MANILLA - An ecumenical prayer by a Catholic bishop, Protestants, and a Muslim opened the first State-of-the-Nation address of the newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino lll.
During his presidential campaign, Aquino pledged to end poverty by first ending corruption.
In keeping with that theme, Aquino exposed irregularities allegedly committed by the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, most of which were misuse of government funds.
"Now is the time to end the extravagance of government officials and squandering the people's money," Aquino said.
He was shocked to learn that the previous administration had already spent 94 percent of the nation's $33 billion budget. Only $2 billion remains for the second half of the fiscal year.
Aquino said he believes a partnership with the public and private sectors is one way to help overcome the budget shortfall. He's also establishing a Truth Commission to investigate government corruption.
"We will hold murderers accountable. We will also hold those who are corrupt that work in government accountable for their actions," Aquino warned. "We will search for the truth of the alleged wrongdoing committed in the last nine years."
Hours before the State of the Nation address, thousands of protesters gathered in Manilla as close as they could get to the capitol building to put pressure on the new president.
They want to make sure their new president keeps his promises to stamp out corruption and end poverty in this nation. Thirty-three percent of the country's 92 million people live below the poverty rate.
God Must Save
While the intention of the address was to give hope to the country, Aquino said he realizes that his administration is limited in what it can do. The country must look to a higher power for help in solving the nation's problems.
"My firm belief is that our fate is in the hands of God and our people," he said. "While we focus on uplifting the lives of our fellow men, I have an unshakeable faith that Almighty God will give us blessings and support."
"If we remain firm in our belief that God is on our side," he said, "is there anything impossible for us to achieve?"