BENIGNO Simeon ‘Noynoy’ C. Aquino III became the Philippines’ 15th president on June 30, 2010 or exactly 70 days ago, triggering a contagion of hopefulness among Filipinos. He wooed and won votes with a slogan that was simple, yet catchy: ”Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Without corruption, there’d be no poverty.
The second Aquino presidency has spread a virus of hope that finds sole parallel in the tide of goodwill that Filipinos bestowed on his late mother and democracy icon Corazon ‘Cory’ C. Aquino after the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt.
Indeed, Aquino’s campaign equation of “no corruption = no poverty” has animated Filipinos so much that the expectations are great that he will deliver results soon.
IN HIS message that accompanies the proposed government budget for next year, President Benigno C. Aquino III notes that the allocation for health is 13.6 percent higher than 2010’s P29.3 billion (According to the 2010 General Appropriations Act though, only P28.7 billion was allocated to the Health Department).
Yet if one were to compare health’s share of the budget for this year and what the corresponding figure could be in the next, the difference isn’t much.
For 2010, the health allocation is 1.8 percent of the P1.54-trillion national purse. For 2011, the Aquino administration is proposing P32.62 billion for health –as indicated in the proposed National Expenditure Program — which is 1.9 percent of the P1.64-trillion national budget. The increase in terms of share in the total budget then would amount to just a tenth of a percentage point.
IT WILL be his first official trip overseas as the country’s chief executive, but President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has little reason to look forward to his upcoming visit to the United States.
On September 20, Aquino will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to present just how far the Philippines has achieved progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, in large measure because of the shortcomings of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino is bound to acknowledge before other world leaders that the country is falling short of several of these targets.
In September 2000, the Philippines and 188 other countries signed the Millennium Declaration, and committed themselves to achieving a set of eight goals by 2015. These goals – the MDGs – have since been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress for both rich and poor countries.
IT WAS 1992; Fidel V. Ramos had just been voted as president, and Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada as vice president. Presidential bet Miriam Defensor Santiago was crying foul, saying she had been cheated. She would later file an electoral protest, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was apparently more interested in something else: conducting its first ever audit of the campaign contributions and expenses of candidates for president, vice president, and senators for the then recently concluded polls.
The Comelec, then headed by Christian Monsod, seemed serious, and even formed a committee to examine the books of account of candidates, political parties, donors, and media entities. Lawyer Josefina de la Cruz, who became part of that committee, also recalls that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Commission on Audit (COA), and the National Bureau of Investigation served as Comelec’s “counterparts” in the initiative.
THEY are avowed representatives of the poor and the marginalized, but in the May 10, 2010 elections, 12 party-list groups allied with two candidates for president, one for vice president, and one for senator splurged a staggering P426.16 million on television ads that aired in the last two weeks of the campaign period.
Where they got the millions to burn for these candidates, despite their claimed poverty, is the ambiguity. But why they burned millions on political ads that featured the four candidates, not their party-list groups, is the absurdity.
PCIJ tried to reach the political parties and candidates involved, with varying levels of success. Attempts to pin down Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, for example, were rebuffed. According to his staff, they are simply too busy and referred PCIJ to the Liberal Party.
BY ALL ACCOUNTS, the May 10, 2010 polls was the costliest ever in Philippine electoral history.
The top candidates for president and vice president alone spent P4.3 billion on political ads during the official 90-day campaign period, and another billion 90 days before the campaign commenced, according to Nielsen Media’s monitoring of tens of thousands of political ad clips.
But for various reasons, the May 10, 2010 elections could also go down in the country’s annals as a grand spectacle of lies, half-truths, and concealed truths foisted on the Filipino voters.
AS A veteran fund-raiser for presidential candidates tells it, there are fewer awkward moments in the campaign than a meeting between the candidate and a potential donor, especially if they are seeing each other for the first time.
Recalling one such meeting ahead of the recent May 10 polls, the fund-raiser says that what actually lasted a fleeting 15 minutes seemed to take forever. “They talked about everything else except the money,” the moneyman tells the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on condition of anonymity. “At the end, when there was nothing else to talk about, the donor just said ‘By the way, here’s something for the campaign.’”
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