Benjie Oliveros | No Honeymoon in a Crisis


MANILA — President Benigno Aquino III was quoted last week complaining that he is not being given a “honeymoon” by the media as criticisms are starting to come his way. The very first executive order of his administration received flak for being legally inappropriate; the conflicts of interest in his appointments such as that of Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras immediately landed in the news. Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson, who was the president of Maynilad before his appointment, was also initially appointed as the chair of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, which oversees water rates and sets policies governing the two private water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water. When this raised a furor, suddenly nobody knows who appointed who or who recommended who.

President Aquino should realize that with the state of crisis enveloping Philippine society today, there is no room for a honeymoon. Only those who are not experiencing difficulties in making both ends meet because of the worsening poverty and unemployment amid the increasing prices of basic goods and services could afford to wait until the new administration gets its act together; only those who did not experience his or her rights being trampled upon or his or her relative being killed or forcibly abducted could wait for the slow grind of justice to right the wrongs and prosecute the perpetrators; only those who are not victims or potential victims of impunity could relax and wait while the new administration focuses its attention on some other things, such as the appointment of friends and supporters in government and the writing of speeches; and only those who are not hurting from the high electricity and water rates while being provided with shoddy services and suffering from shortages could say, “Okay let us wait till the new administration reaches 100 days before complaining.”

These problems would not go away by simply denying that it exists or by setting it aside until the Aquino administration has the time to address these. Take the shortage in water as a case in point. Maynilad has been rationing water for more than a month already and still the water companies and the administrators of Angat Dam are saying that we only have 40 days of water left if there would be no sufficient rainfall.

What is the government’s reaction? First, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda denied that there is a water crisis, saying that, anyway, only half of Metro Manila is affected and the supply would last until September when the rains are expected to come. For sure, Lacierda knows that Angat Dam is the main source of water for the whole Metro Manila – which has a population of 11 million – and that rains have been expected since a month ago. And when Malabon residents, who are desperate for water, broke a water pipe to get water, Singson – consistent with the interests he is representing – threatened to have them arrested. He also said he would ask for the deployment of troops to restore order, prevent riots in areas affected by the shortage, and to arrest those illegally tapping water. What the people need is water and not martial law!

Malacañang is boasting that the first state of the nation address of President Benigno Aquino III would be interesting, and that it would be an exposé of the recently-discovered irregularities of the former administration. And of course, President Aquino would lay down his legislative agenda. Well, the Filipino people have had enough exposés about the crimes of the former Arroyo government to last a lifetime. What is needed now is to prosecute Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family for their crimes against the Filipino people, which included corruption and bribery, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and the unjust persecution of its perceived enemies.

The interesting part of the state of the nation address should be the presentation of the Aquino government’s legislative agenda. Nothing short of bold, radical reforms could save the economy from the deep economic crisis it is in; no less than a radical restructuring and reorientation of the government bureaucracy could save it from the state of degradation that the former Arroyo administration had brought upon it; nothing short of a firm assertion of our national sovereignty and patrimony could save the country from the disastrous effects of natural calamities, and foreign control and intervention; and no measure is as urgent as bringing justice and immediate relief to the suffering Filipino people. (

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