Aquino says he's ridding Philippines of apathy

AP News
Posted: Jun 30, 2011 8:32 AM
Aquino says he's ridding Philippines of apathy

President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday his greatest achievement during the first year in office is changing the Philippines' national attitude from resignation and apathy, as he vowed no mercy in cracking down on corruption.

Aquino said in a speech that his administration was already achieving better results for the Philippines, including improving the economy and battling corruption.

The son of late democracy icon and former President Corazon Aquino has kept his approval ratings high _ between 60 percent and 70 percent. His landslide election victory is credited to his clean image, family legacy and a program to uplift the poor through a vigorous anti-corruption drive in the bureaucracy and greater budget allocations for social services.

He succeeded Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was tainted by corruption scandals and faced down several coup attempts during her nine years in power.

"The greatest achievement, in my view, is the transformation in the attitude of the people. Previously it was resignation, rejection and apathy ... but now, so many people are getting involved so that we may be able to reach a better place," he said.

In a June 17 interview with The Associated Press, Aquino said, "I think we've done quite well in the first year" and acknowledged "there are so many things yet to do."

Arroyo has denied allegations that she condoned graft and earlier this week hit back at Aquino, saying he lacked leadership and eroded her gains.

Aquino has previously said he would back prosecuting Arroyo and her allies for alleged wrongdoings. Last month, he accepted the resignation of the government's anti-graft prosecutor, an Arroyo ally, and is expected to name a replacement.

Tax evasion charges have been filed against Arroyo's son, a lawmaker, and his wife, which they deny.

"A year has just passed. Do we all remember what we went through?" Aquino asked Thursday. "The highest hope then was for one to get a visa to be able to work outside the country."

He reiterated his election slogan that without corruption there will be less poverty. "Good governance will result in direct benefits to the people, especially the poor," he said.

"Our goal is clear and we will follow the straight road to get there. The services intended for you will reach you: They will not line the pockets of those who want to rule us but in reality have no substance."

Analyst Ramon Casiple said Aquino has not yet achieved any big results but has consolidated power at the end of his learning curve. "He is poised to achieve dramatic results, particularly in anti-corruption, anti-poverty and the rest of the governance field," he said.

Meanwhile, police broke up a demonstration near the Labor Department by left-wing groups protesting what they said was a failure of Aquino to fulfill his promise of uplifting the poor. Dozens of protesters regrouped and marched to the presidential palace but were stopped by anti-riot police.