Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 June 2016 


How do we evaluate the performance of the Aquino administration in as objective a manner as possible? If we depend on the opposition’s evaluation, we get all the negatives. If we depend on the administration’s evaluation, we are sure to get only the positives. That’s certainly what was going on during the election period, and one did not even have the comfort of knowing whether the “facts” either camp was mouthing were accurate or not.

But there is a surefire way of making the evaluation: the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA)’s StatDev, short for Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development. It is described as “a statistical indicator system to monitor the achievement of the economic and social development goals set forth in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2010-2016. It provides a comparison of actual sectoral accomplishments with the corresponding targets indicated in the PDP 2011-2016 Results Matrices, capturing the midterm updates, many of which were provided by respective agencies, for easier appreciation by planners, evaluators, and other stakeholders.”

And what are the Results Matrices? These are the contribution of the late Dondon Paderanga to the planning process. These contain the targets for roughly 223 indicators (I didn’t count; I am taking it on faith) covering the nine chapters of the PDP—macroeconomy, industry, agriculture, infrastructure, financial system, good governance and rule of law, social development, peace and security, and environment and natural resources.

Pity that the PSA website doesn’t give as much emphasis on StatDev as it does the National Accounts, or the Poverty Statistics, or the MDG Watch, as it took me a while to locate the data. More pity that only 151 of the 223 indicators have updates to 2014. And the worst of the lot is that the monitoring is sadly wanting, because the latest update is for the first quarter of 2015. Question: How does this delay in information availability impact on the usefulness of StatDev?

I have been trying to reach my very respected colleague, Deputy National Statistician Josie Perez, who is in charge of this particular effort, but there is no answer on both her phones. It turns out she is in New York. I hope StatDev is updated before July 1, which is when the new administration takes over. It is, after all, the end of the 2011-2016 plan period of the PDP. And the PSA’s credibility should be upheld, by doing monitoring in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Good Governance, of which I am nominal head (Nene Guevara is de facto), will try its best to do the final evaluation of P-Noy’s administration before July 1. He will be judged against what he set out to do, which is, of course, all in the PDP.

I am assuming that the National Economic and Development Authority will come up with a successor plan (2017-2022). My guess is that it is working on it already, subject of course to incoming Director General Ernie Pernia’s comments, suggestions and instructions. It usually starts off with an evaluation of the previous plan.

But what has to be emphasized at this point is that if a comparison were to be made, Rodrigo Duterte’s 8-point agenda and P-Noy’s 16-point agenda are really very similar. The one big difference is that the Duterte agenda includes plans to amend our Constitution—i.e., addressing its “restrictive” economic provisions in order to “ensure attractiveness of the Philippines to foreign direct investments.” Of course, it turns out that the proposed amendments to the Constitution will include federalism and, God forbid, a parliamentary form of government.

I sincerely hope that neither of these will come to pass, as amending the Constitution is not necessary to ensure more foreign direct investments (FDI). The Constitution of China is more restrictive than ours, and yet it is the largest recipient of FDI. Neither is it necessary to achieve the objective of giving local governments a greater share in resources; all we have to do is amend the Local Government Code. No one in the Duterte camp is talking about a parliamentary form, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it (but it will ensure the continuation of feudalism, in the form of political dynasties). Surely Duterte knows that a constitutional convention, once in place, acquires a life of its own and cannot be dictated to, unless the president is a dictator, like Ferdinand Marcos.

So let’s concentrate on the similarities. Duterte’s agenda starts with “continue and maintain the current macroeconomic policies” and ends with “expand and improve the implementation of the CCT program.” Which essentially means that Duterte’s PDP 2017-2022 will really mean a tweaking of the Aquino PDP 2011-2016, meaning that some of the indicators may get more attention (say, land administration and management), and others will get less. The question now is: Has the incoming team had a chance to peruse the old plan? Because that’s what it needs to do.

This is far from saying that the Aquino Plan is the be-all and end-all of Plans. The fact that there are 233 indicators, of which only 151 have actually been monitored, gives a starting point for the new administration to add, or to subtract. But the new administration has to know what has been done, and what more needs to be done. Establish a baseline, if you will. And if the new team is not keen on reading a 9-chapter PDP (337 pages), it can at least read the much shorter Results Matrices (89 pages—91 if you include P-Noy’s 16-point agenda for reference).

How about it, folks?