Illustration by Zach Borromeo
It is the time once in every six years when one takes the highest seat of the nation, and another steps down. During this time, as well, we review what the latest president, Benigno Aquino III, has done for the country. Has he left a mark on all the hearts of the Filipinos on the final year of his presidency?
One of the highlights of his administration is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P’s, which now has 4.4 million beneficiaries from only 786,523 in 2010. The out-of-school youth, from a number of 2.9 million, dropped to just 1.2 million remaining. Additionally, Aquino reported that the Philippines is rising in the ranks as one of the developing countries in the world. Because of this, we were dubbed by many names such as “Asia’s Rising Tiger”, “Asia’s Rising Star” and “Asia’s Bright Spot”.
Still, not all Filipinos are feeling this. According to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 51 percent of the Filipino families still consider themselves poor.
Aquino has claimed that corruption is the root cause of poverty. He was proud in saying that his administration has unearthed many corrupt operations within the government — including the He even highlighted, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” However, during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), he did not say anything about the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in which a lot of politicians were involved.
In the division of health, the PhilHealth already has 89.4 million members. Moreover, the treatment in hospitals for the poorest 40 percent of the country became free in 2014.
In the education sector, the K-12 was implemented, which added two more years in high school because according to Aquino, “…it is not practical to cram learning in a 10-year basic education cycle.” A benefit of this program is that when the students of this curriculum graduate at the age of 18, they can already join in the manpower of the country and possibly contribute to the development of the country and be more competent globally. However, can the government land jobs for them as soon as they graduate? If some of them cannot make it to college and would not have jobs after graduation, are they just going to be sitting ducks waiting to be fed?
One thing that Aquino also boasted during his term is the lowered unemployment rates of the country and reduced labor strikes. However, despite the plans made by the government, Bukluran ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) chair Leody de Guzman said, “Kung Mayo Uno nga, wala kaming napala, SONA pa kaya ng isang narcissistic na pangulo.” That really is an issue on employment.
Another highlight in Aquino’s administration was the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Here, the government has plans to buy high-technology armed machinery — two C-130, six more landing craft utilities and three C-295 medium lift transports. The citizens expected that in the further modernization of our national defense, the nation would indeed be ready when the time comes to defend in the rising tension between the country and China regarding the disputed West Philippine Sea. Unfortunately, during his SONAs, he failed to defend the claims that we have over those parts.
The project, “Oplan Lambat Sibat,” which aims to arrest criminals was successful, he boasted, because they had caught many notorious criminals, including infamous terrorists Marwan and Usman. In exchange, though, during the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operation, the lives of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) soldiers were taken, and — again — Aquino failed to mention anything about the massacre in his any of his SONAs. He did not even attend the tribute of the Fallen 44 because of a supposedly more important appointment.
It is never guaranteed that an administration is perfect. However, as the once-leader who holds the life of a nation, Aquino must keep in mind that whatever he has done will reflect upon the country’s condition and the people’s lives.
Yes, he has left a mark on all the Filipinos, and it is up to the people to decide if that mark is imprinted with gratitude or is burning with anger, disappointment and hatred.
Which mark did he truly leave?