Being President of the Philippines has never been an easy job. As head of the executive branch of the government, the President is supposed to be co-equal with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who heads the judiciary, and the Senate President, who heads the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature.
To most Filipinos, however, the Chief Executive is the first among equals. He or she is perceived as the most powerful of the three heads of the three separate branches of government. That makes him the brunt of criticisms from a variety of sources whenever there is a problem.
These days, President Benigno Aquino 3rd is under attack for 1) not visiting the worst hit areas of the floods that swamped Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, 2) refusing to support calls to abolish pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund, despite the scandalous waste of hundreds of millions, if not billions of pesos, in the system, and 3) keeping his hands off the sinking of the ferry outside Cebu, which resulted in scores of fatalities.
The list goes on and on. Mr. Aquino is also being criticized for supporting the US bid to increase its presence in the country, doing little to solve the bombings in the south, and heading for China next month to attend some function perceived as unimportant.
Some of the criticisms may be valid, while some border on the ridiculous.
It is easy to criticize, especially if one does not feel compelled to offer any solution. The street vendor, the jeepney driver, the factory worker, and practically everybody else have something to say about everything, including the President’s performance. But these people do it out of frustration, so the object of their wrath, the President himself, should to regard them with tolerance and take things in stride. However, he should not allow the criticism to distract him.
There is a saying in my profession that those who can, write, while those who can’t, teach. To paraphrase this, those who can never hope to be elected to any government position, much less the presidency, take it upon themselves to use any public pulpit to lambaste the President. They may be well within their rights, but they may also fail to appreciate just how difficult the job of the President is.
Whoever occupies Malacanan Palace may be the most powerful person in the Philippines, but he or she is also the most overworked.
Media is sometimes known as the Fourth Estate because it is said to wield so much power as to be practically co-equal with the three branches of government. The one difference is that there is no one heading or leading of media, which is a good thing. No person should have so much power as to sway how the people should think.
Mr. Aquino is best advised to focus on what is important, nothing more.
The Philippines faces some very serious issues that the President should pay attention to. There is no point in his visiting flooded towns and cities. What he should be doing is to make sure that all possible aid and assistance be given to the estimated one million it victims of Tropical Depression Maring, or at least the worst hit among them.
He should also assure that there is no whitewash of the Napoles case. A person who allegedly has billions can certainly do much to avoid justice, and the President can use his influence to make sure that this does not happen.
The one thing that President Noynoy Aquino should not do is to micromanage the affairs of state. He has a Cabinet to help him take care of the business of governance.