricel V. Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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