Aquino speaks to the nation but disappoints Filipinos, who are tired of utopias and proclamations
In his State of the Nation address, the president highlighted the good results of his administration’s fight against corruption. He also stressed his willingness to defend islands in the South China Sea against Chinese claims. He did not however touch hot issues like employment and agriculture. Sources that spoke to AsiaNews say he is a vassal to big agro- and industrial business interests and international organisations. Thousands take to the streets in Quezon City to protest against his policies.
Manila (AsiaNews) – President Benigno Aquino III's second State of the Nation address has failed to convince ordinary Filipinos. For many, it was “utopian” and “without concrete contents and proposals”, especially for the poor. This morning, 10,000 people, especially farmers, fishermen and blue-collar workers took to the streets of Quezon City to protest, calling on the president to “quit the world of utopias” and treat citizens “as real and not imaginary people”.

In his speech, Aquino highlighted the start of change in the country. He spoke about fighting corruption, increasing military and police wages and reducing unemployment. Speaking about the dispute with China over islands in the South China Sea, the president asserted his administration’s willingness to defend Filipino sovereignty over the area.

However, speaking to AsiaNews, a source noted that his speech lacked details and examples, that it failed to deal with hot issues like employment and land reform.

“A year after his election, the president has not set a single goal. So far, he has only made proclamations about changing the country,” the source said. “The only good thing in his speech is his desire to fight corruption by removing government officials accused of embezzlement.”

A few days ago, the president appointed Conchita Carpio-Morales, a former Supreme Court justice, as the new ombudsman, replacing Merceditas Gutierrez, who was tied to the previous Arroyo administration and is suspected of involvement in corruption and embezzlement.

Elected in May 2010, Benigno Aquino was seen by both voters and media as the man for the Philippines’ rebirth.

In his campaign, he offered a radical change for the country, pledging to free it from the six years of corruption under Arroyo.

However, since then, his popularity has declined. Many of those who thought he was the man for the job have become disappointed. Others accuse him of using his success in fighting corruption to hide his difficulty in modernising the country and breaking the stranglehold of large landowners and industrialists.

“The president is still in the hands of powerful groups that have dominated the political and economic scene in the Philippines for decades,” the source said.

“New money for the military and the police and the lack of agricultural policies are symptomatic of his administration’s security fears and that it is beholden to powerful families.”

The president is also a vassal of the United Nations and multinationals, which for years have pushed for the controversial birth control bill opposed by the Church and Filipino Catholics.

“Aquino is not moving against or in favour of the law because he is afraid of losing Catholic support, which is the basis of Filipino society, and the funds provided by international organisations,” the source said. “Still, today he reiterated his closeness to the country’s bishops, praising them for their work in favour of the population.”

Based on the words and some of the results by the Aquino administration, some small changes are observable compared to previous administration, the source said. “The Philippines’ rebirth will occur one day, but it will be long and hard to do,” the source added.