Tonight, I am grateful as it is my honor and privilege to address, albeit virtually, a group of committed and passionate individuals, who continue to render unwavering service to our fellowmen.
As I speak to all of you today, I believe that I would be remiss if I will not confide to you the mixed feelings that keep me up at night, so to speak.
Truth be told – in my years of existence, never in my wildest imagination have I ever thought that Filipinos would come to live in such despair, uncertainty and worst – fear.
Allow me to share:
Tuwing mapapalinga ako sa kapaligiran, lalo na at makikita ko ang grupo ng mga kabataan, na madalas ay inilalarawan ng aking mga anak at mga apo – dalawang bagay ang kadalasang pumapasok sa aking kaisipan: una, hindi ko maiwasan ang magbalik-tanaw sa mga nakaraan, lalo na sa panahon na aking kinamulatan.
Nakaka-miss ang mga panahong namumuhay na simple at disente ang mga Pilipino – maka-Diyos, makatao at magalang sa matatanda at kababaihan. Nakaka-miss din ang mga panahong malakas ang kumpyansa at tiwala ng taumbayan sa gobyerno, sa mga may kapangyarihan tulad ng mga taong-munisipyo at mga pulis. Nakaka-miss din ang mga panahong gumigising tayo na panatag ang kalooban at buo ang loob na makakaraos nang maayos sa buong maghapon.
Pangalawa, hindi ko maiwasang makaramdam ng pangamba sa kung ano kayang bukas ang naghihintay para sa napakaraming mga kabataang magtataguyod ng susunod na henerasyon?
I am afraid not enough words can handle the feeling of fear that has engulfed humanity, especially what we have endured during the last one and a half years:
Fear of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fear of the uncertainty.
Fear of what future we will leave behind to the generations to come.
Sino ba sa ating naririto ang hindi nakakaramdam ng takot at kawalang pag-asa sa gitna ng mga kinahaharap nating mga problema?
Higit na 1.8 million na ang tinamaan ng COVID-19 virus na kumitil ng higit sa 33,000 buhay; 4.2 milyong Pilipino ang nakaramdam ng gutom sa mga nakaraang buwan na dumoble na, kumpara sa pre-pandemic na datos; 12.4 milyong pamilya ang nagsabing sila ay naghihirap; 4.14 million Filipinos ang mga walang trabaho; tinatayang lolobo pa sa mahigit 13 trilyong piso ang panloob at panlabas na utang ng bansa sa susunod na taon.
Nariyan pa ang patuloy na pagkamkam ng Tsina sa ating maritime entitlements sa West Philippine Sea; Hindi rin masawata ang korapsyon at ang pagkalat ng ilegal na droga na mismong ang Pangulo ang umamin sa kanyang huling State of the Nation Address nitong July 26, na hindi niya natugunan sa mahigit limang taon niyang pamamalagi sa pwesto.
Akala raw niya, parang Davao City lang ang Pilipinas. We ask ourselves: What has become of our country? Parang may sumpa, malas, karma – a constellation of misfortunes. We cannot help but wonder, what just happened?
Two things easily come to mind: one, the coronavirus pandemic; and second, bad government.
For almost 18 months now, the Filipino people have placed its entire faith on the administration to provide direction and leadership in addressing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the part of the Senate, I can say with confidence that we wasted no time, even at the onset of the community quarantine declared by the executive branch in March of last year, in ensuring that we grant our implementing agencies the much-needed resources in order to carry out our overall government response to the national emergency.
Two pieces of legislation – the Bayanihan I and Bayanihan II, which were enacted in March and September 2020, respectively, outlined our priorities as we grapple with the effects of this deadly virus.
Such priorities included the allocation of P5,000 to P8,000 in emergency subsidies or ayuda to 18 million low-income households who have been greatly affected by the lockdown. Both measures also gave priority to our public and private health workers by ensuring that all their medical expenses shall be shouldered by the PhilHealth, and that Special Risk Allowance is granted to them in addition to their hazard pay under the Magna Carta for Heath Workers earlier passed by Congress.
In Bayanihan II alone, Congress secured the allocation of P165.5 billion not only to continue our fight against the brunt of this health crisis, but to also ease our ailing economy.
We made sure that we have the necessary financial support for our displaced workers. In fact, a total of P5.58 billion was appropriated for the assistance of our displaced public utility vehicle drivers, of which P3 billion was dedicated for our passenger jeepney drivers.
In our dire hope to defeat this dreadful virus, our government has already secured a total of P82.5 billion for the procurement of the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines, of which P10 billion was through the passage of Bayanihan II, while P70 billion and P2.5 billion appropriations were under the Unprogrammed Funds and the regular budget of the DOH for 2021, respectively.
Our budget books show the boost both in the health and economic sectors to jumpstart the herculean task of steering our way to recovery.
It is for these reasons that we have been appalled by the recent reports of the Commission on Audit (COA) pertinent to the irregularities and flagged spending by our national government agencies.
Rightly so, the Filipino people must demand an explanation from our implementing agencies on the blatant inefficiency brought about by irregular, excessive, unnecessary, extravagant and unconscionable misuse of the public funds in virtually the entire government.
Tunay na nakakadismayang marinig ang mga naiulat na kakulangan ng ating Kagawaran ng Kalusugan sa paggasta ng P67.3 billion na pondong nakalaan para labanan natin ang pandemya. This includes the P539 million worth of payment for Special Risk Allowances (SRA) for our health workers even without complete documentary support, and P214-million payment to unqualified recipients, while thousands of our medical frontliners still lament the reprehensible delay in the release of their SRAs.
Ayon pa sa COA, P780.71 million na pondo para sa ayuda ang hindi naiparating ng DSWD sa 139,300 na qualified beneficiaries. Ang dahilan? Insufficient validation process daw.
Nakakagalit din ang ulat na isang porsyento lamang ng P5.58 billion na ayuda para sa mga public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers ang napunta sa kanila, samantalang nasasaksihan natin ang paghihirap at pagtitiis na sinasapit ng ating mga jeepney drivers na yung iba ay nanglilimos pa para maitawid ang kanilang pang araw-araw na ikabubuhay.
If there is one thing we could agree on with regard to our predicament in the past years, it is this: Pagod na pagod na ang mga Pilipino. Pagod na pagod na tayo.
Our agony is even more exacerbated by leaders who burden our already-burdened nation with shameless lies, intimidation, double-speak, and lip service, as if these can replace the rule of law, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability – the very tenets of good governance.
There are still ten months for the incumbent administration to manage the pandemic and we can only root and pray hard for its success, for the next one would have no choice but to pick up where they would have left off.
Kinakailangan nating sama-samang harapin at tugunan ang pagsugpo sa pandemya upang maumpisahan nating mapanumbalik ang dating sigla ng ating kabuhayan at ekonomiya.
With things as they are, I have no doubt whatsoever that with science and evidence-based policies and decisive leadership, we will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel, where COVID-19 will no longer be a scare.
This is the reason why we must make sure that the next administration should be creative and judicious in sourcing, allocating, and dispensing our resources.
Para sa tunay at makabuluhang pagbangon at pag-unlad, dapat natin gawing abot-kamay sa lahat ang mga pagkakataon upang maisaayos ang kanilang kabuhayan. Marapat lamang na maibaba ang pondo sa ating mga lokal na pamahalaan, kasabay na ang pagpapa-igting ng kakayahan at kapasidad ng ating mga local development councils; kaakibat ang paggabay sa pagpapatupad ng mga programa at proyekto ng mga barangay, munisipyo, lungsod, at lalawigan.
Alam naman natin na ang korapsyon at pangungurakot sa kaban ng bayan ang siyang pangunahing dahilan kung bakit palala ng palala ang kahirapan sa ating bansa. The infrastructures and services that must be provided by the government for all aspects of nation-building, such as education, health, public safety, and mobility, are not fully realized because of widespread corruption in all echelons of the bureaucracy. Kung kaya’t tunay na napapanahon na upang manindigan tayong lahat na hindi na maaaring payagan ang anumang uri ng pagsasamatala sa kaban ng bayan na galing sa buwis at pawis ng taumbayan.
To this end, I have come to realize that we have to learn and adopt the best practices of successful business corporations in so many ways, starting with the zero-based budget planning, instead of imposing the traditional and impractical practice of handing down a budget ceiling on the different departments to work on, which consistently results in so much unutilized appropriations in the country’s national budget brought about by poor, inefficient and even lack of planning. I believe it is time we should depart from the “more of the same” mentality. It is time for government to treat the business sector as partners instead of competitors. Overregulation has no place in a modern and civilized society. I cannot see any other purpose of an over-regulating bureaucracy except to make money through intimidation and suppression.
As one nation, we must reinvent our bureaucracy – one that innovates and empowers its citizens, and commits to doing more with less. Make no mistake: our government is not just any family business, it is our nation’s business.
To this end, allow me to reiterate what I have been emphasizing every time I am asked about the country’s most pressing concerns: that this country’s problem is government, bad government. And yes, the solution stares us right in the face of the problem itself.
If we truly hope to solve the problems of over 110 million Filipinos, then the solution must be found nowhere else but in the government itself.
It is called good government.
What we need is a reform-oriented government. More accurately, we need better governance. The Filipino people deserve nothing less.
Again, thank you for this opportunity. Mabuhay po tayong lahat!