FOURTH S.O.N.A. President Benigno S. Aquino III huddles with legislators upon arrival at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City last July 22 for his 4th State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA). The SONA delivered by the President is a yearly tradition in which the Chief Executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year and  proposes to Congress certain legislative measures. (Malacanang Photo Bureau)
FOURTH S.O.N.A. President Benigno S. Aquino III huddles with legislators upon arrival at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City last July 22 for his 4th State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA). The SONA delivered by the President is a yearly tradition in which the Chief Executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures. (Malacanang Photo Bureau)

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, delivering his fourth state-of-the-nation address (SoNA) last July 23, said that there are still corrupt officials and employees in the government and vowed that his administration will continue to go after these unscrupulous personnel.[box type=”default” size=”large”] President cites new graft cases in his fourth SoNA [/box]

He made this statement even as he reported that meaningful reforms have already taken roots in some government agencies.

President Aquino said, “Now, Filipinos know: Rich or poor, with or without political connections, when you do wrong, you will pay the consequences. Now, justice is truly blind. We will not undermine the orders of our Bosses (the people) to hold the corrupt accountable, and to right the wrongs of a system that has long beggared our country.”

The President said that as part of the anti-graft campaign, “we are holding the former leadership of TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) accountable for his part in the outrageous overpricing of purchases by the agency. For example: One incubator jar is priced at 149 pesos. But Mr. (Augusto) Syjuco priced the same jar at 15,375 pesos. The normal price of a dough cutter is120 pesos. The price, according to Mr. Syjuco: 48,507 pesos. Let’s be clear: This is a dough cutter, not a Hamilton Class Cutter. Perhaps when he finally has his day in court to face the cases filed by the Ombudsman, Mr. Syjuco will finally learn to count.”

Aquino said that the government has also filed charges against the former PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) officials who allegedly embezzled 26.7 million pesos to produce a movie, spent funds amounting to 186 million pesos to finance a party-list, and “had the gall to use the rice donations allotted to calamity victims for campaign sorties.”

The President said that former top officers of the PNP (Philippine National Police) are “also being made to answer allegations regarding the 131.6 million pesos wasted on 75 defective rubber boats, and the 104.99 million pesos spent on the anomalous purchase of secondhand helicopters from 2009 to 2010.”

“When we denounced the ‘wangwang’ culture, we did not just dismantle the sirens of those who lord it over the streets, but we also uprooted the culture of corruption that seemed firmly entrenched in our public institutions,” he said.

He noted that “even today, there are still those in government who seemingly refuse to change. It is disheartening to discover the depth and breadth to which they have branched out in the bureaucracy; the moment we look away, someone is sure to be taken advantage of and victimized. The time has come to name names: We have repeatedly admonished the Bureau of Immigration to improve their watch over our ports and airports.”

He asked, “How then was it possible for the brothers Joel and Mario Reyes (of Palawan), the principal suspects in the slaying of (environmentalist) Gerry Ortega, to leave the country? How could the escape of the Korean Park Sungjun — as blatantly seen in CCTV footage — have taken place? He is wanted in (South) Korea, and the Korean government asked for our assistance in securing his arrest. How can we face them now, when our own government employees are the ones who enabled his escape?”

The President also indicated his impatience at the “make-do” culture at NIA (National Irrigation Administration). He noted that “instead of laying out plans for new irrigation systems, they (NIA officials) are merely content with the continued rehabilitation of existing irrigation. For them, shoddy repairs are enough to say they have already done a good job.

“During the NIA anniversary, I asked them why only 60 percent of their target was accomplished in 2012, when they had reached 80 percent in 2011. The next day, I met with their head during the NEDA board meeting. His excuse: 40 percent of the target areas were located in Mindanao and were devastated by Typhoon Pablo, thus the delay. When were we hit by Typhoon Pablo? In the first week of December. Which means that he meant to complete the remaining 40 percent of his task in a span of just three weeks. This is the kind of leadership we no longer need in the bureaucracy.”

He likewise took potshots at the Bureau of Customs, “whose personnel are trying to outdo each other’s incompetence,” noting that “instead of collecting the proper taxes and preventing contraband from entering the country, they are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods, and even drugs, arms, and other items into our territory.

“The Department of Finance estimates that more than 200 billion pesos in revenue slip through our borders. Where do these people get the gall? One can almost hear these public officials say, ‘I don’t care if the weapons go to criminals; I don’t care how many lives are ruined by drugs; I don’t care if our fields remain barren forever; what matters is that I am rich; it’s every man for himself.’ These practices have no place in government. If you cannot do your job, you do not deserve to remain in office.”

Addressing the good, conscientious employees of the Bureau of Immigration, NIA, and Bureau of Customs, or any other government agency, he said, “I hope that you do even more. It is not enough to lie low and hide inside your cubicle; to prevent wrongdoing is part of your duty. You are in the right, so there is no need to hide; please make it easy for me to find people like you; I will raise you up as praiseworthy examples, that we may fully transform the flawed culture of your agencies.”

He warned “those employees who refuse to turn their back on the culture of ‘wangwang’: My patience has run out. You were given three years to demonstrate your readiness to change; now, I shall pursue all of you and hold you accountable. No hard feelings.”

The President recalled that from very start, “we have fought against corruption on all levels of government and pushed for the transformation of our institutions. The result: Public service that truly benefits our countrymen.”

He cited as examples the transformation taking place in the GOCCs (government-owned and –controlled corporations).

He said that GOCCs whose losses were previously subsidized by the national government are now turning over dividends. “Let us take the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) as an example. In the 13 years prior to our term, from 1996 to 2009, the dividends of the PRA amounted to 676.82 million pesos. Along the straight path: in 2012 alone, the dividends —1 billion pesos. Is this not a complete transformation?”

Aquino also cited the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) as another good example. In 2011, LWUA recorded a net loss of 950 million pesos. But because of prudent management, he noted, LWUA officials “did more than just balance the books, and based on their report, their gross income amounted to 870 million pesos in 2012. Because of this, they were able to remit 365 million pesos to government on that same year.”

The President recalled that “In my first SoNA, we exposed the questionable practices of the MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System), whose officials were giving themselves excessive bonuses and allowances, even as their company failed to address the needs of our citizens. This agency itself reported: The MWSS registered losses amounting to 34 million pesos in 2010.  In 2011, the MWSS earned 333 million pesos, a turnaround from the 34-million-peso loss in 2010. In 2012, MWSS earnings totaled almost 2 billion pesos.” He said, “it is saddening though, that the depth of the reforms planted by the MWSS leadership is tarnished by the mudslinging of those who want to cling to the old system.”

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