By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – With preparations for the inauguration of incoming President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on June 30 still in its final stages, people’s organizations and the whole nation are already expecting so much from him.
Will he really take the righteous path and start a new government in contrast to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year rule?
Pagbabago! said Aquino’s first 100 days will be crucial as it will reveal the priorities of and set the tone for the new government. Promising that he would bring about change if elected, Aquino raised the expectations of the people. The group said it is just reasonable to ask for tangible steps that would provide hope to the Filipino people during his first three months in office.
But where should the Aquino administration start?
Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the people should not forget the many problems that the Arroyo administration would leave behind.
In a round table discussion, June 18, Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change and De La Salle University’s Committee for National Concerns have put forward “exhaustive but doable” proposals Aquino must implement during his first 100 days.
Justice, Peace and Good governance
For his first 100 days, Pagbabago! said, Aquino should see to it that Arroyo should be prosecuted. Reyes said if Aquino will be true to his word – despite the extension of the term of the Ombudsman Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez, a known ally of Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo – he should start the investigation on the cases involving the Arroyo family immediately.
Pagbabago! said, for starters, the new government should investigate the massive electoral fraud committed by Arroyo during the 2004 presidential elections. It should also investigate the numerous corruption scandals involving the Arroyo administration and the president’s family.
Pagbabago! said Arroyo should also be prosecuted and investigated for the 1,195 cases of extrajudicial killings, 205 enforced disappearances and more than a thousand cases of illegal arrests and torture. Her military cohorts, especially former Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan who was involved in many cases of human rights violations in the course of the implementation of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, should also be prosecuted and investigated, Pagababago said. The Aquino administration should also put a stop to this bloody counterinsurgency program, added Pagbabago.
The group also said the incoming Aquino administration should transmit the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the Philippine Senate for ratification. The Philippines participated in the drafting of the 1998 Rome Statute, which was signed by deposed president Joseph Estrada in December 2000. The ICC aims to investigate and conduct hearings on international crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Arroyo, however, has not submitted the document to the Philippine Senate for ratification.
Pagbabago is urging the Aquino administration to order an independent investigation on the May 10 elections to “address doubts on the credibility of the automated polls and to convincingly resolve all questions on the legitimacy of the Aquino presidency.” Comelec officials and Smartmatic, said the group, should also be held accountable for the problems that occurred on election day. Dr. Giovanni Tapang of Kontra Daya and Agham noted that there were five million disenfranchised voters due to delays on election day itself and yet, the government still intends to pay P 7.2 billion (USD 1.6 million) to Smartmatic despite the problematic machines it deployed. Tapang also said the abrupt increase in the number of votes cast for the presidency during the May 10 elections raises questions but nobody is raising it unlike in the race for vice president.
According to Pagbabago!, Aquino should not appoint to the Cabinet, as well as to the military and police leadership, people who have unresolved cases of graft and corruption and human rights violations.
The incoming Aquino administration should also resume the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as well as with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). This is to provide a venue for discussions and acting on comprehensive and extensive social and economic reforms urgently needed by the Filipino people. As a confidence-building and goodwill measure, Pagbabago! said, the Aquino administration must immediately and unconditionally free all political prisoners, including the Morong 43 and drop the trumped up charges against them.
The group also challenged the Aquino administration to suspend the implementation of all ongoing or planned military operations, exercises, trainings, projects and other activities involving the US troops under the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). They said the new government should initiate the process of withdrawing the VFA as well as the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and investigate reports of human rights abuses committed by the US troops, including the death of Gregan Cardeno.
The incoming Aquino administration should repeal Republic Act 9377 or the VAT Reform Law. Reyes said Aquino should not add to the people’s burden by imposing new taxes.
The group also challenged Aquino to scrap the impending 250 percent increase in toll fees being charged at the South Luzon Express Way, which is scheduled for implementation on June 30, the day of his inauguration.