PNoy, his critics and that trial balloon

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino’s National Heroes’ Day speech the other day can be considered a reflection of his current mindset. The speech was delivered on the same day his critics converged at the Rizal Park in Manila for two intentions: sign the people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system and lambast him in the harshest way possible.

“This is the fight that confronts us today. To remain vigilant against those who seek to sow doubt and lies; to stand firm and refuse to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who openly pretend at reform; to reject the crooked and resolve to stay on the straight path,” the President said in Tagalog.

The protesters were obviously in PNoy’s mind that day. What president wouldn’t be obsessed? For the first time since Aquino took office in 2010, the militants, the disempowered and the disgruntled found a way to unite with sectors that have legitimate grievances against his administration. The crowd was small when compared with People Power standards but the convergence attracted considerable attention.

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The response of PNoy and his minions was typical of beleaguered governments. Instead of addressing compelling concerns and separating those with legitimate grievance from forces with personal, political and ideological intentions, the Aquino administration circled the wagons, sort of. Instead of reaching out, it is girding for intensified battles.

In Monday’s protest action, what was the legitimate concern that the militants, the disempowered and the disgruntled rode on? It was the disdain by the well-intentioned many against the pork barrel system.

The Aquino administration apparently recognized that, but it chose to be insincere in dealing with the issue. It didn’t use the advice of an American legislator to the beleaguered Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, which is to “cut and cut cleanly.”

Consider what PNoy did:

--He refused to let go of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who is considered by many as the brains behind the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and who allocated portions of it to lawmakers like these were pork;

--He lambasted the Supreme Court (SC) instead of respecting its decision to declare portions of the DAP as illegal;

--He allowed Congress to hatch a new scheme for pork to be embedded in the country’s annual budget that Congress is tackling.

By refusing to budge from his position amid the controversies that have erupted around him, Aquino managed to make himself look bad even to some of his supporters and pushed the well-intentioned protesters into the embrace of the militants, the disempowered and the disgruntled.

Worse, Aquino and his people floated the trial balloon that is the lifting of term limits for president through charter change and thus to allow PNoy to run for another term. Opposition to that proposal is widespread and further alienated the President from many in the yellow crowd who fought the tyranny of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

With the trial balloon, PNoy looked no different from presidents before him who attempted to hold on to their acquired power. “Kapit-tuko,” as Tagalogs would describe it.

If Aquino wants to salvage its sagging image and take the wind out of the sail of the militants, the disempowered and the disgruntled, it must do what the well-intentioned wants him to, which is to “cut and cut cleanly” on the pork barrel and DAP issues, fire Abad and pop that trial balloon on the lifting of term limits with the “tuwid na daan” needle.

After that, he needs to focus on the all-important socio-economic programs in the last two
years of his term.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2014.

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