By BENJIE OLIVEROS
As promised, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III delivered a short, concise, and simple speech, bereft of lofty ideals, motherhood statements, and quotable quotes. This is consistent with the populist theme not only of the speech but of the whole inauguration program, which ended with a people’s pledge. In his speech, President Aquino tried to show that he likewise felt the problems and hardships ordinary people felt under the Arroyo government.
“Tanyag man ang aking mga magulang at ang kanilang mga nagawa, alam ko rin ang problema ng ordinaryong mamamayan…Kayo ba ay minsan ring nalimutan ng pamahalaang inyong iniluklok sa puwesto? Ako rin. Kayo ba ay nagtiis na sa trapiko para lamang masingitan ng isang naghahari-hariang de-wangwang sa kalsada? Ako rin. Kayo ba ay sawang-sawa na sa pamahalaang sa halip na magsilbi sa taumbayan ay kailangan pa nila itong pagpasensiyahan at tiisin? Ako rin…Katulad ninyo ako.”
He extolled the Filipino people for bringing him into office – reprising the people power that brought his mother Cory to power in 1986 – and called on them to share the burden of turning the country around.
“Hindi si Noynoy ang gumawa ng paraan, kayo ang dahilan kung bakit ngayon, magtatapos na ang pagtitiis ng sambayanan. Ito naman ang umpisa ng kalbaryo ko, ngunit kung marami tayong magpapasan ng krus ay kakayanin natin ito, gaano man kabigat.” In terms of content, good governance is the recurring theme with a mixture of a lot of old and some new policy directions and initiatives. Stamping out corruption, stability in policies, efficient government services, better quality of infrastructure, feedback and consultative mechanisms constitute the main thrusts of the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, as reflected in his inaugural speech. These themes predominate not only his speech but his campaign promises as well.
“Sigaw natin noong kampanya: ‘Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Hindi lamang ito pang slogan o pang poster—ito ang mga prinsipyong tinatayuan at nagsisilbing batayan ng ating administrasyon.'”
Since the former Arroyo administration was saddled by so may corruption scandals, had debased all branches of government in its effort to cling to power, and was characterized by the assertion of executive power and privilege, the Aquino administration seems intent on having an impact on political reform to regain the people’s belief in the government. This appears to be the essence of “change” that the Aquino government would be implementing. As the preceding quote reveals, this is the principle the Aquino administration stands for and the basis of its administration.
To stress his point and to fulfill the demand for justice by the Filipino people who suffered under the nine-year rule of the Arroyo administration, President Aquino declared that justice would be served.
“To those who are talking about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: there can be no reconciliation without justice.”
“Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.”
He also announced the formation of a Truth Commission, which would investigate the corruption cases involving the Arroyo family, to be headed by former chief justice Hilario Davide. Running after the Arroyo administration for the corruption cases it was involved in is a popular demand, especially since the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried every means in the book –deny, bribe, threaten, shoot down and kill – to try to sweep these under the rug.
Hopefully, the “true and complete justice for all” would also apply to victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, journalist killings, and other violations of human rights and for their families as well. Although this was never mentioned by President Aquino who seems more bent on running after those involved in corruption, with Justice Sec. Leila de Lima at the helm of providing justice, there is reason for optimism in this. It is also unfortunate that President Aquino did not make a declaration of commitment to release all political prisoners just like his mother Cory and her successor Fidel V. Ramos did. It appears that within the arena of political reform, human rights is not among the top of priorities of the Aquino administration, when it is one major issue against the former Arroyo government.
“My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all—may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.”
“We shalI defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life. Sa tamang pamamahala gaganda ang buhay ng lahat, at sa buhay na maganda, sino pa ang gugustuhing bumalik sa panahon ng pang-aapi?”
This seems to be an expression of intent to pursue peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and a preference for addressing the roots of the armed conflict rather than pursuing a military solution. However, there was no expressed declaration of intent to pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Furthermore, President Aquino seemed to have negated this when he announced his intention to increase the number of state security forces to “protect” the people.
“Palalakasin at palalaguin natin ang bilang ng ating kasundaluhan at kapulisan, hindi para tugunan ang interes ng mga naghahari-harian, ngunit para proteksyunan ang mamamayan“.
But the question is against whom should the people be protected? There is no external threat, and if the Aquino government intends to “defeat the enemy” through the tools of justice, social reform and equitable governance, there appears to be no need for this. Will it be used against crime? If that is the intention, what is needed is to strictly enforce the law and rid the Philipine National Police of its corrupt officers.
The “change” promised by the President Aquino seemed to have ended with political reform and justice, albeit wanting in the area of human rights and peace.
In terms of the economy, the stress of the Aquino government appears to be to attract more investments through building the necessary infrastructure, cutting red tape and stable economic policies. “We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance, to business.”
From these it could be derived that the Aquino administration would merely continue with the thrust of infrastructure building – as reflected in the mega-regions program – and the policies of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization that the former Arroyo administration pursued. The government as “an enabler and not a hindrance to business” is consistent with the neo-liberal, “free market” ideology of the failed globalization project.