As we usher in a new year a day from now, the Marcos Jr. administration must focus on accelerating economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the Philippine economy to its knees for nearly three years.
High oil prices of basic necessities and consumer goods have led to inflation levels that keep many poor Filipinos unable to survive difficult economic circumstances.
It faces the awesome challenge of creating more jobs and livelihood opportunities and implementing infrastructure programs at a faster pace in the coming year and beyond to move the economy forward.
In the political sphere, Marcos Jr. should work towards uniting the nation behind a program of governance aimed at stopping corruption in its tracks.
The government must bring criminal charges against those alleged to have stolen from the national treasury.
If the World Bank has already warned that roughly one-fourth of the annual national budget is likely to be lost to corruption, then the new administration should take draconian measures against public officials deemed incorrigibly corrupt.
Concern has been raised, for instance, over billions of pesos in confidential or intelligence funds in the proposed budgets of some government offices that are not subject to scrutiny by the Commission on Audit.
We ask: Where will the money go? With no auditing of such funds, then these could well end up in the pockets of a lucky few.
Marcos Jr. has vowed to continue the war on drugs, but with focus on the big-time drug lords, not the street dealers, and on rehabilitation and treatment of drug dependents.
Law enforcement and rehabilitation and treatment are two sides of the same coin that should address both the supply and the demand aspects of the problem of illegal drugs.
The National Security Adviser had earlier recommended the resumption of peace negotiations with the communist-led National Democratic Front to end the 54-year-old armed rebellion.
This might be the opportune time for the government to do so with the recent passing of Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines that leads the New People’s Army as well as the National Democratic Front.
As things now stand, the government appears determined to stop the rebellion by launching all-out war in the countryside, not through political negotiations.
The rational thing to do is for both sides to face each other across the negotiating table and hammer out differences to find common ground.
The resumption of face-to-face classes with the much-improved COVID-19 situation is another positive development in the past year.
But much remains to be done to ensure that vital social services such as education and health are given priority by the government at both the national and local levels.
The new administration is taking the correct step in emphasizing an independent foreign policy.
But will the Marcos Jr. administration take a strong stand against Chinese incursions in our Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea?
The challenge for the new administration is to achieve lasting political stability, sustained economic growth and social harmony in the next five-and-a half years.
That will require a clear vision for the future that succeeding administrations can build upon.
Can the Marcos administration rise to the challenge of securing a future for the nation anchored on the rule of law, inclusive growth and participatory democracy?
At this juncture, perhaps we need to remember what the national hero Jose Rizal once said: “Governments are established for the welfare of the people, and in order to accomplish this purpose properly, they have to follow the suggestions of the citizens who are the ones best qualified to understand their own needs.”
Lawyers’ groups condemn attacks
Lawyers are up in arms over the killing of their compañeros.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines–Negros Occidental chapter has strongly condemned the fatal shooting of Atty. Danny Pondevilla last December 20 in Bacolod City.
The group called on the police to exert every legal means to identify the suspect and to bring the perpetrator to justice as “an assault on any member of the legal profession is an assault on the entire community (of lawyers).”
“We will continue to be vigilant. We will continue to pursue our goal to let the rule of law prevail,” the lawyers’ group said.
This is by no means an isolated case.
Last November, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers asked the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland to hold the Philippine government accountable for the continuing attacks against lawyers, prosecutors and judges in the country.
NUPL said 59 out of the 133 lawyers, judges and prosecutors who had been killed since 1984 were attacked during the previous administration.
But the group lamented that the harassment of lawyers and judges “has gone unabated” under the new administration.
“We urge UN Human Rights Council member-states to compel the government to stop committing human rights violations against Filipino human rights defenders,” the NUPL said.
“These attacks on officers of the court have to stop once and for all,” they added, and urged the government “to conduct transparent, independent and impartial investigations” of the killings and to ensure that those responsible will be brought to justice.