Much needs to be done, admits Palace

President Benigno Aquino presides over a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Friday, June 29, 2012. The meeting is about budget preparations for next year.

MANILA — Malacañang sees the people’s positive attitude toward government as President Benigno Aquino III’s biggest achievement in his first two years in office, but acknowledges that many problems remain and could well be the biggest obstacle for the administration.

And while more needs to be accomplished in the remaining four years of his presidency, Mr. Aquino is not by any means considering ways for his term to be extended beyond 2016, according to deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“The greatest setback could be that we still have more to do. There’s still much to be done. The President is very conscious of the period that he has been given—six years, no more, no less. And that’s what we’re looking at,” Valte told state-run dzRB radio.

“There is so much to be done, yet too little time. We are trying to see what action will have maximum impact in the four years that the President has [left],” she said.

But Valte was emphatic that the President would not consider a term extension.
“No, no! The President is aware that it’s six years. As I said earlier, no more, no less,” she said.

Asked what remains to be done, Valte said: “Remember the goal is not just to lessen corruption or to take it out completely but to make reforms systemic. It cannot be that reforms would only be for six years, and then for the next, they would no longer be done.”

“We want to make the change as systemic as possible. Now we can see that we are part of the open governance project. Our budget is very transparent. We now see where the people’s money is being spent,” she said.

Valte said the reforms have to be so widespread and well-entrenched that they couldn’t be just set aside after the end of the Aquino administration.

“What is the biggest achievement so far? It’s the change in the mind-set of our people. The people are more open to the reforms being pursued by the government,” she said.

“Our countrymen are now more engaged not just online but we can already see this in several levels of engagement which shows that there is now a shift in attitude towards government as a partner and not as an oppressor,” she added.

The President marked his second year as Chief Executive on Saturday. He assumed office on June 30, 2010, after winning a landslide victory in the 2010 presidential elections.

Apart from an official Palace statement on the second anniversary, no other public activities were laid out to mark the milestone.

One significant event, however, was a full Cabinet meeting that Mr. Aquino called on Friday to discuss with his officials the proposed P2.006-trillion national budget for 2013.

Valte was almost euphoric that the meeting that reportedly started at 1.30 p.m. lasted past 8 p.m.

“These two years have been marked by genuine, meaningful change—in the way government is run, in the way our country is viewed by the international community, and in the way we aspire and view our own futures,” Valte said in a prepared statement on the anniversary.

“No longer is the Filipino mired in paralysis and despair; he has seen the seemingly difficult tasks achieved, and is one with the government in creating a society that is truly just, prosperous and equitably progressive,” she said.

However, progressive groups said child labor and the situation of the youth grew worse during the first two years of the Aquino administration.

From the 2.4 million child laborers in April 2010, the number has grown to 5.5 million today, said the Akap Bata party-list group.

This was proof of the administration’s failure to root out poverty and its negligence in providing education, shelter and other social services to Filipino children, Akap Bata said.

Anakbayan, the national organization of young workers and professionals, peasants, out-of-school and community youth and students, denounced Mr. Aquino for the “worsening condition” of the youth and people under his watch.

“Aquino and his personnel in Malacañang should be dismissed as nothing but delusional. They perceive and portray reality differently from ordinary Filipinos. Poverty, hunger and unemployment continue to rise even as the economy has ‘grown’,” said Anakbayan national chair Vencer Crisostomo.

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