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Quo Vadis, P-Noy?

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Ten months into his presidency, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III seems like he’s lost in the jungle of Pinoy politics where the dynamics are constantly changing.  As an avid shooting enthusiast, he knows that it’s difficult to lock the crosshairs on a distant and moving target.  So, he’s left with one option: take the offensive and attack in close combat.   And attack he did.

*Word war

First, he declared war against Ombudsman Merceditas “Merci” Gutierrez.  No sooner had it reached the broadsheets, the opposition counter attacked, saying, “Noy wants war, war he’ll get!”  And this is where the word war had taken a sharp turn drawing into the fray no less than ex-president and now congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself who claimed that the country has now a “vacuum of leadership” under P-Noy.  Gloria also accused P-Noy’s administration of being obsessed in “demonizing” her.  But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte was quick to belie Gloria’s claim, saying, “We just cannot avoid addressing the problems we inherited from her when President Benigno Aquino III assumed office last June 30.” Touché!

With Gloria deeply embroiled in a word war with P-Noy, the battleground is set for the grand battles ahead, beginning with the Senate trial on the impeachment of Merci, which is scheduled to start on May 9, 2011.

P-Noy’s political future might hinge on Merci’s impeachment trial.  If Merci were impeached, then P-Noy would be ready to take the final offensive against Gloria; otherwise, his anti-corruption campaign might take a severe setback.  Indeed, it could be so severe that it could bring his anti-corruption crusade to shambles and usher in the return of the corrupt dynasties for a clean sweep of the elections in 2016. 

*SWS surveys

With P-Noy’s recent Social Weather Station (SWS) “favorable” rating down by five percent (from 74% to 69%) and his “unfavorable” rating doubling (from 9% to 18%) with a net rating of 51%, he has to change his strategy if he wants to achieve the Pagbabago (change) that he promised during the campaign last year.

Although he made an impressive progress in revving up the economy – the GDP per capita has doubled in the past 10 years to $2,000! -- he has yet to address the plight of the poor.  Hunger continues to be the biggest obstacle in the fight against poverty.  Under his watch, 20.5%( up from 15.9%) of respondents experienced hunger in the past three months while 51% (up from 48%) considered themselves to be poor.  However, hunger and poverty have been prevalent for at least the past decade.  

The danger that P-Noy faces is if he can’t find a way to alleviate the suffering of the poor, then the poor could turn – in desperation -- to a false “messiah” in the 2016 election, who would hammer in the argument that the 1986 EDSA people power revolution failed and that the people were better off before the “Yellow Army” took over the land.  It’s an effective populist demagoguery -- give hope to the hopeless -- that panders to the emotions of the powerless poor.

Indeed, when people find themselves aimlessly wandering in the wilderness of hopelessness, they’re prone to fall prey to charlatans peddling snake oil to cure the social ills of the country.  And, yes, they’re already out there. Some have already gone to the extent of repackaging and waxing over the “failures” of the past into bright “promises” of the future.  And if you were poor and hungry, wouldn’t you take it?    

*Corruption

P-Noy needs to remember that he was overwhelmingly elected on his campaign promise, “Walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty).  Although he kept on telling the people that he’s going after corrupt officials in his government as well as those in the previous administration, not much has been done, which make people wonder if he is really serious about fighting corruption.  His cry of “Heads will roll!” is beginning to sound like a broken record.  Indeed, heads have yet to roll.

P-Noy had a chance to prove that he was serious about fighting corruption when his “shooting buddy,” Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, was accused of receiving payola from jueteng lords.  Many believe that Puno was corrupt to the bone.  When Puno publicly offered to resign from his position, P-Noy should have accepted it without batting an eye.  Instead, he reaffirmed his unqualified confidence and told him to stay.  Since then Puno has stealthily performed in his job, quietly laying low out of the range of the media’s radar.  However, his “phantom” existence in a sensitive government post makes people wonder why P-Noy would still keep him like an albatross around his neck. 

Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended that Land Transportation Office (LTO) Chief Virginia Torres be suspended for the failed takeover of Stradcom, the sole information technology service provider of LTO.  In addition, DOJ also recommended that administrative charges be filed against her.  Some people also suggested that she takes a leave of absence.  Instead, P-Noy told Torres – she is also one of P-Noy’s “shooting buddies” -- to stay on.  A few days ago, however, he finally told her to take a two-month leave of absence.  But why only two months?  Is it because Torres is a member of the politically powerful Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), which threw its support behind P-Noy’s presidential bid last year?

*Poverty

In my article, “Rx for Poverty and Corruption” (Global Balita, December 9, 2005), I wrote: “A study made by Management Systems International in Washington, DC, in 2003, has concluded: ‘Corruption has direct consequences on economic and government factors, intermediaries that in turn produce poverty.’ The study produced two models. On the one hand, the ‘economic model’ postulates that corruption affects poverty by first impacting economic growth factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces economic growth which would increase poverty.’ On the other hand, the ‘government model’ asserts that corruption affects poverty by first influencing governance factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces governance capacity which would increase poverty.’ ”

*Discipline

If P-Noy really wants to eradicate corruption and poverty, then he should – nay, must – impose harsh discipline at all levels of the government.  Indeed, it can be said: “If poverty is the fever and corruption is the disease; then, the prescription is discipline.”

If P-Noy has to clean up his house of corruption, he should start with the “housekeepers,” some of who are his personal friends, before he could truly sanitize the entire house of the “disease.”

At the end of the day, P-Noy holds the key to achieving the ideals of EDSA 1.  While it’s sad that real progress and change were stalled when the sham EDSA 2 catapulted Gloria to power in 2001, the prospect for change and real reforms has never been brighter than in P-Noy’s presidency. 

If he wants to be an effective and respected leader, he must follow the dictum: “Loved by his friends, feared by his enemies.”  Indeed, his friends will always respect him; but to his enemies, their respect will only come with fear.

By Perry Diaz




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