Of presidents past, and wannabes of 2016

bu-op-icons-benjieBy BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat perspective

The not so funny anymore, exasperating slapstick being imposed on the public by presidential wannabes Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte is a testament to how elections in this country have sunk to such depths. And if surveys are to be believed, the two are among the top four candidates, with the other two consisting of one who is widely believed to be corrupt and a political neophyte frontrunner who is battling disqualification issues being thrown at her by her rivals.

Let us ignore for a while the increasingly irritating antics of Roxas and Duterte and take a look at what the two represent.

Roxas is being presented as an Aquino administration part 3. Its bad enough that Mar’s Mr. Palengke did not click with voters and, aside from that, Roxas could not boast of any accomplishment or bright idea to solve the Filipino people’s problems. He is additionally being weighed down by the self-centeredness of an Aquino sibling (not Kris this time). President Noynoy Aquino has been declaring that he wants the 2016 presidential election to be a referendum on his administration. What is the Aquino administration’s legacy?

In an interview with Philippine Star reporter Aurea Callca, President Aquino mentioned people’s empowerment and media as two of his administration’s legacies. This is surprising as the last time people power was demonstrated was against his administration and its version of the pork barrel fund the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). President Aquino is claiming that the Filipino people have always backed his administration and its decisions. But how could this be possible when the Aquino administration has been rejecting proposed legislation and policies that would have benefited majority of the people such as removing the VAT on oil products, increasing the mandated minimum wage, lowering income tax rates of the majority, and as of this writing, increasing the pension of retirees?

How could a free press be the administration’s legacy when 26 more journalists were killed under its watch and justice has remained elusive to the victims even of past administrations? The Aquino administration could not even mete justice on the Ampatuan clan for orchestrating the Maguindanao massacre.

Good governance? How could the Aquino administration claim that its anti-corruption drive is successful when the officials that it was able to prosecute all came from the opposition? Not only did it refuse to investigate its own officials and allies who have been linked to corruption cases, the administration even coddled them. The administration promised that there would be another batch of government officials to be prosecuted for their involvement in skimming government funds through the previous administration’s version of the pork barrel the Priority Development Assistance Fund. This batch would supposedly include Aquino’s allies, but nothing came out of it.

The worsening impunity in human rights violations is also a testament to the failure of the Aquino administration in providing good governance. It was a failed, bloody “Daang Matuwid.”

So what are the Aquino administration’s legacies?

1. The bungling of the Luneta hostage crisis
2. The Mamasapano fiasco that claimed the lives of 44 SAF men and 23 Moro fighters and several civilians
3. The DAP
4. The LRT/MRT train mishaps, deterioration, overcrowding and fare increase
5. The unresolved worsening traffic
6. Making the whole country a US base under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
7. Dubious automated elections under Smartmatic
8. Tightening of the stranglehold of political dynasties both new and old
9. Worsening impunity in human rights violations
10. Killing and forcibly evacuating the Lumad and attacking their schools
11. Unresolved crimes

The ineptitude, elite bias, and callous attitude of the Aquino administration have made the Filipino majority cynical of the government once more.

Thus, it is not surprising that former Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who projects an image of a tough, getting-things-done, defender of the oppressed, enforcer, appeals to a significant segment of the voting population. Duterte even packages himself as an anathema to the elite.

But what is unsettling with Duterte is not so much his penchant for cursing, but his similarity to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who he professes a friendship to. The late Marcos Sr. was wont to project himself as a tough war ‘hero’, a brilliant lawyer who defended himself in court, and an enemy of oligarchs. When he declared martial rule, he promised to restore discipline, law and order. He executed a suspected drug lord Lim Seng by firing squad, which was televised nationwide. But his campaign for law and order was easily transformed into a means of suppressing dissent, which resulted in thousands of victims of human rights violations.

Marcos expropriated the properties and wealth of “oligarchs,” only to keep it for himself, his friends and allies.

He propagated a vision for a “New Society”, which was supposedly based on his Filipino ideology, only to push the country deeper into debt, crisis, and backwardness.

Duterte’s closeness to the late dictator and the Marcos family was recently manifested in his declaration that the he would allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. This shows how Duterte regards the thousands of victims of Martial Law.

It is also not surprising though since Duterte is wont to flaunt the extrajudicial killings he has ordered. The problem with his propensity to kill criminals is that one could no longer ascertain if those killed were really guilty and whether their crime was commensurate to the taking away of their lives. There also appears to be some truth to the criticism of Roxas that those being killed by Duterte and his death squad are mostly small-time thieves and drug pushers, and not the heads of the big-time syndicates.

Furthermore, what would prevent him, in the future, from training his guns on all those who would oppose his rule?

Having Duterte elected as president is much like playing with fire: you don’t know when you would get burned.

As for the other top contenders to the presidency, would we rather have another corrupt president much like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was linked and implicated in so many corruption scandals? Or a political neophyte much like the late Cory Aquino who was swayed from center to right and whose administration was rocked by in-fighting from her own Cabinet because she lacked a clear and consistent program of government?

History does repeat itself, first as tragedy then as farce. ()

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