Before taking up the headline topic, an urgent note on the Kidapawan protest and violence. The most urgent thing to do about it is not to investigate it or punish those responsible, and certainly not to exploit the tragedy for senators seeking TV coverage.
Besides probing and punishing culprits, the government should undertake the immediate and complete release of assistance to drought-stricken farmers.
If that had been done long ago, there would have been no blockade of the North Cotabato-Davao highway and no shootings.
Attention: Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Please go to work and fast, so needy families get food, alternative livelihood, stipends, and other aid. And of course, the bereaved and the injured must be given monetary and medical help yesterday.
While they’re at it, Dinky and the DSWD should check how other communities hit by El Niño are faring, and what assistance must be mobilized pronto. If this kind of systematic and comprehensive monitoring and assistance were done in affected areas nationwide, there would have been no Kidapawan clash.
Congress should press the DSWD and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to regularly provide El Niño needs assessment and assistance delivery reports. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines may also request updates, so affected dioceses can be alerted, and any gaps addressed by the Church and Caritas Manila.
It should be President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his Cabinet looking over the shoulders of the DSWD and the NDRRMC. But Aquino and many of his top officials are focused on just one thing: elections. One hopes bishops and legislators not running for office next month have time to review El Niño updates.
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What Filipinos don’t know about Aquino
Now for the article topic at hand: The latest Pulse Asia poll suggests that 49 percent of Filipinos trust President Aquino, up from 39 percent in February. And 52 percent approve of his performance, up slightly from 49 percent in January.
His ratings may further improve as news and commentary about him diminish, while those on election candidates increase in coming weeks. The same thing happened to then President Gloria Arroyo, whose ratings gained as her term ended and afterward. With media no longer hitting her as much, positive sentiment rose.
Plainly, surveys, whether on incumbent leaders or aspiring ones, rise and fall on media coverage. Over a year ago, Aquino suffered his worst poll ratings due to the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos and his failure to explain his role in it. But as public attention turned to other news, his ratings also improved.
So those assessing Aquino’s poll ratings cannot but look at how media has covered him, and whether key actions and developments under his presidency were given prominent and sustained coverage.
In fact, many aspects and actions of Aquino’s presidency have been largely ignored after they were briefly reporeted. Ask those who trust and admire Aquino if they know about the following confirmed developments under his rule:
• Early in his term, Aquino removed the Philippine National Police from the supervision of then Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, who wiped out jueteng in Naga City, and put the PNP under presidential shooting buddy Undersecretary Rico Puno, named by Archbishop Oscar Cruz as an “ultimate recipient” of jueteng payoffs.
• Also in 2010, Aquino claimed he bought a used Porsche sportscar for P4 million, then sold it a few months later for the same price. But Malacañang could never produce the car registration and deeds of sale for the car, as requested by media to check that it was not an expensive gift disallowed for officials.
• Smuggling and pork barrel trebled under Aquino. Based on International Monetary Fund data, contraband surged to $26.6 billion in 2014, from $7.9 billion in 2009. During this surge, Aquino never investigated the disappearance of 2,000 untaxed and uninspected cargo containers — the biggest spate of smuggling in the country ever.
• Pork barrel topped P20 billion a year since 2011, up from P9 billion or less in the past administration. The corruption-tainted largesse went to legislators supporting Aquino’s pet bills, and ousting his perceived adversaries like then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
• Crime also tripled from 324,083 incidents in 2010 to more than a million every year since 2013, the year data misreporting in 2011-12 was corrected, and police chiefs fudging statistics were suspended or investigated.
• There are unprecedented anomalies in Metro Rail Transit contracts; procurement of vehicle license plates and combat helicopters; the loss by state casinos of P400 million to foreign cheats in May 2011; the laglag-bala airport scam, and repeated irregularities in the National Bilibid Prisons — all of which have not led to any close presidential associate being charged.
Chances are, most Filipinos are ignorant or have long forgotten about these and other grave truths about Aquino’s rule, thanks to his backers in the most widely read or watched media. No wonder his trust and performance ratings stay high.
Will Filipinos still buy his lines?
The good news is, more and more Filipinos are no longer buying Aquino’s Daang Matuwid canard. Appending that slogan to Mar Roxas’s name and campaign has not propelled him to the top. Instead, three out of every four voters want regime change.
So have Filipinos wised up? Aquino is still feeding the public his off-the-cuff lines, recently making digs at Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, now the closest rival to Senator Grace Poe, considered the administration’s Plan B with Roxas stuck at No. 4 in polls.
Duterte has focused his campaign on fighting lawlessness and corruption, unlike rivals who promise to address poverty and public services. With more than 3 million crimes committed in the last three years alone, that’s at least 15 million Filipinos victimized or personally aware of actual murders, rapes, robbery, drug offenses, and other lawless acts. Plus tens of millions more watching the scourge on TV every night.
Will they buy Aquino’s attack on Duterte — or think for themselves and their life and limb?