On 100 days and beyond

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

Back in the 1960s we wrote about the then epidemic of appointed and elected government officials abusing their access to sirens. They forgot that they work for the people, not the other way around. It is a memory lapse that lasted to this day. Now it seems that even businessmen and private individuals (celebrities and the like) had access to sirens. The law is very specific about who can use sirens; emergency vehicles, the President, Vice-President are chief among them. Apply the law that is on the books, without exception. The President, though, must be cognizant of his schedule and office. Judicious use of sirens is acceptable. The problem is not the use, but the abuse.

Changing the prevailing atmosphere of a country is done through measures and reforms, big and small. Nation building does not demand only big moments. In the EDSA(s) we took to big moments in an attempt to change the atmosphere, the system. Yet in both instances, not much changed. The figures at the top changed true, but the underlying system remained rotten. This is the difficulty and the challenge that has faced every administration since the Filipino people removed the Conjugal Dictatorship. Nation building, not through catchy slogans and jingles, but through meaningful reforms. By meaningful, we refer to measures passed and implemented that will provide access to education for the impoverished; provide training, new technologies, capital and infrastructure to farmers; reform the judiciary and stamp out impunity to name just a few.

This transition to a new administration is only the fourth in the post-Martial Law era, and really only the third peaceful one. In a sense, we wonder if we have actually forgotten how to properly transition between administrations.

The blessing and the curse of a new administration is the sense of optimism and hope that accompanies it. For President Benigno Aquino III, this becomes his duty over the first 100 days of his administration. He must not only manage expectations, but lay down his agenda for the next six years. Part of the problem in evaluating the performance of an administration is there is no real benchmark to do so. We hope that part of the new administration’s drive for transparency is a fully disclosed short and medium term plan with built in benchmarks and goals. In the past our Presidents have had difficulty making the transition from campaign to administration. In their speeches and pronouncements they prefer to stay with general pronouncements of goals and objectives. The problem with generalities is inevitably they are meaningless.

The first 100 days are important in the sense that it sets the tone and (hopefully) creates momentum for the next six years. No administration though begins perfectly, even in countries that are experienced with peaceful transfers of power there is always an adjustment period as the new administration settles in. What is important is we see how quickly the Aquino administration gets their bearings and begins implementing promised reforms.

 Since the beginning of the election season we have touted the Millennium Development Goals as solid benchmarks with which to evaluate the performance of an administration. The Aquino administration, in a sense, is the MDG administration. 2015 is the year that the world agreed to meet the objectives contained within the Millennium Development Goals. They also provide substance around which policies and plans can be formed.

Reform begins with the government. The only way to lead is by example. It has to be, “Do as I do and not as I say”. Words are meaningless unless followed by proper action. It is action that gives meaning to words. For President Aquino and the Filipino people have embarked on what we all hope will be an improvement in the fortunes of all Filipinos. It is must not only the transition to a new administration, but hopefully the transition from word to deed.

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