My Dear Countrymen,
One year ago I stood before you as your President to embark on a journey of change. Today I report to you on the progress we have made.
Under the regime of honesty, transparency and accountability that I promised in the campaign, we made significant strides in some aspects and insufficient progress in others.
The economy has grown healthily. International rating agencies have upgraded our credit standing, in one case, to just one level below investment grade. This is recognition of the steps we have achieved in reducing our budget deficit. Our enhanced financial standing will allow us to borrow at vastly improved terms from the international community.
Yet even as we are getting our financial house in order and increasing the size of the economy there continue to be too many Filipinos who suffer from hunger, lack of shelter, healthcare and education. Our job is far from being done.
There are reasons for this, some which we inherited and some which are the result of insufficient efforts of my Government.
In last year’s SONA I detailed the devastation left us by the previous Administration, the empty coffers, the bloated bonuses of GOCC officials, the padded contracts and kickbacks. We continue to unearth a trove of corruption as we delve deeper into the system. The former Government was unsparing, be it in the Government financial institutions, the PCSO, or the line agencies; in the rapaciousness, cleverness and greed with which it plundered our nation.
The trail is so long we have not completed the documentation of the graft. However, I will be relentless in bringing the culprits to justice, this I vow to you.
We initiated some proceedings but for the longest time these were impeded by the Ombudsman’s office. Now that Ms. Gutierrez has resigned, I am soon announcing her replacement which shall allow for a speedier disposition of cases.
We also encountered some legal setbacks in the Supreme Court which delayed the prosecution of cases. However we are not deterred and will continue to press our efforts.
We were also distracted by events such as the Luneta hostage taking. We expect there will be other such crisis either natural or manmade and we should be prepared for them even as we forge ahead on the daily task of nation building.
As I travel the length and breadth of this nation I am constantly reminded of the struggles of the average Filipino, the plight to put food on the table, to send a child to school, to find an honest day’s work.
This contrasts with the glowing reports handed to me by my staff on the state of the economy, the stock market and real estate; which leads me to believe that even as the wealth of this nation is increasing not enough of it is being enjoyed by the man in the street. The rich are simply getting richer.
The average Filipino is disadvantaged not because of smaller dreams, weaker resolve or lesser labor; but because of a lack of education, opportunity and social justice. It is the restoration of these basic rights that I will devote the next five years of my Administration.
Education is what will allow the Filipino to improve his condition. This means not only acquiring the right work skills but also the awareness of responsible parenthood and social values.
The vision of my Government is for every Filipino to have an equal opportunity to better himself. The State should ensure the poor can compete more fairly with the rich, the weak with the strong, so that the only limit to one’s potential is personal accountability, the willingness to work harder, to save more, to plan one’s family following one’s means.
Equality in the eyes of the law is an essential element of this vision. Only if there is punishment of criminals, swift retribution for the aggrieved, and justice for the weak; can opportunity flourish.
(To be continued)