When Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. was asked what made President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III change his mind about amending the Philippine Constitution and pursuing a term extension, he said, “What is essential for the President is to know the sentiments of his ‘bosses,’ the Filipino people. He will continue to listen to them so he will know their views on how to ensure that the reforms and transformation that he has begun will continue and will become permanent.” But what reforms had he instituted that are beneficial to good governance?
If there is one reform that is direly needed, it is the Freedom of Information (FOI), which P-Noy had consistently refused to certify as “urgent” legislation. If he stays in power beyond his six-year term, then FOI would presumably remain in limbo, which begs the question: Is he scared of FOI? If so, why?
Another reform that is as important as FOI is the repeal or revision of the bank secrecy law and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA) that have provided untouchable “safe havens” for corrupt officials, jueteng lords, drug dealers, and other criminals to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
That, in a nutshell, is what’s at the center of a whirlwind of debate over whether the Constitution should be amended to give Aquino a second chance to run for president.
If P-Noy was really serious – and sincere – about stamping out corruption, he must have an FOI, which, if enacted into law, would remove the firewall that is shielding corrupt officials and criminals from the reach of the law.
If P-Noy wanted to listen to his “bosses,” then he should look at the polls taken in the aftermath of the pork barrel scandals. He should also listen to the social media “chatter,” which provides a great deal of straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth critique; thus, giving him an accurate measure of the people’s sentiments. He should – nay, must! — go out and rub shoulders with the poor and hungry and feel their “pulse,” and perhaps even taste the pagpag that his “bosses” eat to survive from day to day.
But after four years of P-Noy’s imperial presidency, things really haven’t changed much, which reminds me of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s famous epigram in 1849: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Indeed, the changes that P-Noy brag about is like a bucket of water: you kick the bucket and the water pours out — gone. They’re nothing more than empty slogans like his oft-repeated mantra, “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (“No corruption, no poverty”), which has become the butt of jokes in the social media. Indeed, his much-touted crusade against corruption is now just another public relations exercise intended to keep the people’s hopes high while lawmakers ransack the treasury.
What is sad is that these lawmakers plundered the people’s money right under P-Noy’s watch. But what makes this whole charade so despicable is that the money the lawmakers stole was from the bloated pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that P-Noy created. These funds were supposed to be used for projects endorsed by members of Congress for the benefit of their constituents. But as the ongoing investigation into the pork barrel scam had revealed, more than P10 billion had been skimmed off the top and pocketed by lawmakers in cahoots with Janet Lim-Napoles, the notorious “pork barrel queen.” To date, three senators are in detention for the non-bailable charge of plunder. More are under investigation.
Since his presidency began, P-Noy had consistently been rated “Good” or “Very Good.” But a SWS survey taken last June 27-30, 2014 showed that P-Noy’s net overall performance rating had dipped to +29 or “Moderate,” which is down from the +45 or “Good” rating in the first quarter of 2014. But a closer look at the numbers further reveal “tectonic” slippage in P-Noy’s ratings on specific issues. For “Ensuring that no family will be hungry,” P-Noy was rated -9 (“Neutral”); “Fighting inflation” -18 (Poor); “Ensuring oil firms don’t take advantage of oil prices” -19 (Poor); and “Resolving Maguindanao massacre case with justice” -44 (Bad).
For the first time, P-Noy’s net performance hit the “Poor” and “Bad” ratings, which doesn’t bode well with his “bosses.” As to P-Noy’s desire to run for a second term, an ANC survey of business leaders shows that 71% oppose the idea. The question is: Who are those who want P-Noy to run for a second term?
Various sectors have voiced out their opposition to a P-Noy extended term. The groups that favor P-Noy running for a second term are his Liberal Party mates, his “KKK” cronies – Kaibigan (friends), Kaklase (classmates), and Kabarilan (shooting buddies) – and his relatives; which makes one wonder, why?
The answer to this question is obvious. These are the people who benefit from their association with P-Noy, politically and economically.
P-Noy has to make a choice. Would he listen to his “bosses” who don’t want him to run or to the “voices” of his cronies that are much louder – and more influential — than his “bosses”?
At the end of the day, politics is all about power. And power corrupts.