The secret is out. President Aquino’s pricey PR consultants can no longer keep the story under wraps.
International media correspondents are parachuting into Manila again. And the members of the Foreign correspondents Association of the Philippine (FOCAP) are finally moving their butts and reporting Philippine developments to the world.
The story that’s making them all jump is the same story that keeps most Filipinos glued to television, hooked to their radios, reading newspapers, and texting like there’s no tomorrow.
The story is the drama of how the Presidency of President BS Aquino III will wind down—by his removal or departure from office (resignation or ouster), or by his limping to the finish line in June 2016, as provided for by the Constitution. Interest is also focused on the wrenching killing of 44 elite police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and the distressing efforts of the administration and Congress to cover up President Aquino’s responsibility for the tragedy.
The world is learning now that Aquino is in big trouble, and is barely hanging on by his fingernails.
CNN Philippines debuts in style
The story burst out in a big way when in quick succession the Board of Inquiry of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Senate inquiry released their findings on the Mamasapano Incident, and reported that Aquino had violated the PNP chain of command and bore responsibility for the tragedy.
Forbes Asia got tongues wagging with a report by Donald Kirk on the launching of CNN Philippines, which far from being ceremonial, declared that the new cable news network had stepped into a boiling controversy over the embattled Aquino presidency.
Kirk wrote: “No sooner had a galaxy of CNN names got done plugging this latest member of the CNN empire — they preferred to call it ‘the CNN family’ — than the news and talk shows were full of reports about the sagging popularity of Aquino and his inability to cope with a wide range of problems. Dark hints of ‘revolution’ and ‘military coup’ — as in the old days when his late mother, Corazon Aquino, was ruling the roost after the demise of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 ‘People Power’ revolution — were in the air, over the airwaves.
“On a CNN Philippines ‘Agenda’ program was a former defense secretary, Norberto Gonzales, talking up a movement to oust Noynoy well before his six-year term runs out next year. Considering that the Philippine president, under the constitution, for which Cory battled mightily, is limited to a single term, plotting to drive him out of office prematurely would appear a little unnecessary.
“Aquino, more than the leaders of the ill-equipped army and national police, is taking the heat for the Mamasapano massacre.
“The timing of the uproar could not have been better for CNN Philippines, which grew out of a deal with a Philippine company, Nine Media Corporation…”
CNN Philippines tried to present both or all sides of the current crisis. But it will be faulted for picking as spokesman for Aquino’s side, Niel Tupas Jr., who is very mousy in look and speech. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and communications secretary Sonny Coloma, who are adept at deception if not in argument, will surely complain.
At almost the same time that CNN Philippines unfurled its wings, the Philippine Senate released last Tuesday the findings of its inquiry, which ranged over four public hearings and three executive sessions.
To give justice to the work of the wire agencies, I quote below the report of Reuters on the Senate inqury:
“The senate panel held President Benigno Aquino responsible for a bungled operation in January that left 44 police commandos dead, but lawmakers from both houses of Congress refrained from calling for his impeachment.
“Aquino’s handling of the secret mission to capture Malaysian militant Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, has created a political crisis for Aquino, and some Roman Catholic bishops and activists have called for his resignation.
“The president must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by a suspended police general,” said Senator Grace Poe, head of the senate panel which looked into the botched operation.”
Reuters also included the separate PNP BOI report in its story:
“Last week, a separate official police report also found Aquino responsible for the bungled operation, violating the chain of command by allowing a suspended general to oversee the mission against Islamist militants.
“Both the police report and the senate panel inquiry found Purisima and the ground commander, General Getulio Napenas, criminally liable.
“But Feliciano Belmonte,Jr., leader of the 290-seat lower house of Congress, said Aquino’s lapses in judgment were not an impeachable offense.”
Belmonte is Aquino’s first line of defense in blocking any move to impeach him – a tough assignment for a geriatric politician.
Climacteric of Aquino presidency
International media have been careful to avoid applying the word “crisis” to Aquino’s travail. But the way things are developing, it won’t be long before the country sees again the likes of CNN’s Anderson cooper doing live reports from Manila, and the New York Times publishing an editorial like the one it published in September last year, which unhinged Malacañang.
Cooper is well remembered by Filipinos for his gripping broadcasts from Tacloban in the immediate aftermath of the Haiyan/Yolanda disaster. He lifted the lid on the disarray of the government’s relief and recovery efforts in East Visayas.
One year and three months to the day since Haiyan’s landfall, victims’ families are still struggling to get back on their feet. The world responded to the tragedy by sending an unprecedented volume of relief and assistance to this country. It’s demoralizing to discover that just this month, government auditors have discovered that millions of foreign money donations have been kept in banks by government agencies, and were not used to assist those in greatest need. Government incompetence and insensitivity last longer than disasters.
The current crisis of president Aquino could be reaching soon its turning point, because Aquino’s final state of the nation address (SONA) is just four months away.
As he is wont to do, Aquino will use the opening of the regular session of congress to trumpet his achievements.
Critics and protesters will be equally anxious to document his failures.
The Greeks and the Romans have a descriptive word to describe a critical or turning point in history: climacteric. It means in its Latin and Greek roots, “a critical point in life.”
Curiously, it’s also the word in physiology that denotes a period of decrease of reproductive capacity in men and women. In women, it’s called menopause. In men, it’s called andropause.
It’s surreal that Aquino will be experiencing the climacteric of his presidency now, without siring any progeny and after devoting so much effort to curtailing the reproductive capacity of millions of his countrymen.