Carol Pagaduan Araullo | Empty Rhetoric?

Streetwise/Business World
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The Aquino presidency is finally ensconced. If only because this signals the end of the Arroyo nightmare, our people have reason to cheer. But how much different will the Aquino administration be from that of Arroyo or any of the previous regimes for that matter?

During the electoral campaign, Mr. Aquino did not state categorically that he would be the exact opposite of Mrs. Arroyo, the way his mother Cory promised she would be the antithesis of the dictator Marcos. He merely said he would not be a crook while in office; he would run after the crooks in the previous government and would not tolerate them in his; and that he would help the poor and deliver basic services.

The anti-corruption rhetoric is a staple of campaign speeches of politicians everywhere. In the Philippines, Mr. Aquino’s promises resonated with Filipinos who are not only sick and tired of the Arroyo government’s shenanigans but who have had it with “traditional” or old-type politicians running an endemically corrupt system.

What is cleverly hidden in all the sound and fury about corruption, then and now, is that it is only the symptom of a more pernicious disease called bureaucrat capitalism; i.e. government officials using their positions to protect and amass more wealth and privilege at the expense of the people.

Hence one can have different factions of the same ruling classes taking turns running the government, with different and even distinctive styles of preserving the status quo. Invariably the bureaucrat capitalists end up using deception combined with repression in varying proportions and with differing degrees of effectiveness.

Mr. Aquino’s popularity rode on the back of his parents’ combined political mystique, on massive rejection of the odious Arroyo regime, and on inchoate hopes for meaningful change — a break with a rotten system that has all but destroyed the people’s livelihoods, made their lives even more miserable and robbed them of their future.

But after all the flag-waving and cheering, the excitement and the relief at seeing Mrs. Arroyo being driven out of Malacañang finally, albeit still in the presidential limousine, what do the Filipino people have to be hopeful and thankful for?

It is becoming clearer by the day that there is not much change to be expected from the Aquino presidency judging from his pre-inaugural statements, the composition of his Cabinet, and his inaugural speech.

His promises can be said to be a rehash of the lofty promises of previous presidents in their inaugural and SONA speeches. Nothing much happened afterwards for we all know it takes more than promises to bring about genuine change.

The central weakness of Mr. Aquino’s line is still his trite, superficial and misleading framework that falsely reduces the roots of entrenched and widespread poverty to corruption, followed by the promise to eradicate the latter by means of uprightness in government service.

Mr. Aquino has nothing new to offer in this regard. Cory’s good government commission went after Marcos’ cronies and ill-gotten wealth but the Marcoses are back in power. Mr. Ramos went after the so-called oligarchs and monopolies but he merely entrenched them and created new ones. Mr. Estrada went after Mr. Ramos but was ousted himself before he could make anything stick. Mrs. Gloria Arroyo went after Mr. Estrada and had him convicted for plunder but quickly pardoned him anyway.

Corruption has never been rooted out and in fact continues to thrive especially at the highest reaches of government.

Mr. Aquino will have to do much more than go through the motions of prosecuting those who have committed supposed transgressions. In his inaugural speech, he did not even mention what transgressions he was referring to or who these transgressors were. It was noticeable that there was no pointed reference to Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal as criminally culpable for wanton plunder and grievous human rights violations.

His appointment of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. to the Truth Commission that will purportedly uncover the truth about “unresolved controversies” is not a cause for celebration either considering Mr. Davide’s close and mutually beneficial relationship with Mrs. Arroyo who had amply rewarded him for his services to her regime.

Holding over foreign affairs secretary Romulo and recycling the finance and economic managers from the Cory Aquino, Ramos and Arroyo regimes indicate that the Aquino government will pursue the same IMF-WB-WTO imposed neoliberal policies that are a greater and more direct cause of poverty than corruption.

There is also no mention of land reform, not even the recycled form of his mother’s emasculated land reform program, CARPER. He says absolutely nothing about his clan’s landed estate, the Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI), whether his administration will finally distribute land to the tenants and render justice to the victims of the HLI massacre and related extra-judicial killings.

Mr. Aquino turns a blind eye to US domination of the country’s economic and military affairs. He even echoes the old slogan of former President Ramos to “level the playing field” for foreign investors; that is, to allow the multinational corporations and banks to ride roughshod over Filipino enterprises and productive sectors and foreclose all possibility of national industrialization.

All these negate the possibility of success and reduce to empty rhetoric Mr. Aquino’s ambitious plan to “defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life”.

Consistently, Mr. Aquino makes no reference to the need for peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella formation that represents the communists and other revolutionary organizations in peace talks with government. Instead, he stressed the need to double the strength of the military and police supposedly because the population has doubled but betraying his propensity, like all previous presidents before him, to resort to military means to resolve armed conflicts.

The NDFP Peace Panel’s Chief Political Consultant, Mr. Jose Ma. Sison has pointed out that Mr. Aquino follows the 2009 US Counterinsurgency Guide which says peace negotiations are dispensable for the purpose of destroying, coopting and debilitating the so-called insurgency so long as there is good governance, delivery of services, a strong military and effective use of intelligence and propaganda.

The reappointment of Ms. Ging Deles, who oversaw peace talks with the NDFP and MILF under the Arroyo regime, to the same position may be perceived as a continuation of the failed approaches and tactics of old and does not augur well for any breakthrough in the peace negotiations.

We have yet to see what the feisty former human rights commissioner can accomplish as justice secretary; the same with the gutsy anti-Arroyo dissenter and former president of De La Salle University, as the new education secretary.

We shall certainly see in the next few weeks and months who, indeed, is Pres. Aquino’s “boss” — the people or vested interest groups. (Published by the Business World/Posted by

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