The Aquino government still got a high satisfaction rating despite the string of issues it had to address this early in the new administration’s term. However, things would still unfold in the coming months and years of the Aquino administration. And history would judge if he did tread the right path.
By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The assessment by different groups of the first 100 days of President Benigno Aquino III varies. Of course, Malacañang trumpeted its accomplishments in terms of a ‘stronger economy’ and its supposed successes in its anti-corruption drive. President Aquino boasted that the country is nearing take off. Aquino’s allies agreed, saying he is on the right track.
The senators gave him a passing mark. Even Sen. Joker Arroyo, who earlier criticized the Aquino administration for running the government like a “student council,” gave a passing mark based on the results of the survey of the Social Weather Station showing that the president had a +60 net satisfaction rating. Archbishop Oscar Cruz gave the Aquino administration a grade of C.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry gave Aquino high marks for his efforts “to curb corruption, slash red tape and boost the economy.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) opined that President Aquino is on the right path in terms of the two things that he promised during the elections namely, stamping out corruption and easing poverty, through the conditional cash transfer and by its budget allocations for education and health.
Those identified with the Left gave the Aquino administration a failing mark in agrarian reform, the continuing human rights violations and the lack of justice for the victims and their relatives, for pursuing the same economic policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which were implemented by previous administrations, for the planned hike in electricity and water rates, LRT/MRT fares, and toll fees, for ignoring the clamor for wage increases and to put a stop to labor contractualization, and the budget cuts for state colleges and universities, health, and legal assistance for overseas Filipino workers. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers branded the Aquino government as “militarist, elitist and colonial.”
The assessments vary not because these groups supported different presidential candidates during the May 2010 elections, as the PDI insinuated in criticizing the Left. The views vary according to the perspectives, stand on issues, and expectations of the different groups.
Those who believe in pursuing the same neoliberal agenda and maintaining the current track of an export-oriented, import-dependent economy, which relies on foreign investments and loans, would expectedly give the Aquino government a high or at least, a passing mark. President Aquino has shown no qualms about pushing the neoliberal agenda. He signed a commitment to pursue this when he visited the US and talked with representatives of multinational corporations, thereby getting their commitment to invest in the country more. He moved for the removal of the government subsidy on MRT/LRT fares and the imposition of tax on toll fees even at the risk of angering the public. He refuses to back down from his position that the government would provide artificial family planning methods even in the face of threats from the Catholic church. He declared that public-private partnerships, another term for build-operate-transfer schemes and privatization, would be the thrust of his administration. And he even increased the allocation for interest payments on the country’s foreign debt even as the Aquino government called for austerity measures. Added to this, he promised to stamp out corruption and streamline the bureaucratic red tape in the dealings of businessmen with the government. Even with the jueteng payoffs scandal involving his best friend Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno hitting the headlines, corruption in the Aquino administration is still being viewed as within tolerable levels. He also aggressively pursues the increase in the number of soldiers and police officers and the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to implement peace and order.
Likewise, those who believe in the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, which was started by the previous Arroyo administration, would certainly think that the Aquino administration is serious in stamping out poverty because he even increased the budget for it.
On the other hand, groups identified with the Left are coming from a different perspective. They would like to see the Aquino government defend the country’s national patrimony by reexamining and renegotiating its relations, treaties and agreements with other countries, especially the US; implement a thoroughgoing land reform program on the basis of the principle of “land to the tillers;” reorient the economy toward enabling it to provide for the country’s needs through industrialization; increase the wages of workers and salaries of government employees; ban the contractualization of labor and take the position of workers in labor disputes such as that involving the Philippine Airlines; give justice to victims of human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators; run after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cohorts; and pursue the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Thus, expectedly, they would be disappointed.
Everybody is expecting change, except perhaps the Arroyos and their allies. But the different groups vary in their views and positions about the direction of change. The Aquino government still got a high satisfaction rating despite the string of issues it had to address this early in the new administration’s term because Filipinos tend to be patient and understanding, especially for President Benigno Aquino III because his parents are well-admired for their role in the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. However, things would still unfold in the coming months and years of the Aquino administration. And history would judge if he did tread the right path. (Bulatlat.com)