Binay mum on SONA; Roxas thanks Noy

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday drew mixed reviews from allies and critics.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was mum on the SONA, in which Aquino made snide references to him.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the presumptive standard-bearer of the ruling Liberal Party for the 2016 elections, said the President has successfully initiated and implemented the daang matuwid or straight path.

He said the country could quickly attain progress by keeping to the straight path policy of Aquino.

Roxas was one of the members of the Cabinet praised by the President in his SONA.

“I thank the President, that is a professional validation of what I have done, it will serve as an inspiration to me,” he added.

Sen. Grace Poe found the SONA lacking after the President failed to mention the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the hardships of commuters of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

Poe said she was waiting for Aquino to discuss the FOI bill but she was dismayed that he did not even mention it.

Poe also sees the need to address the woes of commuters using the MRT-3 and Light Rail Transit, and address self-sufficiency on rice production.

Sen. Bam Aquino, however, debunked claims that his cousin did not make substantial impact on the campaign against corruption.

He said the President’s anti-corruption drive was “successful,” adding this helped boost investor confidence.

“This renewed confidence has resulted in the unprecedented growth of the country’s economy, which is now the second strongest in Asia next to China,” Sen. Aquino said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that he found Aquino’s last SONA very sentimental.

“I myself am quite satisfied with it, and he cited very specific points. He could have talked about more problems, but we all know them. I think the President did what he should,” Belmonte told reporters.

He said Aquino’s repeated reference to his predecessor was understandable as he was only making a comparison.

“How can he say that things have improved unless you say how it was before? He only did it to prove his point, nothing personal,” he said.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said it was unfortunate that Aquino’s term was ending, and his SONA was not enough to enumerate all the accomplishments.

The Vice President’s daughter Makati Rep. Abigail Binay said she did not feel that Aquino was hitting her family nor was the issue important.

“What’s important is whether our ‘bosses’ actually feel the progress that they are claiming,” she told reporters.

Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, president of the United Nationalist Alliance, said it was unfortunate that Aquino could not stop blaming the previous administration.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc, said Aquino has not given the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas the needed attention.

“We need more assistance in the Visayas region,” Romualdez said.

Belmonte was irked when militant party-list representatives displayed anti-administration placards inside the session hall after the SONA.

Reps. Emmerenciana de Jesus and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela party-list, Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna raised placards saying “Tormentor of the poor!” “Pork Barrel King!” and “Oppressive land lord!” while in plenary.

“I was very embarrassed. Because they are all my people (House members). I was so pissed off by it,” Belmonte told reporters.

“The President saw that nobody was supporting it, everybody, in fact, was embarrassed by it,” he said.

Belmonte said the booing heard in the plenary was actually coming from Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was countering the militant lawmakers.

He said it would be up to his colleagues if they want to file a complaint before the House ethics committee.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gave the Aquino’s administration a barely passing grade.

“Six out of 10. It’s a passing grade,” he said after attending the opening of the third regular session of the 16th Congress at the Senate.

According to Marcos, the President failed to fully improve basic services, including traffic management, transportation, power and infrastructure development.

“He really tried to fix corruption but there are many setbacks in public services, infrastructure, traffic, power, income distribution in the country,” Marcos said.

Asked if the President can now be considered a lame duck, Marcos said Aquino and other politicians would all be lame ducks in a way because most politicians would focus on the election campaign next year.

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada gave President Aquino a grade of 5.9 out of 10 for his more than five years in office.

In an interview with TV5’s “Aksyon TV,” Estrada said Aquino failed in peace and order, resolving the traffic problem in Metro Manila and the fair implementation of justice.

“Let’s give him an almost passing grade. About 5.9 out of 10. Peace and order is deteriorating, especially in Mindanao,” Estrada said.

He said the Aquino administration also failed to address the traffic in Metro Manila that has been aggravated by infrastructure projects.

Estrada said that Aquino failed to implement fair justice, citing his nephew governor ER Ejericto of Laguna, who was removed from office for campaign overspending.

“A classic example of selective justice. There are thousands of politicians in the country who also overspent,” Estrada said.

Estrada said that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was one of the failures of Aquino.

“All presidents have exerted peaceful remedies, but to no avail. What kind of government do we have if we cannot enforce our own laws in our own land?” Estrada added.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara gave the President a grade of seven to eight, stressing the need to improve or follow-up on trade investments.

Angara lamented that economic growth did not trickle down to the masses.

Sen. Cynthia Villar gave President Aquino a rating of eight out of 10, owing to the significant economic growth under his administration.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture, lamented the rampant smuggling of agriculture products such as garlic and onion.

Militant groups

Bearing banners and placards denouncing the Aquino government, militant groups from different sectors converged by the footbridge near Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Ave. where they held a program after police set up barricades to prevent demonstrators from reaching the Batasan.

Militant farmers lamented that nine out of 10 farmers are landless.

“This is Aquino’s legacy, this is the real state of the nation under a haciendero regime,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairman Rafael Mariano, citing figures from the Land Bank of the Philippines that only 9.7 percent of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beneficiaries have fully paid their amortizations.

He said the Land Bank’s data are supported by the increasing cases of land reform reversals, cancellation of certificates of land ownership, and land-use conversion.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes said Aquino and his allies should be held accountable for their many misdeeds.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said President Aquino would be remembered for the long queues of passengers waiting to ride the MRT.

“He will always be remembered for his failure to provide decent jobs and wages that drives away Mary Jane Velosos to foreign lands and for workers to make do with meager salaries and unsafe and inhuman working conditions; and the peasants who are still struggling for a piece of land to till,” she said.

The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said yesterday that Aquino has failed to improve the health conditions of Filipinos.

Leody de Guzman, president of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), said Aquino and his spin doctors tried to conjure in his last SONA “an illusion of his so-called legacy to the Filipino people.”

Aaron Pedrosa, Sanlakas secretary general, said the widening gap between the rich and poor has worsened in the five years of the Aquino regime due to its stubborn subservience to the neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization, and contractualization of labor.

Various groups led by Tongtongan Ti Umili(TTU) are griping on alleged lies on progress both in Baguio and the whole country.

Holding their own “SONA ng Bayan” yesterday morning at the Rizal Park in Baguio, the protesters assailed the government for the current oppression of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region.
Karapatan Caraga secretary general Eliza Pangilinan said at least 3,000 protesters marched to the Guingona Park in Butuan City to protest Aquino’s SONA and the self-proclaimed achievements of the administration. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero, Robertzon Ramirez, Sheila Crisostomo, Non Alquitran, Michael Punongbayan, Janvic Mateo, Perseus Echminada, Ben Serrano, Artemio Dumlao, Roel Pareño, Raymund Catindig, Eva Visperas, Danny Dangcalan

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