By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Streetwise | Business World
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III (BS Aquino for short), the non-performing Congressman representing the Cojuangco-Aquino clan’s fiefdom in the second district of Tarlac, parlayed a senatorial seat then the presidency of the Philippines by riding the crest of the anti-Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sentiment and donning the Aquino mystique derived from his iconic parents. He further used these to sustain, for the first half of his six-year term, his Teflon persona, seemingly impervious to any scandal or criticism.
Mr. Aquino thereby had an underlying advantage over his opponents. The country’s wealthy and powerful elite and their patron and master, the US of A, came to the conclusion that he was the man suited for the job. BS Aquino would be the fresh face to better deceive and suppress a people straining under the yoke of an oppressive and decrepit social order falsely peddled as “free” and “democratic”.
But as the history of all post-independence political regimes that preceded Aquino’s shows, popularity is ephemeral. It inevitably and quickly evaporates as the contradictions in Philippine society incessantly clash. The stage is thus set for the unmasking and isolation, and even ouster through a people’s uprising, of a ruling regime.
It will be no different for BS Aquino. 2013 marks the peeling off of the Teflon image of Mr. Aquino wherein grave errors, anti-people policies and shameless kowtowing to US diktat for the first three years of his term seemed to slide off his political skin, if one is to believe the popularity surveys.
His empty boast regarding clean, honest, and good governance and attempts to pass on the blame for his failings to the former Arroyo regime have become ineffectual and tiresome. The turning point would be the pork barrel issue and then the abysmal government response to super typhoon Yolanda.
Mr. Aquino stretched his popularity and the people’s goodwill to the limit when he unabashedly tried to defend the PDAF and the pork barrel system in general in the face of popular outrage over corruption exposed in the Napoles scam.
This widening crack in Mr. Aquino’s credibility will be pushed to its logical conclusion with the further exposure of the “pork barrel king” and the fact that graft and corruption in his administration is alive and well. In this regard, the mass campaign for a people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system including, and most especially, presidential pork, will be crucial.
Victims of government’s gross criminal negligence, inutility and double talk in the wake of the Yolanda calamity and their supporters must remain vigilant over the anticipated rip-off by big real estate and private construction companies together with corrupt officials overseeing rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in typhoon-ravaged provinces. Mr. Aquino’s appointed rehabilitation czar, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, succinctly expressed the Aquino regime’s mantra, that the private (big business) sector will lead the way in all “government” efforts.
Paradoxically, all the crowing about how exceptionally high GDP rates, credit upgrades, robust stock markets and big foreign exchange reserves are proof that the regime’s good governance/anti-corruption platform has brought economic dividends for the country exposes the fact that only the upper crust of Philippine society and their foreign corporate partners are the ones raking it in. Official poverty, unemployment and hunger figures remain basically unchanged despite efforts to understate the obvious.
The Aquino regime’s compliance to neoliberal economic policies and programs prescribed by imperialist arms like the WTO-IMF-World Bank combine translate to making life more miserable and more tenuous for the majority of the Filipino people. One need only look at the extremely vulnerable situation of the teeming masses of poor families forced to eke out a precarious living in flood-prone coastal and riverine areas, logged-over mountainsides and artificial hills of garbage dumps and make their homes in congested, squalid, disease-infested, firetrap slum communities.
Attempts by the “yellow” mainstream and social media to paper over the cacique character of the Aquino regime is continuously being belied by the fact that land reform under the bogus land reform program inaugurated under Cory Aquino’s watch, is once again being utilized by the Cojuangco-Aquino landlord clan to circumvent, frustrate and even profit from the 2012 Supreme Court ruling scuttling the stock distribution option and ordering that agricultural lands be distributed to the farm worker beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita.
Generations of peasant families have expended blood, sweat and tears demanding that the land grabbed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos be returned to them. Their struggle is far from over. BS Aquino has seen to that.
In terms of foreign policy, the Aquino regime’s puppetry to the US is being covered up by its use of China’s expansionist ambitions in East Asia to justify the stationing of ever-increasing numbers of US troops and war materiel inside Philippine territory. The US is deviously using Aquino’s ability to pose as a nationalist vis a vis China to push an agreement on increased rotational presence, pre-stationing of troops and war materiel and access to Philippine facilities that would be the US’ biggest gain in its strategic pivot to Asia to fend off China’s challenge to its dominance in trade and investment in the Asia Pacific.
In return, the Aquino regime calculates (or more precisely, engages in wishful thinking) as did the puppet regimes before it, that the US will provide the financial, logistical and high-tech weaponry that it thinks is the only ingredient lacking in its decades-long counter-insurgency campaign against the communist-led New People’s Army.
A reinvigorated movement to defeat the impending military access agreement and to scrap the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, Mutual Defense Treaty and all other lop-sided military agreements with the US and other countries is bound to meet the US and Aquino regime’s latest bid for US military basing in the country contrary to anti-bases provisions in the Philippine Constitution and more importantly, in opposition to national sovereignty and the long-term interests of the Filipino people.
On the human rights and peace front, the Aquino regime’s record is dismal. Oplan Bayanihan, the regime’s sugar-coated version of the deadly counterinsurgency (COIN) program of the Arroyo regime Oplan Bantay Laya, is long on human rights and peace rhetoric but as all previous COIN programs is just as bloody and constitutes a plague on the people. It is also doomed to fail as a dual tactic of violence and deception to pacify the countryside. The Philippine government’s anti-peace negotiations stand must be exposed as proceeding from a militarist mindset hostile to the goal of a just and lasting peace in the country.
Expect greater resort to state terrorism and a spike in all sorts of human rights violations as the deadline nears for the projected “neutralization” of the CPP-NPA. The human rights movement must keep up the pressure against the reign of impunity (no justice for human rights victims – journalists, social activists, human rights defenders and ordinary people smeared as “enemies of the state”) and government’s resort to a scorched-earth policy against the CPP-NPA and its mass base as its duplicitous “alternative path to peace”.
The remaining three years of the US-Aquino regime (USAR) need not be an interminable wait. The nationalist and democratic movement, by calling on the people’s creative and boundless energies, is bound to step up resistance to the regime’s anti-people policies and programs.
The movement must rise to the defense of the people; gain strength as another ruling regime weakens and falters; and announce the good news of redemption via the unfinished national democratic revolution started by Bonifacio and the Katipunan as the people increasingly unmask not just the Aquino regime but the rottenness of the entire neocolonial and semifeudal ruling order.
Published in Business World
27-28 December 2013