MANILA, Philippines - Delivered in straight Filipino, lawmakers say President Benigno Aquino III's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) was brief, direct and seemingly devoid of rhetoric, and effective.
Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Monday night, while President Aquino trained his sights on safe and non-controversial measures, leaders from both chambers of Congress believe his SONA targets were realistic and well within reach.
"He's taking advantage of being able to connect with people, and if he's able to explain the problem in clear language that the people understand, I think the people will be willing to accept," says House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III.
House Deputy Speaker Ma. Isabel Climaco says the President sufficiently elaborated the agenda of Mindanao.
"We fought hard against the non-inclusion of our cities in the Bangsamoro MOA-AD [Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain]. The President has admitted it will be a priority in the executive department, and we in Congress and the Senate hope to support these initiatives towards peace in Mindanao," she says.
Noting how carefully chosen the measures were, Senate majority floor leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto says the bills outlined by the President are achievable.
"This is a president that has political will. That's how I see it. He just has to deliver. I'm confident he will deliver. We can grade him better than 9 next year," Sotto says.
Aquino mentioned putting a priority to measures like the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, the Procurement Law, Anti-Trust Law, National Land Use Bill, National Defense Act, Whistleblowers' Bill, Witness Protection Program in his legislative agenda.
Tañada says many of these bills which had been filed before would not likely encounter much problems at the committee level.
With lawmakers jointly supporting Aquino's priorities, Tañada believes it's even possible to pass these bills during Aquino's first year.
"He's doing the smart thing on identifying bills that are non-partisan which he believes can pass both chambers of Congress which he immediately needs. These proposed bills were previously filed and because there's unity now in both chambers of congress, we're all supporting President Aquino. Maybe before the next SONA, majority of measures he mentioned would've passed."
Impeachment complaint vs Ombudsman
Tañada adds that while the lower house has yet to take-up Akbayan's impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, there may be enough numbers to see it through the chamber. Eighty-nine votes are needed to transmit the complaint from the House to the Senate.
"We have not met or discussed the issue. We have to study the allegations of the complaint. We have to find out if it's just a rehash of the old one or there are new issues to tackle. We leave it to the members of the coalition, not only the Liberal Party, to discuss and decide. There's more than 50, probably a little more than 89. We'll continue to have consultations and discuss the issue closely," Tañada says.
Climaco adds they will have to further take up the matter of form and substance in their caucuses.
Amid the mention of alleged anomalies involving various government agencies, Sotto says some of the details raised in the SONA could be elaborated in the budget hearing.
President Aquino had identified a depleted Calamity Fund, anomalies in the National Power Corp., the National Food Authority, the Metro Rail Transit, the Road User's Fund, negotiated contracts, bloated salaries of the board of members in the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
No real minority in Congress
Sotto, meantime, downplayed concerns over the seeming lack of a real minority in Congress under a Liberal Party-led administration.
"When you have guys like Joker Arroyo, Serge Osmeña and Juan Ponce Enrile, you don't need more fiscalizers," Sotto says.
In the lower house, Tañada says House minority floor leader Edcel Lagman, an ally of former President and now Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo, plans to refute many of the President's statements on Tuesday during the counter-SONA.