What if Mr. Aquino did these things while in power?
• Pushed the super wealthy (those who-can-buy-a-small-country-rich) into profit-sharing, nudged them into granting above minimum-wage salaries to their lowly service-sector employees, plus above-standard, non-wage benefits.
• Rejected the bunk theory that economic growth lifts all boats and focused on the needs of the vulnerable.
• Moderated his government’s fiscal prudence to pump investments and dedicated funds into areas with poverty levels of 30 percent or more (there are areas with poverty levels of 80 percent).
• Held occasional dialogues with workers, farmers and fishermen and the other major marginal sectors to seriously find out what sort of government intervention these sectors need. And fired Procy and Kiko as soon as data on impossible incompetence unraveled.
• Showed real concern for the OFWs instead of the brutal scheming (the assault on the balikbayan box) against the modern day heroes.
• Demonstrated hero-level leadership during the Yolanda rehab and reconstruction efforts and embraced, fully and without hesitation, the grief and pain of the Mamasapano 44 families.
• Signed those token draft laws for the poor and that niggardly increase in SSS pension.
• Signed the draft law that proposed a small tax break for ordinary wage earners.
• Took the LRT 3 mess seriously instead of just leaving the management to former small-time crooks suddenly in big-league thieving.
• Demonstrated that he was President to all Filipinos and not only to the top 1 percent.
Had he done all these, two results would have been inevitable. The Filipino voters would have voted for his endorsed presidential candidate overwhelmingly, no ifs no buts. He would also easily go down in our civics books as one of the greatest Presidents ever. There is no gift to an outgoing President that is greater than the voters’ trust on his anointed candidate. It is a case of passed-on love and confidence in his leadership. Because we have no Mt. Rushmore, it is the book on civics that passes on the greatness of a President through generations.
But he did not. Perhaps due to fears that he couldn’t serve two masters (the top 1 percent and the 99 percent) and that nothing could be sweeter than exiting the presidency with nice charts on GDP growth and credit upgrades. Or, he just failed to realize that serving the huddled masses was the principal mandate of the presidency.
This for sure was what went down in Mr. Aquino’s six years. He performed like a one-trick pony, which was to support the “makers” and the “creators” without letup on their wealth-generation thing, even if that were a “joyless growth” or a “jobless growth.” And oblivious to the good of the broader society. The most critical urgent agenda was the production of nice GDP charts that Mr. Aquino dutifully presented before the MBC and the Davos crowd.
It was all about GDP growth, Mr. Aquino’s one-and-only public gig. And the results, from both his personal realm and the governance realm, were ugly.
The voters soundly rejected his call for “continuity” and overwhelmingly voted for the candidate that represented the anti-Aquino. That was a total rejection of his six years in power and his core policies.
The winning mantra was “Change is coming,” which implied that the Aquino administration was a failure and needed overhaul and had nothing to be proud about. You don’t fix things that are not broken.
The political coalition Mr. Aquino built, led by the grand old Liberal Party, was a coalition of straws. It crumbled at an unbelievable pace, faster than the demise of Joe de Venecia’s Lakas—NUCD-CMD after Joe de V’s loss in the 1998 presidential elections. The truth is the early collapse of the LP is one that will haunt Mr. Aquino forever. What serious leader will build a political deck of cards? The premature and unlamented demise of the LP after the loss of Mr. Roxas showed that Mr. Aquino’s claim to principled politics was not even a serous one.
What have you done, Mr. Aquino? The nation did not even “turn its lonely eyes to you” during the transfer of power.
The greatest leadership lesson that can be drawn from Mr. Aquino’s six years in power is that superlative growth charts that served only a very limited section of the society were meaningful only to that elite sector served. If there was nostalgia for the six years that had gone by, it came exclusively from this sector.
The energies and beneficial policies of a President should be spread out, across the board, skewed toward those who need government intervention most. “For the good of the majority” has been the operative phrase of democracy from time immemorial.
A President is father to the nation and the presidency cannot be a one-trick pony.