Aquino faces tough battle
BY JASON GUTIERREZ MANILA, June 29, 2011 (AFP) – Benigno Aquino won the Phil- ippine presidency on a battle cry to crush corruption and ease deep poverty, but a year into his term he is seen by many to be straining under the weight of his own promises. At a creek-side slum in the outskirts of Manila’s financial district
where Aquino was hugely popular during last year’s election, residents said his vow to lift them out of their misery appeared to have fallen by the wayside. “We thought we had found a savior, but one year after we voted for him to win, what do we have? Nothing,” said Jennifer San Gaspar, a 36-year-old mother of nine children. San Gaspar said she remained an Aquino supporter until a few months ago when she and her neighbors were turned away from a government welfare scheme that distributes billions of pesos to poor families on condition they get health checkups and the children go to school.
“They did not tell us why we were disqualified, the social worker who interviewed us never came back,” she said. “So here we are, nothing has changed. We are still poor.” San Gaspar’s sentiment is apparently shared by many across the impoverished nation as the 51-year-old bachelor president prepares to mark 12 months in office on Thursday with his popularity still high but dropping steadily.
After recording the biggest landslide win in Philippine election his-
tory, Aquino’s popularity rating dropped from a peak of 74 percent in November to 64 percent in June, pollster Social Weather Stations said. While his ratings are still relatively strong, analysts said the slide reflected disappointment that he had not done more to fulfill his chief campaign promises of eradicating corruption and ending poverty. Nevertheless, they pointed out that it was impossible for anyone to quickly fix the enormous economic and corruption problems that festered under his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, during her nine years in power.
“The bar was set very high for him, and from the very start the cards were stacked against him,” said Antonio Contreras, a political scientist at Manila’s De La Salle University.
“He was painted as a symbol of clean government, a hope for a country after a disastrous administration.”
Contreras said that while he was disappointed overall with Aquino’s first-year performance, the president had at least brought back a sense of ethics and professionalism in public service.
Aquino remains almost unanimously regarded as personally incor- ruptible and voters feel comfortable he will not use his six years in power to build a personal fortune.
This holds particular importance in the Philippines where leaders from national to village level have for decades sought to pilfer state coffers for personal benefit. Global corruption watchdog Transparency International, which ranks the Philippines as the 44th
most country in the world, rated his
administration’s first-year efforts an eight out 10. He has also proved his leadership mettle for many by standing up to the powerful Roman Catholic Church and backing a controversial reproductive health bill that seeks to promote the use of contracep- tives for the poor.
On the economic front, Aquino’s team has so far been given credit as solid managers, with global rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s recently upgrading their investment outlooks for the Philippines. ■
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Aquino grateful to Hillary Clinton
MANILA, June 29 (Mabu- hay) – President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is grateful for the encouraging remarks made by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the Philip- pine government’s efforts against human trafficking. In a press statement Wednes-
day, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Clinton’s statements were “of particular significance as they come from a committed advocate of liberating persons from the evils of human trafficking.”’ Lacierda said Aquino intends to write a letter to thank Clinton for her remarks.
In an interview with CNN
Tuesday, Clinton cited the Phil- ippines as among “the countries that have made a lot of progress” in the campaign.
for praising PHL efforts vs human traffi ck- “Look at what the Philippines have done in a change of adminis- tration,” Clinton told Jim Clancy of CNN International’s Freedom Project.
in Persons Hero Award.
“The Philippines probably ex- port more people of their citizenry than nearly any other country in the world. They go all over the world to work in many different settings,” Clinton said.
“Until the new administration of President Aquino, we didn’t really have the level of commit- ment we were seeking. We do now, and we see a sea change of difference,” Clinton added. Trafficking in Persons Hero award
Meanwhile, Malacañang also commended Darlene Pajarito, Assistant Zamboanga City Pros- ecutor, for receiving the US State Department’s Global Trafficking
“Justice must be done, not only swiftly, but successfully. Atty. Pajarito’s efforts are proof that with official support, inves- tigatory thoroughness and zeal, the filing of cases can result in convictions,” Lacierda said. Lacierda also urged the people to keep working together against human trafficking.
“Government and civil society, the bureaucracy and the citizenry, together, can help make sure that no person works under conditions or circumstances that are against their will,” he said.
The United States on Monday removed the Philippines, which used to belong to Tier 2, from a human trafficking watchlist that drew concerns from the close allies, but it reported persistent abuses around Asia. ■
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