Ledesma: My country today (second of three parts)


FIDEL Ramos came just in the nick of time to save NCR literally from total darkness. Biting the bullet, President Ramos entered into an onerous contract with Independent Power Producer (IPP) and agreed to buy whatever power generated by the IPP at a price that Metro Manila residents are still made to shoulder to the present.

The regime of Joseph Estrada, a movie actor and populist politician was abbreviated for his alleged involvement in a gambling scam. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over and restored the economic roadmap of the government. She was however hounded by electoral misconduct and a bunch of her cabinet members (also known as the Hyatt 10) who locked elbows demonstrating their loyalty to her before she said delivered that mellow-dramatic “I am sorry” phrase for calling a Comelec Commissioner at the height of the election. The following morning at the break of dawn all 10 jumped ship. She survived that in her presidency but she spent months in government and private hospital when she was indicted later. The cases filed against her were eventually dismissed too.

The election that followed placed Benigno Simeon Aquino III as a presidential bet. Her mother Cory died of cancer and the nation was mourning. From the dirge of the necrological march the excessively sentimental Filipinos elected another Aquino despite his zero performance as congressman and senator. His presidency was wrought with problems. It was the start of the era of decadence for the Philippines. Corruption was institutionalized and crime syndicates emerged unabated. It was bonanza for drug syndicates that enjoyed protection from the higher echelon of the police authority.

The lackadaisical attitude of the Aquino government is best illustrated in the statement of its secretary for the Department of Interior and Local Government which supervise both the Philippine National Police and local government units: “You can buy drugs anywhere in the country. If you want I can take you to Davao City or to Makati and show you where drugs can be purchased”. As he spoke, the national penitentiary was actually a virtual distribution point of drugs in the country with the drug inmates enjoying the perks with obvious tolerance of the Department of Justice that supervised it.

Public services too deteriorated. The Aquino functionaries changed rules, it entered into new contract for the supply of car plates which up to this time can hardly deliver. Supply of new train coaches from Czechoslovakia did not push through because of attempt of Presidential relatives to have a share of the pie of the supply contract.

Elsewhere, the tentacles of terrorist organizations like ISIS permeated the southern region of the Philippines where secessionist fronts lent haven to remnants of Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Queda. In one of what could be the classic idiocy in police operations aimed at capturing dead or alive a Malaysian terrorist and bomb-maker Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan, Aquino hatched a plan together with suspended Police Director Alan Purisima and dispatched 300 elite Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police to get the suspect. So massive was the force it cannot escape detection. While it succeeded in getting Marwan, it unnecessarily wasted the life of 44 SAF officers. Reason, the operations code named Oplan Exodus was kept secret from military forces which could have succored the SAF trapped in the firefight against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the MILF. Even when an SOS had been dispatched to the military forces nearby it was said that higher authorities ordered them to stand down.

So languid was the Aquino government in addressing terrorism in the country that an ISIS caliphate virtually had taken root in the Islamic City of Marawi. The Maute ISIS was joined in by the leader of another vicious terror band of Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, was installed as the Emir of the caliphate.

This was Philippines before Rodrigo Roa Duterte, an iron-willed mayor of Davao City became President. The country was in the edge of a failed state. It was a virtual narco state which even the Human Rights Watch had become so inured to. (To be continued)


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