By Dionesio Grava
First posted in ireport.cnn.com
on July 28, 2013
Well-meaning sectors of the Filipino citizenry finally regained their voices and unleashed them accordingly in protest of what has been going on in their country. For a long while they had kept mum in a self-imposed goodwill gesture to allow the popularly elected president to live up to the legacy of his patriot parents. As with majority of their countrymen, they generously gave breathing space for then president-elect Noynoy Aquino to find his footing while in the process of sorting out the sordid mess that previous administrations had left our country and people.
It was unfortunate that clashes occurred against law enforcers during the protest rally and people got hurt in the process. The court should be lauded for releasing protesters arrested during that commotion. Advocates for change should not be penalized for their act of sacrificing own well-being in the pursuit of better conditions for the many.
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino had his honeymoon and should now be made to account for what he has done or has not done so far for the ailing nation. In a few aspects he may have done creditably well but the core issue of poverty and lack of employment opportunity remain. Statistics about GDP growth is good in paper but the chasm between the rich and the poor is wide as ever. It is reported that only 40 wealthy families are monopolizing the gains of economic development.
Our system of justice is agonizingly slow as exemplified by the absence of progress in the prosecution of those accused in the Maguindanao massacre. Graft and corruption in government is still horrible — and getting worse. People known to have betrayed positions of trust still occupy high-paying offices. Some generals have sullied the uniform by milking the country in illegal deals netting huge payout. Officials sworn and paid by the people to safeguard the welfare of our overseas workers are instead preying on those in distress and selling our womenfolk to foreigners in prostitution and human trafficking. Even diplomats had been in the news for molesting female OFWs. Then there are the ever greedy and shameless legislators whose gluttony for illegally acquired people’s money seems to know no bottom.
These are the issues that should have been highlighted in the president’s State of the Nation Address but were ominously absent. It does not do good to be painting rosy portraits even while the inside is rotting. Hurting. Where was the mention of the proposed Freedom of Information Act which our people overwhelmingly supports. Where was the concern about the denuding of forests that had contributed immensely to the occurrence of flash floods, damage to properties and loss of lives? The need for reforms in the mining industry is likewise a priority if only to preclude worsening damage to our natural resources and to the lives and livelihood of people within mining localities.
True, President Noynoy himself has so far been spared the taint of corruption that seems to have engulfed every sector of the government. Unfortunately for him, however, it is not enough that the presidency be above the fray; leadership is about doing something constructive to address the malaise that has the nation in its grips for so long. The people had given him the benefit of the doubt this long time and provided much needed support in many of his initiatives in the past. In that context he could not afford to rest on laurels, if any, and instead seize the moment to keep the people’s hope in him ablaze.
For a start President Noynoy should weld the presidential imprimatur and certify the urgency of the FOI bill. Giving greater access to the truth provides a backbone to a program of transparency and will surely strike fear even to the callous miscreants in the legislature and other sectors of the government. And then there’s the pestering sores of extreme poverty and lack of opportunities that had forced many of our brothers and sisters to seek employment in foreign land. A tall order, perhaps, but it’s always said that the long journey starts with the first step. In fact that first step in President Noynoy’s case is long overdue. — Dionesio C. Grava