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How is President Aquino faring so far?

/ 08:28 PM July 05, 2011

LAST MONDAY’S topic at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel was the favorite of the month, President Aquino’s first year in office. The verdict so far has been mixed, with members of the opposition giving him, expectedly, a failing grade and his allies giving him high marks. Monday’s Kapihan guests were Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay and Ronald Holmes, president of Pulse Asia which conducted a survey and found P-Noy’s approval rating declining but not by much.

Why are the approval and popularity ratings  of P-Noy, who was elected with the biggest majority in the history of the Philippines, declining?

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First off, let me say that the ratings of all presidents, without exception, decline after the first year in office. Why? Because the people get disappointed.

The president begins his term very popular. Naturally—he has just been elected and that was why he was elected. But during the campaign, he made so many promises that the people expect and want him to fulfill. Most presidents are not able to live up to their promises. And the people, impatient for reforms, find the changes too slow and are therefore disappointed. They begin to find fault in the president. His popularity suffers.

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President Aquino is no exception to this phenomenon.  And P-Noy was a victim of a big tragedy early in his term, the Rizal Park hostage-taking where a number of Hong Kong tourists were taken hostage and killed by a disgruntled policeman. Admittedly, this was the lowest point, so far, in the administration of P-Noy.

The investigation and punishments given for the fiasco have not been satisfactory and the administration still continues to suffer from its reverberations.

Also P-Noy was elected on the promise that he would rid the country of corruption, in which the previous administration had excelled. One year into his term, however, he has not made much headway against corrupt government officials. Very few corruption charges have been filed. Only now, with the Sweeptakes anomalies having been bared, are charges being prepared.

All that P-Noy did in the past year, said Magsaysay, was to criticize and blame former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  “What about the corrupt in his own administration?” she asked. “Look in the mirror.”

But it seems his own KKK (kaibigan, kaklase, and kabarilan) can do no wrong, she added. If the official has no qualm of conscience and does not resign, P-Noy won’t even rap his knuckles.

Then there are the infrastructure projects that the Philippine government has entered into with international governments and corporations, Magsaysay said. P-Noy’s administration is canceling most of these contracts, on fears that they may be tainted or overpriced. What will that make us in the international community? she asked.

Review the contracts and cancel those tainted and overpriced, she said, but don’t cancel all of them simply because they were made during the GMA administration.

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P-Noy’s administration has not approved any major infrastructure project so far, Magsaysay said. It boasts of so much savings. The reason is that it is not spending anything for infrastructure. The government has to spend for the countryside to perk up the economy.

The government is spending billions of pesos but for what, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT). What is that? A dole. Cash is given to poor families without them having to do anything in return.

So many things need to be done in the countryside: drainage canals and waterways have to be declogged to prevent floods, waterways to be cleaned of garbage, poor communities to be cleaned, irrigation canals to be rehabilitated, trees to be planted on bald mountainsides, roads to be built and repaired, but these cannot be done because of lack of funds, Magsaysay said. But here we are spending billions of pesos for doles that are non-productive. Imagine if all those billions are spent for productive pursuits.

And who are those getting the doles? Magsaysay asked. Those on the lists given by the mayors and barangay captains. These are the people who would deliver the votes for the administration in the next elections. Is the CCT a massive campaign fund so early?

Imagine what those billions could do if used to produce jobs for the millions of jobless Filipinos, Magsaysay said.

Speaking of jobs, would you believe that according to the Pulse Asia survey the number of jobs in the Philippines has increased? I find that hard to believe, I said. Have you seen all those hordes looking for jobs in job fairs and all those graduates entering the job market but can’t find any jobs?

Pulse Asia’s Ronald Holmes explained that those who cannot find jobs are those who are selective. The increase in jobs is for those who are not selective, those who accept what is available, the laborers, he explained. There are no jobs for nurses, engineers, etc., but there are jobs for those willing to do menial jobs.

Here is another piece of interesting information: According to the Pulse Asia survey, fewer people went hungry, but only slightly. Are  things really improving? Or is it a mirage? How accurate is the survey?

The next time somebody approaches you for a dole saying he has not eaten, tell him he is lying, according to the surveys. Fewer people are hungry now.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, featured columns, Government, kapihan sa manila, opinion, Opinion surveys, popularity ratings, pulse asia
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