It was not by accident or whimsy that the opening of the regular session of Congress, and consequently the President’s report on the state of the nation, takes place on the fourth Monday of July every year. It is a mandate of the Constitution.
By placing it in the third quarter of the year (July to September), instead of in January (which was the practice under the 1935 constitution), the 1986 Constitutional Commission was well aware that the Congress opening would run smack into the heart of our monsoon season, when the rains pour in torrents, along maybe a typhoon or two.
This way, President Cory’s handpicked charter-framers probably figured that the administration would be forced to face the harsh realities of national life, and therefore come up with the requisite policies and programs to solve them.
Alas, to my deep regret, this otherwise clever insight was almost proven accurate in a big way yesterday. I write these words, hearing the rain pouring on our house in Quezon City, and I am reduced to hoping that the weather will turn more clement and give President Aquino’s valedictory a fitting sendoff.
Fortunately, the rain abated. So the show could go on.
338 days remaining for President Aquino
With his untruthful presentation yesterday of the state of the nation after five years under his watch, President Aquino made manifest that his administration will mark its final days in office (338 days to be exact) by claiming non-existent reforms and achievements, blaming past administrations for his failures while claiming credit for their achievements, rather than confronting the pressing problems of national life.
As a presidency that governed from Day One with an armory of simpleminded slogans – “kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (if there are no corrupt, there will be no poor); “tuwid na daan” (straight path); “kayo ang boss ko” (you are my boss); “good governance is good economics”; and “it’s more fun in the Philippines” – I am convinced that the administration will strive to subsist on one final and stubborn slogan: “Die with the lie.”
It will insist, propagandize and trumpet its own verdict that it has been a successful and caring presidency, instead of the “manhid at palpak” (unfeeling and failed) administration that Vice President Binay has portrayed it to be.
Send in the lies
Aquino’s reply to the criticisms and the protests will be to send in the lies, viz:
1. The biggest lie is that it has transformed the Philippines into the “darling of Asia” and Asia’s newest economic miracle. Never mind that the economic indicators do not fit the characterization. Never mind that no neighbor, no international organization and no media organization has conferred on us this redoubtable distinction.
2. Unable to face the reality that it has brought suffering, ruin, uncertainty and peril to our nation of 100 million, and dreading rejection by the people in the elections next year, President Aquino clings to the delusion that his chosen one will win the May balloting, and then robotically follow the same straight path to failure.
3. Claiming that his anti-corruption campaign is his most important reform, he recited again the alleged victories of the program. Never mind that in a survey conducted by the Roman Catholic Church and its Radio Veritas network, four in ten Filipinos believe that the anti-corruption program is a failure. Corruption has worsened in fact under Aquino.
4. Claiming that fiscal management is one of his major achievements, the president makes no apologies for the administration’s wholesale manipulation of the budget and pillage of the public treasury.
4. After being proven incompetent and unfeeling in meeting the Yolanda/Haiyan disaster, the administration persists in circulating the propaganda that it has met its duties and obligations, that the stricken areas are back on their feet. Never mind that a thorough study by Social Watch Philippines and an international aid organization has come up with a report that the government has not released the P170 billion for rehabilitation that it trumpeted last October; that 132,000 people are still living in tents, and that there is no building back better taking place.
5. After the Supreme Court ruled that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are illegal and unconstitutional, the administration has conspired with unscrupulous members of the Senate to restore these banned appropriations through insertions in the budget.
Portraying five years of failure and setbacks as a success is the daunting challenge awaiting President Aquino’s propagandists and spokesmen. But it is never as simple as just lying with a straight face.
To make the “die with the lie” policy stick, President Aquino should consider emulating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by appointing Kris Aquino as his propaganda manager.
The UK Daily Mail and other media organizations have reported that Kim Jong-un has awarded his younger sister Kim Yo-jong a dramatic promotion within the North Korean government – by granting her the role of managing and developing his personality cult. She will oversee all future “idolization projects” and organizing massive rallies in his honor.
Vanishing words and redefining words
The die-with-the-lie policy is mirrored by what my Times colleague Marlen Ronquillo called in a wonderful column last Sunday “the administration’s single-mindedness in vanishing words it does not like and giving new definitions to words that it favors.”
He listed among these words the following:
1. Intractable poverty. Mr. Aquino does not believe this social and economic cancer exists.
2. Inequality. In the Aquino universe, this word does not exist. No presidential speech, address, communication admits its existence. Mr. Aquino and his flacks have offered “ Inclusive growth “ as the lame substitute for inequality.
3. Traffic jams. These daily monstrosities are, in Mr. Aquino’s universe, tangible, palpable signs of progress. His government cannot run the trains on time. His transport policies favor cars and private vehicles over mass transport.
4. Rice shortage. The mantra has always been rice self-sufficiency. His two co-secretaries for agriculture have placed the country in two states when it comes to rice: self-sufficient or about to attain self-sufficiency.
5. Savings. Marlen forgot one entry on his list, the official redefinition by Congress of the term “savings,” in order to skirt the Supreme Court’s decision on the DAP. Aquino got two branches of government – the Executive and the Legislative — to join together in cheating the people of their money.
Aquino deceives himself
In his book on presidential deception, When Presidents Lie, author Eric Alterman persuasively shows that presidents wind up deceiving themselves in deceiving the nation.
The cost of lying becomes finally personal. In the case of George W. Bush, for example, “His untrustworthiness profoundly undermined the credibility of the administration abroad, and its ability to do business in the world on the basis of its good word.”
The blowback is always serious. For President Aquino, it will come (1) first in the May 2016 elections, when the administration party receives the judgment of the people. And it will come (2) second when Aquino is out of office on July 1, 2016, when his presidential immunity is gone, and he is deluged with lawsuits.