Now we know why a slacker in the mold of Procy Alcala can perfectly survive in the Aquino administration. The secret of his staying power ? He delivers good news to the President on a sustained basis, even the ones that are patently untrue. Such as telling Mr. Aquino that we are a country on the road to self- sufficiency in the basic staple.
The reality? We can’t do that in a thousand years unless we defy monetary orthodoxy and return to the supervised food production programs. The iconic image of farming in the years of yore, the man with his hoe, is still current and the truth is only the agribusiness part of agriculture has modernized. But a statement from the secretary of agriculture that we are, indeed, on that road to rice self-sufficiency is a breathtaking one. And Mr. Aquino likes good news and loathes the other kind.
So what if Mr. Alcala is making up stories. So what if we imported more than 1.4 million metric tons of rice this year. So what if we will make another jumbo importation of rice next year. The fact that he does not bring problems to the President—the hard, tough and knotty variety—is well appreciated.
The part of the presidential functions fully embraced by Mr. Aquino, the ones he performs with giddiness and enthusiasm, are those that involve, exclusively, the delivery of good news, mostly about the following :
• GDP growth is above norm and better than the growth levels of the traditional economic powers
• The rating agencies have awarded us a string of credit rating upgrades
• We have gained notches in the ranking on economic freedom, openness to business, competitiveness etc.
• The multilateral institutions, the international press, the likes of Klaus Schwab have taken notice of the great economic strides and we are now considered one of the rising economic stars in the region
• Our political and economic reforms are bearing fruit
The president is so buoyed up by his own enthusiasm for our economy that he thinks that crippling traffic jams are part of “progress.”
A good 99 percent of the action photos of Mr. Aquino have been about events that portray the Philippines in the best of economic light, an emerging economy where good things have been taking place and where better things will surely come.
He revels in the opening of the new roads and bridges, either done by the government, or via the various BOT, BLT schemes. He is animated when inaugurating office towers of multinationals resettling here or spanking BPO offices. According to BPO executives, they often receive calls from the President with queries on how he can help fast-track the development of the boom sector.
His photos with the plutocrats and the oligarchs are aplenty, especially if these are business forums which would give the President the megaphone to hector his choir about his economic and political reforms. Or sessions with parachuting foreign journalists ready to write puff pieces on the surging Philippine economy.
On meeting with the young, the president prefers award ceremonies for young overachievers. Ten outstanding this, five outstanding that. But never with juvenile delinquents and the young dregs of society.
More than two years ago I wrote a piece about the aversion of the President to meeting and embracing the weak, the needy, the calamity victims, the victims of violent crimes, the persecuted, the specific constituencies mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount.
The column was headlined: “Change your photo-ops, Mr. President.” The President, this was the point raised in that piece, is president to all Filipinos. He should take time to be with the exploited, the poor and the oppressed, those in evacuation centers. He should recognize suffering and want and should be with those who are grieving or mourning and in need of consolation.
Less than two years before his term ends, the President has not changed his photo-ops. In fact, he has made it perfectly clear that he cannot be the president to all Filipinos, especially those in a state of grief and sorrow.
Ok, what was his answer to a query on whether he would attend the funeral of the murdered transgender Jeffrey Laude? Read it and you will weep.
“I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know. I am uncomfortable in trying to condole with people who don’t know me.”
But are you not the father of the nation? Are you not president to all— from the billionaires rich enough to buy small countries down to those who sell their body organs to survive?
Pray, tell us. Who are you president to?
The netizens struck back with an outpouring of rage. We were with you, they said, when your father was assassinated. We were with you when your mother was laid to rest. How can you be so callous and insensitive?
The Laude incident segued into Mr. Aquino’s decision to take out devastated Tacloban City from the Yolanda-stricken areas that he visited.
He is uncomfortable there. His political enemies are in power. And Tacloban City residents, decrying the government inattention to their plight, has asked the President to resign.
But tell us, Mr. President, when was the presidency all about good news, personal comfort, expression of triumphalism and moments of celebration?