Friday, February 26, 2010

Why Senator Benigno Aquino III

Noynoy Aquino is the most Competent and Credible Candidate to be the Next President of the Philippines

by Wilfrido Villacorta

Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta is a Professor Emeritus of De La Salle University, former Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and former member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (sponsored among others, the provisions on education, rights of children, and the right to public information).


1. Only an incorruptible leader like Noynoy would have the determination and the daring to combat rampant corruption– the root of poverty and injustice in our country;
2. Noynoy has a legacy to protect, and this legacy has concretely manifested itself in his personal life and public-service record;
3. Noynoy’s achievements have lived up to his advocacy to serve the poor and the underprivileged; and
4. Noynoy has the competence and credibility to represent our nation in the global arena and is the best leader who can rebuild our international image.

A. State of the Land

What problems will the next President face? In order to fully appreciate what kind of leader is needed by our people at this point in our nation’s history, let us examine the present Philippine condition and its implications for the next generations:

* The Philippines is in the list of “In danger of becoming a failed state,” in the company of Bhutan, Cambodia, Togo, Bolivia, Comoros, Moldova, Angola and Azerbaijan (The Fund for Peace, 2009 Failed States Index study).

Indicators of a Failed State:

• a highly ineffective central government without full control over much of its territory and over rampant criminality and public corruption,

• inability to provide adequate public services and infrastructure,

• big numbers of economic and/or political refugees and involuntary movement of populations, and

• wide social inequality and sharp decline in economic opportunities and wealth distribution.

The Philippines risks having the highest poverty incidence in East Asia: “If our low growth rates continue into the future, the ADB projects that our poverty incidence will remain at a range of 21 to 28% by 2020—the highest in East Asia. The poverty incidence would be higher that those of Cambodia, Mongolia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam” (Dr. Fernando Aldaba, Poverty in the Philippines, Asian Development Bank, 2009).

· It is the poor children who are the primary victims of the consequences of massive poverty: malnutrition, disease and substandard education.

· Severe malnutrition, which has afflicted 24.6% of Filipino children, is linked to more than half of child deaths, poor cognitive development and low productivity. According to the Council for the Welfare of Children, malnutrition is not only the effect of inequity but it is among the factors that give rise to conditions that create inequities.

· The UNESCO’s Education-for- All Global Monitoring Report for 2010 on the Philippines: “There is a real danger that the country will fail to achieve universal primary education by 2015.” Its net enrolment ratio in 2007, where about one million children are out of school, is “comparable with countries at far lower levels of average income, such as Zambia, and below the levels attained by other countries in the region, such as Indonesia.” The gap separating the poorest 20% from the rest of society is far wider than in most countries in the region.

· It is estimated by NGOs that about 60,000–100,000 children are trafficked annually. Such trafficking cases are increasing.

· The Department of Social Welfare and Development reports that anywhere between 60,000 to 600,000 street children are victims of child prostitution. The Philippines ranks fourth among countries with the most number of prostituted children. A study by the Psychological Trauma Program of the University of the Philippines notes that prostitution may now be the country’s fourth largest source of GNP.

(http://www.unicef. org/philippines/ 8895_9845. html)


For an archipelagic nation, we have ironically one of the worst maritime transport facilities and regulation. We are notorious for having one of the highest incidence of annual maritime disasters, and one of the worst road traffic and accidents in Asia.

* The World Health Organization, whose regional HQ is in Manila, has been imploring our government to control the production of firecrackers that become more potent each year and to strictly ban the use of guns for holiday revelry. In the region, we have the highest rate of fireworks- and gun-related injuries and deaths during new-year celebrations. We are infamous for widespread electoral fraud and violence and for being the transit point for illegal drugs, gun smuggling and human trafficking.
* In last year’s first National Summit for Firearms Control, Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa referred to the 2005 Report of the World Health Organization and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, which showed that the Philippines ranked 10th in the number of gun homicide rates worldwide. He revealed that the current estimate of loose firearms in the country is now at 1,110,372.
* Personal ownership of guns and carrying them in public are justified by the need for self-defense against criminals. But the PNP report in the Firearms Control Summit indicated that of the 5,752 crime incidents recorded in 2008, 6,030 involved firearms, 5,999 of which were loose firearms and only 31 licensed. In addition, the most common crimes committed with loose firearms from 2006 to 2008 consistently included murder, homicide, physical injury and robbery.

These transgressions that we see everyday are mostly due to corruption in law enforcement and the consequent impunity enjoyed by wrongdoers.

· Half of our national budget’s allocations are lost to “s.o.p.’s” or bribery. Targets for tax collection are not met and our national debt payments keep on rising because of corruption.

· Public education, health, infrastructure and financial services do not meet world standards because of corruption. It is poor governance that is behind unmitigated poverty, civil unrest and insurgency in the countryside.

· Foreign investors avoid our country because of the high cost of business rooted in corruption. Because there are not enough jobs, millions leave for overseas employment. Medicines and medical care are beyond the reach of most Filipinos. Even the magnitude of damage inflicted by natural disasters has been exacerbated by corrupt mismanagement.

The Asian Development Bank has repeatedly expressed its concern for the Philippines, a country with so much potential and yet mired in poverty and social inequality. In its study of Critical Development Constraints in the Philippines, the Philippines scored lowest among countries with similar per capita GDP levels on control of corruption, as well as on political stability and rule of law since 2002. The study indicated that the Philippines had lost momentum in controlling corruption, and had allowed Viet Nam and Indonesia to surpass it in economic performance.

In 2009 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, the Philippines is ranked 139th out of the 180 countries surveyed. We are way behind Singapore, which placed as the 2nd least perceived to be corrupt; South Korea, 39th; Malaysia, 56th; Thailand, 84th and Indonesia, 111th.

B. Needed: An incorruptible leader with the determination and the daring to combat corruption.

If your company is sinking because it is ridden with corruption and you are looking for a CEO, what would be the principal quality that you will look for in the candidates for the position? Wouldn’t it be good character?

Character is Noynoy’s strength. His character embodies his parents’ legacy: integrity, decency, commitment to democracy and people’s welfare, a modest lifestyle.

We all know that the main problem of our country is poverty. As we have said, the root of poverty of most Filipinos is corrupt governance. It is corruption that deprives the poor of access to essential public infrastructure, services and opportunities to improve their lives. For this reason, corruption is the worst violation of human rights in the Philippines.

In order to extricate the nation from its wretched condition, the next President must not only be incorruptible but must have the audacity to dismiss corrupt officials and file charges against them. He can have this courage and determination only if he has had an unblemished record of public service and has not violated any law. Fortunately, we have found a leader with a clear moral compass.

C. Noynoy has a legacy to protect, and this legacy has concretely manifested itself in his public-service record.

Some critics are saying that Noynoy is simply riding on the fame of his parents. They ask, how can we be sure that he will be as committed as Ninoy and Cory were to the Filipino people?

We must not forget that Noynoy, along with his sisters, experienced firsthand the ordeals that his parents courageously underwent and the sacrifices that they had to make: the persecution of his father and their family during martial law; the threats to the newly restored democracy after EDSA (he almost died when the coup plotters attacked Malacanang), the crusade of Cory for good governance. The values of Ninoy and Cory could not but have a lasting impact on Noynoy’s character formation.

On 25 August 1973, when Noynoy was only 13 years old, his father wrote him a letter—to bequeath to his only son the legacy of the Aquino family and to pass on to him the responsibility of caring for his mother and sisters and of “living with honor”: “You are my only son. You carry my name and the name of my father. I have no material wealth to leave you. I never had time to make money while I was in the hire of our people. For this I am very sorry. …The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name you carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency. I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather passed it on to me. “Forgive me for passing unto your young shoulders the great responsibility for our family. I trust you will love your mother and your sisters and lavish them with the care and protection I would have given them. … “Look after your two younger sisters with understanding and affection. … Finally, stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God, you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage. “I had hopes of introducing you to my friends, showing you the world and guide you through the maze of survival. I am afraid, you will now have to go it alone without your guide. The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience. “There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength. Son, the ball is now in your hands.”

“Son, the ball is now in your hands.” These prophetic words of Ninoy were in his letter written ten years before he was assassinated in August 1983. As the one whose destiny it was to be the people’s candidate, would Noynoy dishonor the noble legacy of his parents? Having witnessed the people’s outpouring of love and respect for his parents during their funerals, wouldn’t Noynoy reciprocate their trust by protecting the good name of his father and mother?

D. Noynoy’s achievements live up to his advocacies.

Who says that Noynoy has no advocacy and does not assert the principles he believes in? Who claims that he has no experience and achievements?

Noynoy’s advocacy is clear and uncompromising. He believes that a true working democracy provides not only political freedoms but a better life for all Filipinos. A working democracy must be able to provide jobs, education, social services and equitable economic prosperity for everyone, not just the privileged few.

In his eleven years as a Representative and a Senator, Noynoy has faithfully served the Filipino people. He is now Chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and Co-chair of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He is a member of, among others, the Committees on Economic Affairs, Education, Environment and Natural Resources, Justice and Human Rights, Peace, Trade and Commerce, and Urban Planning, Housing and Development.

The following were the bills he sponsored in the Senate, which reflect his pro-poor, pro-good governance conviction:

* · Senate Bill No. 1370–granting an annual productivity incentive to all workers in the private sector;
* · Senate Bill No. 1719–limiting the re-appointment of presidential nominees by-passed by the Commission on Appointments;
* · Senate Bill No. 1710 –banning the re-appointment of a regular member of the Judicial and Bar Council who has already served the full term;
* · Senate Bill No. 2035–requiring the regular maintenance and preservation of all public infrastructures;
* · Senate Bill No. 2036–increasing the penalties for non-compliance of the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage rates of workers, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6727;
* · Senate Bill 2159–adopting the doctrine of superior responsibility to all actions involving military personnel, members of the Philippine National Police and other civilians involved in law enforcement;
* · Senate Bill 2160–amending Section 4 of RA 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act to further restrict exemptions to the requirement of public bidding;
* · Senate Bill 2978–amending the DILG Act to further clarify the relationship between local chief executives and their respective local police chiefs; and
* · Senate Bill 3121–the Budget Impoundment Control Act—strengthening legislative oversight over executive spending.

Before he was elected to the Senate, Noynoy served three terms as a member of the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2007. He was Deputy Speaker of the 13th Congress and was a member of the Committees of Banks & Financial Intermediaries, Energy Export Promotion, and Public Order & Safety.

One of his key legislative initiatives was to make the procurement of the petroleum, oil and lubricants requirements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines transparent by requiring public bidding.

Among his priority bills were House Bill No. 4251–granting annual productivity incentives to all workers in the private sector; House Bill No. 4397–strengthening the regulatory power of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to effectively enforce consumer laws; House Bill No. 4252–increasing the penalties for non-compliance of the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage rates of workers; House Bill No. 3616–extending the reglementary period for the educational qualification for PNP members; and House Bill No. 1842 –providing for the codification of criminal laws.

He introduced House Resolution No. 65–inquiry in aid of legislation into the policies and processes of the Energy Regulatory Commission in granting rate increases to electric utilities, and House Resolution No. 788–creating a select Congressional Oversight Committee on intelligence funds to check and study the use of intelligence funds by government agencies to ensure that funds allocated therefore are utilized for the purpose they are intended.

He initiated an amendment to the General Appropriations Act requiring public bidding in the purchase of petroleum, oil and lubricant products for the Department of National Defense.

In 2004, he was stripped of his post as Deputy Speaker after he joined leaders of the Liberal Party in calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal.

A man of strong convictions, he lived up to his constitutional responsibility as an opposition Senator to fiscalize the executive branch of government. Noynoy thoroughly examined the General Appropriations Act for 2009 and proposed key amendments to the 2009 GAA that seek to tighten congressional oversight on the executive’s use of public funds.

He has consistently championed human rights and people’s participation. Noynoy has sought the proper relocation of informal settlers and the delineation of authority of parties involved in demolitions such as the MMDA.

Through his privilege speeches, Noynoy has drawn attention to the plight of desaparecidos and victims of extra-judicial killings. He is also part of the bicameral debates on the Anti-Torture Act.

He introduced substantial amendments to the Cooperative Code to make it more responsive to the needs of the marginalized sector for whom the code was enacted.

Noynoy actively participated in the hearings that investigated the alleged misuse of public funds, such as the ZTE-NBN deal, the “Euro Generals” and the Fertilizer Fund scam. These hearings highlighted the need for increased transparency and accountability in the disbursal of taxpayers’ money.

Noynoy was vigilant in the hearings regarding the sale of TRANSCO and PNOC-EDC. He questioned the sale of revenue-generating assets of these two key corporations prior to their privatization.

Noynoy has also had executive experience in the private sector. His first job, at age 23, was at the Philippine Business for Social Progress (1983). It was interrupted by the tragedy of his father’s assassination on 21 August 1983. He had always to be at the side of his mother and sisters during these difficult times. Two years later, he took up managerial and marketing positions at Nike Philippines and Mondragon Philippines (1985-1986). When his mother became President, Noynoy left Mondragon for reasons of delicadeza. He joined their family corporations: Strata Assurance Corp. as its vice-president, and the Best Security Agency Corporation as its vice-president and treasurer (1986-1993). He later worked for the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, starting out as executive assistant for administration and later, becoming field services manager (1993-1996). It was again out of delicadeza that Noynoy entered politics only in 1998, six years after the term of office of his mother. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998 and was re-elected in 2001 and 2004.

I believe that I have provided more than sufficient evidence of Noynoy’s achievements and have amply demonstrated that his achievements have been consistent with his avowed principles.

But the greatest proof of his competence to be President is that he has upheld his integrity. He never abused his status as a member of the presidential family during and after President Cory’s term, and never took advantage of his positions as Congressman and Senator. Integrity – the proven resolve and capability to remain honest, transparent and accountable despite one’s possession of immense power and influence – is the best competency for any office, whether public or private.

E. Noynoy has the competence and credibility to represent our nation and to rebuild our international image.

Because of our dismal record in governance that has led to wretched conditions for most of our people, our international image has suffered tremendously. We are known as a nation of servants, as a laggard in economic development, as a center of crime and corruption in Asia.

Once elected, Noynoy can draw from the goodwill and good name that Cory and Ninoy Aquino had built for the Filipino people, as he strives to repair the tattered image of our country. As one retired senior diplomat pointed out, “for the Philippines, the best foreign policy is domestic reform and decisive action on national issues.” A nation is only as strong internationally as its national conditions allow it to be.

Having been exposed internationally, having been formally trained in economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, and having had extensive experience as a statesman, Noynoy is comfortable in the company of foreign leaders. I was with him when Thai Prime Minister Abhisit visited him at the Sofitel last August, to extend his condolences. I felt very proud to see Noynoy conduct himself as befits a future head of government, discussing international issues such as the global recession and the future of free trade in ASEAN with such depth and confidence.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo met with him last November during the latter’s visit to Manila. It was a significant opportunity for the Minister to get a glimpse of Noynoy’s views on foreign relations.

I am fully convinced that it is Noynoy who can best represent our nation internationally. Under his watch, the Philippines will once more be a leading member of ASEAN. With the restoration of respect for our country and our people’s dignity, our diplomats will be more effective in advancing our national interests in negotiations with our strategic and trade partners. More investors will be attracted to come, and the rights of our overseas workers will be more protected.

Noynoy is the leader that will transform this changeless, long suffering land of ours. Ito na ang ating huling pagkakataon. Huwag nating isugal ang ating boto. Huwag nating ipagsapalaran ang ating kinabukasan sa mga napatunayang mangungurakot o sa mga konsentidor sa pangungurakot na lalong magpapalubog sa ating bayan. Ipaubaya natin ang ating bansa sa isang mapagkakatiwalaang pinuno—walang iba kundi si Noynoy Aquino!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Remaining Civil

During these partisan times, we should strive to maintain our civility. In a debate, a moderator needs to check his partisanship at the door. This is simple courtesy.

Tony Lopez, moderator of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) debate, was unable to moderate his bias in favor of his benefactor, Manny Villar, an astute businessman who knows how to get value for his money.

Tony's continuing efforts to promote Villar's candidacy are less than subtle.

It would be inaccurate to call Manny Villar, the employer of Tony Lopez because Tony works on a contractual basis. From the time of his active involvement in the Marcos propaganda corps, Tony learned that being a free agent was a more profitable way to practice his kind of journalism.

It is most appropriate, though, that he performed at the PCCI debate. Tony is certainly a man of commerce, and if well paid, a man of industry as well. He was well compensated for the role he played in the debate. He earned it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Original Sin

When we learn that 43 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals were arrested, detained and abused for taking part in a seminar where a grenade was allegedly found tucked under a pillow, we are momentarily disturbed and then we go on with our business.

Just as nobody cares that 100 Filipinos will die today from tuberculosis and the furor over the massacre of 57 women and journalists in Maguindanao has almost completely died down; only a handful remember the murder of Evelio Javier 24 years ago.

Javier had been on a study grant in Harvard when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. He returned to the Philippines shortly and ran for a seat in Parliament against Arturo Pacificador, a close ally of Marcos. Eventually, the Supreme Court would rule that Javier won the election but only after he was brazenly gunned down in front of the Provincial Capitol.

Arturo Pacificador went into hiding for 9 years, his son fled to Canada and is still seeking asylum. Pacificador’s lawyer and 7 of his security detail were meted life sentences.

Lest we forget, the culture of impunity and death which continues to prevail today was established during the Marcos Dictatorship reaching its apogee with the murder of Senator Benigno Aquino. Let us never forget that thousands of Filipinos resisted and died during those dark days, and while we remember a few: Leandro Alejandro, Lorena Barros, William Begg, Cesar Climaco, Dr Bobby de la Paz, Demosthenes Dingcong, Dr Johnny Escandor, Edgar Jopson, Emmanuel Lacaba, Jose Lingad, Abraham Sarmiento, we also need to honor the countless, nameless martyrs who after giving their lives now only cast their perpetual silence to remind us of the steep price of freedom.

For as long as the Marcoses remain unpunished and unrepentant, for as long as we try to forget that evil period of tyranny, for as long as we accommodate the principal characters of that reprehensible regime, we will never be rid of the original sin.

That evil chapter will continue to teach a shameful lesson: murder and plunder pay.

And we will never get rid of this culture of impunity, we will never tame corruption, and our politicians will keep repeating this successful, traditional manner of holding on to power.

The Marcoses must not be allowed to use their ill-gotten wealth to finance their campaigns for public office. They should instead return whatever they stole and finally, after all these years, apologize to the Filipino people for the pestilential harm they visited upon our ruined land.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Senator Benigno C Aquino III is our Hope

As a physician I know from many years of medical practice that in life threatening conditions the key element to survival is hope, the will to live, the belief that all is not lost. Hope.

Ninoy Aquino inspired it in us in the darkest days of Martial law. Cory Aquino brought it in us in the face of military attacks against democracy.

In the midst of shocking corruption and misrule, Noynoy Aquino brings hope to us now.

We see Noynoy, honest, straightforward, incorruptible and we hope that our country will not break down, will not collapse, will not be defeated by the forces of greed and deception.

With Noynoy as President we shall regain our economic, moral and political health as a nation and as a people. This is my hope. Noynoy is our hope.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why I am for an RH Bill

It boils down to faith. The first of 7 themes of Catholic Social Teaching enumerated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is the sanctity of human life and dignity of the person. There is a tendency to overlook the second component.

Take me as an example. My wife and I trained in the busiest hospital in the Philippines as well as in the busiest hospital in New York City. We were exposed to all forms of contraception including abortion. After a period of discernment, we decided on natural family planning methods. We have 5 children, the youngest of whom is 2 weeks old.

At 47 (my wife is 46), we had not expected to experience again the pure, joyful blessedness of a child's birth.

Pope John Paul II states that Catholic social teaching “rests on the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity.” (1999 Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, 55). Solidarity, John Paul II wrote is “not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).

Complementing solidarity is subsidiarity. Pope Pius XI declared “that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry“ (Quadragesimo Anno, 79).

During these partisan times when politicians pander to various interest groups in the spirit of expediency, let us not forget that each one of us possesses the capacity to prayerfully reflect upon our choices. For St Thomas Aquinas, conscience is the act of applying our knowledge of good and evil to what we do. The principle of the primacy of conscience is contingent upon education and enlightenment. John Paul II affirmed that “in order to have a ‘good conscience,’ (1Tim 1:5) a person must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth”(Veritatis Splendor, 62)

750,000 abortions each year is unacceptable (Pro-Life Philippines). In the absence of education, it is becoming the contraceptive of choice in our country. We must do something about this national tragedy. "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)

While I cannot support House Bill 5043 because of its punitive provisions towards health professionals and private enterprise as well as an inadequate educational component, we must persevere in crafting guidelines which will allow every Filipino to act according to their sufficiently formed conscience. We must have faith that each one of us, properly enlightened, will do right.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Platform, My Promise

Pork Barrel is destroying our country. It feeds systemic corruption and nourishes immoral political behavior.

The Constitution assigns to Congress, the power to spend. The President may propose a budget but only Congress can appropriate the money and specify the project or activity covered by the funds. We cannot completely abolish pork barrel but we can certainly curtail the pernicious practices associated with it.

To produce Filipinos capable of competing in a 21st century world, we need to invest in health, education and infrastructure. There has been a disproportionate emphasis on infrastructure projects over the last 20 years because of the enhanced opportunities for personal profit.

I propose slashing the infrastructure budget by 90% over the next 3 years, leaving a much reduced amount to maintain existing roads and bridges. The amount saved will be applied towards doubling the salaries of teachers, physicians, nurses and other health workers, soldiers, police.

This measure will attract qualified applicants to fill these essential positions, reverse the exodus of our professionals to other countries and significantly pump-prime the economy because these public servants will increase domestic consumption.

We not only increase our investment in health, education and security, we also minimize the leakage lost to corruption.

We must also de-professionalize politics. We need to return to the days when politics was public service for the common good, when public service required personal sacrifice.

Today, politics has become too personal because many politicians make a healthy living from it. The stakes have been raised immeasurably because more and more public funds are involved. My one, single promise is I will only serve one term in the elective position that I am seeking. Six years is enough time. Nobody should be so arrogant as to think one will not get accustomed to the perks of political power, a condition directly proportional to the length of office.

The day you regard public service as your own exclusive, private domain should be your last day in politics.