Is this fate or coincidence?

14

LET’S grapple today with some intriguing facts and curious tidbits of history, which seem to belong more to “Ripley’s Believe it or not,” than to a newspaper column.

First: The United States and the Philippines historically have each had only one bachelor president. James Buchanan in the case of the US. Benigno Aquino 3rd in the case of the Philippines.

Second: By an odd coincidence, both Buchanan and Aquino are the 15th president of their respective countries.

Third: Both Buchanan and Aquino have no known progeny. Aquino will likely leave office without begetting a child, although his fans still hope that he will.


Buchanan seriously courted the daughter of Pennsylvania’s leading ironmaster, who didn’t like Buchanan and tried to break up the courtship. After he fumbled the romance, she committed suicide.

Aquino was in a much-publicized courtship of a councilwoman and TV host early in his presidency. When the courtship bombed, she rushed off to marry a congressman.

Bidding for worst presidents
Fourth: Both Buchanan and Aquino are seriously in the running for the title of worst president in their respective country’s history.

Buchanan for bungling America into civil war. Aquino for wasting billions of public money, assaulting the rule of law by attacking the Supreme Court, and setting the stage for the possible dismemberment of the Republic.

In October 2000, the Federalist Society and the Wall Street Journal jointly asked an ideologically balanced group of 132 prominent professors of history, law, and political science to rate the US presidents on a 5-point scale.

George Washington was ranked number 1 (Abraham Lincoln came in second.)

James Buchanan came in dead last at number 39. (George W. Bush and Barack Obama are not included in the rankings.)

No similar evaluation-ranking of Filipino presidents has been attempted yet. But there have been plenty of opinionated propaganda purporting to put down or raise certain presidents.

Treating as an informal survey letters and comments sent to the Times and to this columnist in this year alone, BS Aquino is increasingly seen by plenty of readers as the worst president in Philippine history.

Only yesterday, I got the following reaction to my column of October 14 (“Aquino;The Hoity-toity president”) from Mr. Roldan Guerrero:

“I still consider ‘WORST’ is the right word because he [Aquino] is the most unfit president I have ever known. [Of] all legally elected Philippine Presidents, he is the least in performance, who always talked of accomplishments he did not do. His abuse of the DAP is one of the heinous crimes he did and this makes him the worst.”

On the other hand, reader Mr. Kulas says Aquino is “the best the country has ever had since Marcos.”

Stand-in hostesses
Fifth:. Because of their bachelorhood, Buchanan and Aquino turned to female relatives to stand in as hostesses in official banquets and receptions.

During Buchanan’s presidency, his orphaned niece Harriet Lane, then in her middle twenties, served as the official White House hostess. She had been placed in her uncle’s care following the death of her mother, Buchanan’s sister Jane.

During Aquino’s presidency, his four sisters — Ballsy, Viel, Pinky, and Kris — have taken turns serving as Malacañang hostess. Kris, a TV celebrity, is the most intrepid by Aquino’s side, even shedding tears on cue.

Were they fated to match records?

Were James Buchanan and Benigno Aquino 3rd fated to mirror each other and approximate each other’s level of success and mediocrity?

In a famous essay on Buchanan, historian Jean Harvey Baker offered the following explanation for his failure as president:

“Despite his caution and prudence, James Buchanan was an erratic trimmer who twisted this way and that, and once he made up his mind, he stubbornly adhered to his positions. Having filled his administration with southerners, he was hardly the kind of impartial leader the country needed in the 1850s….Needing self-assurance, he ultimately found it during his retirement, when with exculpatory vehemence, he asserted that he had warned the nation about northern abolitionists. The war was their fault.”

But Buchanan was blamed for the US Civil War. Vandals kept defacing his portrait in the US Capitol, requiring it to be removed for safekeeping. Posters calling him Judas were plastered on walls.

Aquino has mirrored Buchanan in his dependence on friends and cronies, in freezing in indecision in the face of crisis, and in fiercely exculpating himself from blame for every failure of his administration. It is never his fault when public services break down, people die, and government cannot do the job. He cannot fire any of his officials, fearing that he will be seen as the one to blame.

Imploring the public to believe him, he persistently points to his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the culprit for every unsolved problem and every shortcoming of his government.

Soulmates in mediocrity
Is bachelorhood to blame then?

Hardly. Although having a family would probably have enabled them to connect better with their constituents.

Junihiro Koizumi, former prime minister of Japan, was a bachelor while in office. He was a highly popular leader and an economic reformer. He made the hard decisions that started Japan on the road to recovery from years of stagnation.

The most that can probably be said is that James Buchanan and Noynoy Aquino are soulmates in ineffectiveness as their nation’s leaders.

It’s pure chance that they each became the 15th president of their countries. But what each one did in office is his own making and a reflection of character.

It was probably Buchanan’s bad luck – and America’s good luck – that he was followed in the US presidency by the great and revered Abraham Lincoln. He shrank in comparison.

When Benigno Aquino 3rd rides off to the sunset in 2016, will the Philippines be gifted by Providence with a new president destined for greatness?

People of the Philippines, dream on.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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14 Comments

  1. C’mon there’s always a good side and a bad side to every President. If we compare them all with one another as to was not involved in corruption, I think PNoy will stand out as the cleanest..

    Amado F. Cabaero

  2. What are we to do in this present lamentable political situation? Get despondent? To keep on with our detestable “Bahala na” attitude? God forbid! May I humbly suggest that while the strongly acclaimed presidential candidate for 2016 Jojo Binay is so miserably being grilled for alleged crimes not yet substantiated, or while the DILG Secretary Mar is eternally being groomed for Presidency of our dying Republic that nobody but PNoy and his cohorts are willing to oblige, I hereby propose that Davao’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte be “forcibly” (excuse my term) asked to accept the bid for the highest post in the land. In the Catholic Church, we venerate a “Reluctant Saint”, we might succeed to persuade a “Reluctant President”, appealing to his love for God and country. We need peace and order in the Philippines so that investors would gladly come to put up business here. That means more Pinoys will have work at home and not go out for jobs outside. Tourism industry will flourish once more; that means more income that could be used for education, healthcare, good communication systems, good roads and transport system, proper electrification in our cities and also in the countryside, and you name it. I am not saying that Mayor Duterte can transform the leery situations we have fallen into on account of the ineptitude of this present administration, but with our support – all patriotic Filipinos here and abroad, and above all, with heaven’s help, we might succeed. Let us give this gift to our children, for they truly deserve a much brighter and promising future.

  3. Let us stop dreaming. Let us open our eyes to the stark realities gripping our beloved Philippines. Let us ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit to grant us the wisdom and the courage to put flesh to NTC (National Transformation Council) the soonest possible time before it is too late.

  4. Roldan Guerrero on

    I would like to thank Mr. Makabenta for giving sorts of importance on my comments in his very imperative articles published in this site,in the same way that I salute you in your unequalled courage of unveiling abuses of all elective officials mandated by the citizenry to lead them. I am not a Filipino but my mom is a Filipina and this is the reason why I am so much concerned of what is happening in the Philippines. I will not tell you of my nationality but to give you a little clue…my country is a perrennial benefactor and supporter of the Philippines, so sad to find out that the help and assistance we are giving are not properly utilized, The taxes I am paying in my country has a part in the Foreign Assistance Program my country is doing so I think this qualifies me to make comments on your government`s controvertial issues. My country is a G7 and corruption rate is almost zero. We import every raw materials to produce our products, products flowing worldwide because of high quality and importance to mankind, yet the Philippines, one of our suppliers of raw materials, a country very rich in natural resources but basically very poor as a result of traditional corruption in government. As a mechanical engineer by profession, I know the importance of Research and Development,as we make designs through it. Then finally we make the Master Plan and put it in a Blueprint. Incidentally, the Aquino government does not have any agenda or purpose maybe if I am not mistaken he is just after his personal advances. Our government has only 13 cabinets, every cabinet with synonimous functions consolidated into only one purposely to avoid unnecessary expenditures, ex. Ministry of Health, Labor and Employment. Most importantly our head of state does not live in a palace despite the fact our country is very rich and economically giant. The primary concern of our government is to address comfortable lives to every citizen. Will the Filipinos have it soon or its an impossible dream?

  5. Kudos again, Yen! Once I said that I would pray the Lord to never allow your pen to run dry so you could provide our people with truthful information about the real social, economic and political condition of our country that other media outlets, subservient to the present administration, so often fail to provide. Now, going to your latest piece, the seeming similarities in the life of the 15th Presidents of USA and RP, of Buchanan and Aquino, that is. In fairness, Yen, we have to point out all MT readers – whether pro or anti – that there is one thing that admirably stands out in Buchanan’s life that I doubt Aquino could ever offset. The outlook Buchanan held in the light of the LAST CANDLE! Writing to his brother while about to die, he said: “We are both at a period of life when it is our duty to relax our grasp on the world fast receding and fix our thoughts, desires and affections on One who knows no change, I trust in God that, through the merits and atonement of His Son we may both be prepared for the inevitable change.” (Source: “America’s God and Country” by Willian J. Federer). Aquino, on the other hand, as he has proven himself to be to this day, is person without any character – ever-changing, non-forgiving, self-righteous, etc. I have no intention to judge, but the truth of the adage, “how you live, so you die” is a “Damocles dagger” the God of Love, but also of Divine Justice, has placed over every mortal’s head. Take it, or leave it!

  6. There are a lot of similarities between the two bachelor presidents. The one common thing that binds them is that they are the worst Presidents either nation has know.

  7. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    Worst president the Philippines ever had? Amen to this. I rest my case on B.S. Aquino, The Last!

  8. Dominador D. Canastra on

    Good column, Mr. Makabenta. Some racists in America have been saying that Buchanan was such a failure because he was Black. You can;t say that about President Aquino. But maybe you can say that he is such a failure and a protector of the corrupt and criminal in his Cabinet and in his administration–a very cruel and insensitive person– because he has a black heart.