President Bongbong Marcos skillfully laid down his 19-point legislative agenda, in an hour and 10 minute SONA. It was his assessment of our nation’s problems including directives to solve them in both the short and long term (His ES claims BBM personally wrote his speech). But seeing BBM on the rostrum, I would admit though that I terribly missed the colorful and bombastic SONAs of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who was noticeably absent in the ceremonies.
From a Digong who bulldozed his “confusing but very effective” political will over the nation and legislators, BBM emerged in his first SONA as a “softer leader” offering a working partnership with newly elected senators and congressmen. Unlike Digong, BBM showed no anger at any point in his speech, and maybe, some of us awaited a “fire in the belly moment”. The masa, on the other hand, waited for a clearer, detailed plan on how BBM will solve their problems of rising inflation, lack of jobs and others.
But knowing the transactional tendencies of old and new politicians within the halls of past and present Congress, many of BBM’s plans will get lost or mangled in the political horsetrading that will follow. Would we see that “anger” and “frustration” within the next 50 days or 100 days?
During Digong’s time, it was the economic cluster of former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez , who influenced his major socio-economic decisions, pushing the 17th and 18th Congress into approving then “impossible and untouchable laws” such as the TRAIN law, CREATE, Ease of Doing Business Act, National ID system, the Real Investment Trust act (REIT) Amendments to the Retail Trade act, Foreign Investments act, the Public Service Act and the Four Pillar Socio Economic Strategy against COVID-19.
It is open secret that in exchange for the legislative agenda, project insertions of Congressmen and Senators were allowed in the P4.5T budget in 2021 and about P5-T in 2022 and called “FLRs (for later release) allocations” by the Office of the President. Many influential legislators got allocations from hundreds of millions to billions of pesos each. Yes, this was hateful practice, but Digong “tamed” the legislators and his masterful and ambitious economic legacy came to fruition.
Now, PBBM enters with new Senate President Migs Zubiri and cousin-House speaker Martin Romualdez to carry out his own program of government. Can these two deliver the priority legislative measures among the 316 congressmen and 24 senators? Can both leaders moderate the almost perpetual greed of legislators and powerful interests in the numerous branches of government? 0r both will fail and replaced midway?
One “impossible law” that languished in decades and buried by legislators because of personal and business interests is the National Land Use Act. Everybody knows the dwindling number of agricultural lands are being turned into “subdivisions” and past legislators have looked the other way.
Another issue is expanded powers of LGU’s, particularly the discussions on the implementation of the SC’s Mandanas-Garcia ruling where LGUS will have a larger share of national taxes , not just the Internal Revenue allotment (IRA) . Right now, LGUs are fighting DEPED, DPWH on the jurisdiction to fund and repair their school buildings. Some LGU’s approved lucrative reclamation projects in their areas, bypassing national government. Senators and congressmen, for sure, will soon join these political melees.
Actually, I like most of BBM’s propositions, particularly, use of modular nuclear power plants in solving our energy supply and costs , finding new water sources (other than Angat dam) for urban areas, the revival of ROTC, continuation of BUILD-BUILD-BUILD, timely or immediate assistance of victims of disasters, condonation of loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries and building of Heart Centers, Lung Centers ,Kidney centers outside of NCR.
On his plan to strengthen the ‘supply value chain” and for people to feel the lowering of food prices, PBBM says he will build a national network to transport farmers’ goods directly to the markets. A move seen to eliminate or minimize the influence of “middlemen” who are dictating the day-to-day prices of food. Government will once again centralize supply and transport farmers’ goods into regional hubs, then to the Food Terminal Inc (FTI), its Kadiwa centers and to the households.
Overall, I believe that the SONA’s highlight was PBBM’s confirmation that his administration will bring down the present (2021) national poverty rate of 23.7 percent to just a single-digit or 9 Percent in six years. .This means more than 16 million Filipinos will have a better life out of the poverty line when his term ends in 2028.
A daunting but doable promise that needs help from legislators, government, economists, businessmen, media, private sector and all of us, to make it happen. Let us stop too much politicking, greed, divisiveness and once and for all, save our poor people.
We owe it to the majority of 110 million Filipinos who are always struggling to make both ends meet and help them realize their simple but meaningful aspirations in life.
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