To readers, colleagues and citizens who are still searching for a single epithet to describe Benigno Aquino 3rd’s presidency (in both its excesses and shortcomings), I offer today the highly descriptive English word “hoity-toity.”
I’m qualified to dispense a prescription because I have a degree in English and literature (from the Ateneo incidentally), in addition to nearly three decades of journalism work and policy studies.
In a discussion with friends, wherein each of us tried to come up with a single word to describe the president, I suddenly stumbled on the word, like it was a brain wave. Among the words placed on the table were: arrogant, lawless, incompetent, hollow (ampaw), demented, surreal, righteous, ladida, and so on.
But just when it seemed as though PNoy would get away, suddenly, from out of the blue, came “hoity-toity”, like it was heaven-sent. The word is a perfect combination of sound and sense, funny-sounding and right on target. It’s not a new coinage or colloquialism; it dates back at least several centuries in the English lexicon.
One friend said he liked “hoity-toity” as the epithet for Aquino, because it will remind everyone that his presidency is a product of “hocus-pcos.” Only trickery made him the 15th president of our republic.
Another said he preferred “arrogant,” because the connotation of brazenness and self-regard fits the subject like a glove.
But most liked “hoity-toity” because it connotes in one package, pretentiousness, haughtiness, and humbug.
When we parted, I told my friends that I would do research on ‘hoity-toity”. This column is one result of my research.
What the dictionaries say
A quick survey of reputable dictionaries and the Internet sites yielded the following definitions of hoity-toity:
1.“Behaving as if you are better or more important than other people” (Cambridge International Dictionary of English)
2. “Pretentiously self-important; pompous” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of English)
3. “Arrogant or haughty” (Collins English Dictionary)
4. “Assuming airs, haughty” (Random Huse Dctionary of English)
5. The Oxford dictionary simply defines the word as an adjective meaning “haughty.”
On another track, I found the following revealing definitions of “arrogance” from dictionary.com:
1. Offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.
2. Having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability, etc; conceited . . .
Why hoity-toity is a perfect fit
At this point, readers may be nodding their heads in agreement that “hoity-toity” looks like a good fit for President Aquino’s demeanor and presidential style.
Still, the proposition needs to be supported by sound argumentation. Here are some exhibits to support my thesis that we have in Malacañang a hoity-toity president.
Exhibit 1: President Aquino considers his election to the presidency in 2010 as one of the great events in Philippine history.
Addressing the democracy forum in Bali, Indonesia last week, he declared that his election was a second demonstration of People Power in the Philippines, rivaling the original revolt and mass action in 1986 that thrust his mother Cory Aquino into the presidency.
What people power?
The only mention of people power in May 2010 was Aquino’s threat weeks before the voting, that if he did not win the presidential balloting, he would lead a people power revolution against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Exhibit 2: Aquino acts as if only his election as president mattered in the 2010 national election. His attitude seems to be: “I’ve got the power, the rest of government be damned.”
In fact, that May election brought to office the 15th Congress, and a new set of local government officials throughout the country. As any serious student of our constitutional system knows, the legislative department is listed first in the Constitution, because it is considered the first branch of government, preceding the others.
The president is only one leg of the trinity of powers in our political system; the other two are the legislature and the judiciary.
Exhibit 3: When immediately after his inauguration, he embarked on his program to impeach then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, it was an act of hubris and abuse of power that nearly rivaled President Marcos’s proclamation of martial law. In this one project, Aquino disrespected the Supreme Court; he turned the House of Representatives into a band of mercenaries; he reduced the Senate to a joke; and he turned our constitutional system upside down.
When he subsequently invented the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to raise funds for the bribery of congressmen and senators to secure Corona’s conviction, he violated the budget process and cast aside safeguards of the national treasury.
Exhibit 4: When at the height of the post-Yolanda crisis, he gruffly dismissed a Tacloban businessman complaining about the looting and peace and order situation, with the words, “Buhay ka pa naman, di ba?”, Aquino showed a total lack of empathy with typhoon victims and the stricken communities.
To this day, barely a month before the first anniversary of the disaster, Aquino has not approved the rehabilitation plan for East Visayas.
The man simply does not care.
Exhibit 5: After the Supreme Court handed down its decision declaring the DAP illegal and unconstitutional, Aquino contested the verdict, and threatened the High Court with the curtailment of its power of judicial review. In this, he crossed the line and imperiled the rule of law in our country.
Exhibit 6: When aquino refuses to dismiss from their jobs government officials who have failed to perform, there is a frightening breakdown of government’s capacity to provide vital public services.
Exhibit 7: When President Aquino repeatedly blames President Arroyo for the many failures and shortcomings of his administration, it grates on our ears.
But when he at the same time steals the credit for GMA’s legitimate achievements, it is ignoble and base.
The list will go on and on if we list down all the policy failures, corruption and abominations under the Aquino administration.
The suspicion grows that this president simply does not care about solving the problems of the nation. He does not grasp the fundamental truth that public policy and governance is about solving the nation’s problems.
The word “hoity-toity” is fitting for a presidency that spectacularly combines indifference, ineffectiveness and incompetence in one term.
Te list of exhibits here is an indictment of a president who sold himself as the savior and father of the nation, but who in fact has only fathered more problems for our people to solve.