The past week ended on a note of good cheer, despite a tempestuous visitor named Ruby, who mercifully turned out to be less ferocious than feared, and left quickly after shaking to the rafters a few towns and barangays.
But then, this week opened with a shocking discovery. In a raid this Monday on the country’s biggest jail—the New Bilibid prisons in Muntinlupa—the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) discovered that the penitentiary has been partly converted into a vice den for well-heeled prisoners, who live in secret luxury villas that are outfitted with strip bars, Jacuzzi, plasma TV and other amenities.
The villas, designed and built for drug lords, kidnap gang leaders and other powerful inmates, were scattered around the sprawling 500-hectare compound.
To be delivered from a typhoon to this sickening mess is more depressing than you can imagine. Some friends of mine and some people at home have adamantly refused to read the story online or in print, or watch the sordid details on TV. They cannot comprehend how, Philippines our Philippines, could have descended to this kind of squalor and shame. When, they wail, did we vote to become a banana republic?
Litany of disorders and other sorrows
Alas, the bizarre Bilibid enclave is only one in a litany of disorders and other sorrows that have disfigured the nation in the age of Benigno Aquino 3rd. Consider:
After marking the first anniversary of the Haiyan/Yolanda disaster last November 8, we remain confronted by the stark reality of thousands still living in tents, and cities still mired in distress and deprivation, and of a much-touted rehabilitation program that still has to get off the ground. The region’s main airport artery, the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City, has been totally closed down for undisclosed reasons.
2. After being rebuffed by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision that declared the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration program (DAP) as unconstitutional, for violation of separation of powers and the General Appropriations Act, President Aquino and his cohorts will be making a comeback in the 2015 budget act that has been recently passed, which redefines the term “savings” to enable Aquino and Budget Secretary Butch Abad to cannibalize the budget for discretionary funds.
3. After being criticized for neglecting infrastructure development under his watch and government underspending, the Administration has launched 15 major road projects almost all at the same time in different parts of Metropolitan Manila. These are big-ticket projects that will cost billions of pesos and take years to complete. The biggest project is Skyway 3, a 14.8-kilometer elevated highway that will link the South Luzon Expressway to the North Luzon Expressway
By unleashing this infrastructure tsunami, the |government has created a nearly permanent and monstrous traffic gridlock, causing citizens to cut down on movement outside the home.
4. The massive infrastructure undertaking has highlighted the administration’s total failure to maintain and expand the metro rail transit system (MRT3).
The rail system, which services over half a million people daily, has been reduced to a ragtag service, fraught with danger for commuters, and no one knows whether the promised purchase of new trains and a new maintenance contract by a competent group will ever materialize.
5. Another huge headache in the litany is the agonizing modernization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and its three terminals, and still pending construction of a second runway. The airport has deservedly earned the distinction of being the worst international airport in the world, as it has even failed to maintain adequate toilet facilities.
6. To meet the big need for efficient electricity service and other utilities, government has wholly privatized the provision of essential utilities in the metropolis and other parts of the country.
Privatization has become a curse on residents and businesses, as utility charges have spiraled to unheard-of levels. The country now has the dubious distinction of charging the highest electricity cost per kilowatt hour among all Asean countries.
Good governance as Aquino’s legacy
Despite this record, President Aquino has boasted that good governance will be the legacy of his presidency when he leaves office in 2016, confident that credit ratings upgrades would clinch the argument.
In riposte, critics say that it’s more truthful to describe the whole record as “dysfunctional government” because what President Aquino has created during his watch is governance that does not solve serious problems of national life but exacerbates them. He has no vision and clear agenda of governance, as his energies have been consumed by acts and policies of vengeance against political enemies.
Governance and government are not identical. A government is a formal body invested with the authority to make decisions in a given political system. Governance is the way public policies are produced, sustained, and regulated.
When political analysts speak of dysfunctional government, they mean it as an analogy to a dysfunctional family (the origin of the usage), which denotes a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse occur continually and regularly.
The new Bilibid enclave is a dysfunctional feature because the penitentiary is supposed to be a correctional institution, not a vacation place.
Upon his inauguration in 2010, President Aquino raised much hope in the country and abroad that he would lead the Philippines to health and wealth and progress in the 2st century.
Today, 30 months away from the end of his term, many Filipinos are wondering whether they have more to look forward to than the vice lords in Bilibid.