By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The race for the top position in the land has finally ended: Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino was proclaimed on June 9 as the 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines. Sen. Aquino, son of former president Cory Aquino, is succeeding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, daughter of former president Diosdado Macapagal.
Aquino was a late entrant in the race. He only joined the race after the Filipino people came out en masse during Cory’s funeral to accompany her to her resting place and to show their indignation over the Arroyo government. The Aquino/Liberal Party camp capitalized on this. The Aquino campaign was packaged as a fight between good and evil, the corrupt and the clean. It tried to reprise the fight between the dictator Marcos and the innocent wife-victim Cory in 1986. It was not difficult to do so as Arroyo was, by then, so isolated because of the numerous corruption and bribery scandals her family was involved in and the indignation over the spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.
However, the magic of the situation began to lose its luster by the early part of 2010 when Sen. Manny Villar began to catch up. It was then that a demolition job against Villar seemed to have intensified. There was the revival of the Senate investigation over the alleged C-5 budget insertion, the expose’ of the alleged landgrabbing case involving Villar’s real estate company, the questioning of Villar’s claim that he came from a poor family, and the “Villarroyo” accusation –the floating of the rumor that Villar was the real candidate of Arroyo – which was, perhaps, the most damaging of all. After this, while Aquino’s ratings did not surge, Villar’s ratings went down.
By the tail-end of the campaign period, the presidential race could no longer be characterized as a fight between good and evil. There was no question about it, Arroyo was on the way out – the US made it clear that it would not tolerate her last-ditch efforts to stay in power – and her official candidate Gilbert Teodoro did not have even an iota of a chance to bag the presidency. It was merely a choice between the many candidates who packaged themselves as the opposite of Arroyo. Thus, even as Aquino won by more than 5 million votes, he did not get the vote of the majority of the Filipino people. The final canvass of votes for president showed that 15,208,678 out of the 50,000,000 registered voters voted for him or around 30 percent. If based on the 32,225,248 votes cast for president, Aquino got 47 percent.
Now as in 1986, people are clamoring for change. The difference is that since Cory got a clear mandate from the majority of the Filipino people, she was given leeway to take her time in instituting changes for as long as there would be no return to martial rule. With Noynoy, since majority of the Filipino people did not vote for him, they would be observing his decisions, policies and programs more closely and the clamor to institute changes now would ring louder. Also, compared to the time when Cory Aquino took over the reins of government, the situation of the Filipino people is worse now. The second Aquino administration would be confronting a worse economic and political crisis, poverty, unemployment and underemployment situation.
The June 11 editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) censured Fernando Hicap of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya for criticizing the initial appointments of Aquino, specifically his announcement that he intends to appoint Alberto Lim of the Makati Business Club. Hicap was quoted as saying that with the impending appointment of Lim, the Aquino administration would be playing the game of big business. The PDI editorial defended Aquino’s choice citing three reasons: first, the “economically deterministic view” of Hicap, which it further described as a “a historically discredited one,” is not reflected in Aquino’s campaign platform; second, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint people whom he trusts, especially since Aquino wants to make sure that members of his official family would not commit corruption; and third, in so many words, it said that since it was safe to assume that Hicap did not vote for Aquino, he should shut up.
What kind of reasoning is this?
The change that the Filipino people are clamoring for is not necessarily limited to Aquino’s platform. Latest surveys revealed that the Filipino people’s optimism rose with the advent of a new administration. It means that the people expect a change for the better in their lives. With the outgoing Arroyo administration, the country experienced its highest growth rates in the Gross Domestic Product , an increase in corporate profitability and an increase in workers’ productivity. However, as independent think tank Ibon Foundation pointed out , these were accompanied by the longest-running double-digit unemployment and underemployment rates, the lowest increase in workers’ real wages since the Cory Aquino administration, and the worst poverty and hunger rates. And these problems could not be attributed solely to corruption. Also, an increase in business profitability does not result in or may even run counter to an increase in wages and employment, unless there is a major change in the direction and orientation of the country’s economy.
Second, even as it is the president’s prerogative to choose his Cabinet, it does not necessarily mean that it could not be scrutinized and criticized by the public.
Third, even if Hicap or Maria or Juan did not vote for Aquino, they still have a voice in a democracy. They still have every right to demand for change for the betterment of their lives. They still could put forward suggestions on how they think the government should be run. Likewise, they could also criticize the decisions of the government. Is this not part of the political pluralism that the PDI is advocating?
The expectations for change on the second Aquino administration are high. Not only because Aquino ran under the slogan of change, but, more importantly, the outgoing Arroyo government brought the country to such depths of poverty and crisis that nothing less than a major and radical reorientation and restructuring of the political, economic and social systems and processes of the country would enable us to rise from the quagmire we are currently in. A mere change of guards would not suffice nor would a reduction in incidences of brazen corruption. It could not simply implement the same policies and programs that were pursued by the outgoing administration, even without Arroyo,
When the first Aquino administration of Cory took over Marcos, the people expected it to dismantle the dictatorship and restore the people’s formal democratic rights. Thus, the people were more understanding of Cory even when it became clear that there would be no substantial change in the people’s lives. The outpouring of grief during her funeral showed that the Filipino people still admired her for what she and her administration have done.
However, the second Aquino administration has no other task but to ensure that justice and the betterment of the lives of the Filipino would be attained. If it fails, there would be no Arroyo or martial law to blame, it would be its own undoing. (Bulatlat.com)