By CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Posted by Bulatlat.com
“Pnoy the Magician” in bright yellow. This was how activists depicted President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino in effigy in last Monday’s annual State-of-the-Nation street demonstration. They were proven prescient in more ways than one as soon as Mr. Aquino started delivering his SONA that turned out to be vintage smoke-and-mirrors demagoguery.
Rather than lead the people to an understanding of the true state of the nation, his seemingly straightforward rhetoric was used instead to conjure illusions and deceive not unlike the way a magician uses optical illusions to create believability while actually performing tricks.
The main trick is to continue to appear as the harbinger of the “change that people can believe in” that worked well enough to get Mr. Aquino elected.
However, despite the effort to make the Aquino regime appear poised to undertake far-reaching reforms in government, in the economy, in resolving armed conflicts and even in turning around public sentiment from pessimism to hopefulness, cynicism to unity and cooperation, Mr. Aquino’s SONA only confirms that there is nothing new, innovative, not to mention any attempt at a radical break from the past, in his prescriptions.
Rather, what we heard are more of the same policies and programs of old dressed up to dazzle and give false hopes.
Once more corruption is presented as the overarching problem. Mr. Aquino’s speech used simple and folksy language to whip up the public’s hatred for corrupt politicians and other government officials by laying out more horror stories from the previous regime: Mrs. Arroyo’s pampering her province with government funds to boost her congressional bid; the over-procurement of imported rice at the cost of billions of pesos which was then left to rot in government warehouses; MWSS top officials wallowing in pelf and privilege while the country suffers a water crisis.
Salacious new details these but nothing surprising. Why not tell us the progress in case build-up on the biggest corruption scandals that plagued the Arroyo administration? Why is the Truth Commission still nowhere in sight, much less near to having Mrs. Arroyo and her partners in crime brought to the bar of justice?
Mr. Aquino stated categorically that his administration would not tolerate murderers and plunderers. He crowed about solving “50% of the cases of extralegal killings” that occurred soon after his assuming office or three out of six reported cases with the identification of suspects.
Assuming this to be true, however, his complete silence on government’s current counterinsurgency or COIN program as the underlying cause of most of the killings as pointed out by independent international human rights bodies places in serious doubt Mr. Aquino’s earnestness in putting a stop to and solving these murders by state security forces.
More specifically, the lack of immediate action to disband the legalized private armies called “civilian volunteer organizations” that the military uses to augment its COIN operations, renders Mr. Aquino’s boast inconsequential in ending criminal impunity. Such a reign of impunity gave rise to the still unresolved Maguindanao massacre on top of the more than a thousand unsolved extrajudicial killings in almost a decade of Oplan Bantay Laya.