Likening the remainder of his term to the “last two minutes” of a basketball game, President Benigno Aquino III vowed to redouble efforts to stamp out corruption, institute more growth and reforms and win the peace in Mindanao in 2014.
In his New Year’s message, the President rallied Filipinos to stay on the “straight path” (tuwid na daan) to overcome challenges and continue the country’s growth.
In his own message, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte urged people to look at 2014 as a year of renewal.
“Papasok na naman po tayo sa panibagong taon sa pagtahak sa tuwid na daan; at kumbaga po sa larong basketball, papasok na rin tayo sa last two minutes.Sa natitirang yugto ng ating termino, wala tayong sasayanging sandali; bawat makabuluhang ambag ng Pilipino ay magpapanalo sa laban natin tungo sa pag-asenso (We are about to enter a new year. If this were a basketball game, it would be the crucial last two minutes. We have no time to waste. Each achievement we make will be a victory for Filipinos in our struggle towards progress),” he said.
He said good governance was slowly wiping out the remaining vestiges of corruption.
“Malinaw po, dahil sa mas maayos na pamamalakad, natitibag na ang mga huling balwarte ng katiwalian; at patuloy tayong nakakapaglatag ng pagkakataon para sa ating mga kababayan (It is clear that because of good governance, the remaining traces of corruption are about to vanish, and we will have more chances to help our people prosper),” he said as he vowed justice for Filipinos deprived of services because of the abuse and misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Plunder and graft charges have been filed against a number of persons, including incumbent and former government officials, for the massive embezzlement of up to P10 billion in congressional pork barrel, done through a network of fake nongovernmental organizations through which the money was funneled.
“Nalalapit na rin tayo sa pagkamit ng ganap na katarungan sa pag-usig sa nagkasala at umabuso sa paggamit ng PDAF. Patuloy po tayong naglalatag ng mga mekanismo upang siguruhing ang pera ng taumbayan ay mapupunta sa taumbayan lamang (We are also close to claiming justice in the prosecution of those who abused the PDAF. We will continue to draw up mechanisms to ensure the people’s money goes only to the people),” he said.
However, while the administration has been keen to point out that much of this misuse was committed under the previous dispensation, it has also come under fire following revelations of similar abuse of billions of pesos under the Disbursement Acceleration Program, including allegations that some of the money was used to bribe lawmakers into ousting former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Aquino said his administration’s anti-corruption campaign has boosted the country’s reputation among international organization and creditors.
In the past three years, the Philippines have improved its standing by 29 notches in the Transparency International Corruption Index, from 134th rank in 2010 to 105th in 2013.
The country has also recorded the highest GDP growth in Southeast Asia, and one of the leading in the entire region. Investors are also steadily coming in, creating more jobs and spurring growth.
Technical vocational education and training through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority has been continuously producing skilled graduates, many of who have already landed in jobs.
Aquino also cited the progress in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, marked by the signing of an annex on power sharing for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“Bilang bayan na may kolektibong layunin, nagpakita tayo ng pambihirang gilas ngayong taon sa kabila ng patung-patong na pagsubok na ating pinagdaanan. Talagang marami po tayong napagtagumpayan ngayong 2013 (As a nation with a collective vision, we have proven ourselves despite the challenges that came our way this year),” he said.
Belmonte, for his part, said: “The New Year has become a symbol of renewal in each of our lives. With the trials of the past year, including the devastation brought by natural calamities that have befallen us, I would like to think of 2014 as an opportunity for recovery and transformation for our country.”
He said the challenges that came along this year, including natural disasters, should be an opportunity “to pick ourselves up, and work doubly hard toward the reforms that we seek.”
“I am hopeful that from these trials we are able to draw greater strength, but they are constant reminders of our determination to achieve great change. Whatever political, religious or personal differences we may have, the love for country should be a shared focus, enough for us to work hand-in-hand for its continued development and for upholding the dignity of the Filipino,” he said.