Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. … Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.
— The Book of Hosea, 6:1, 3
The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy.
— The Second Book of Chronicles, 36:15-16
THE first Mass readings today and tomorrow, quoted above, extol God’s mercy for those acknowledging their sins, repenting, begging forgiveness, and mending their ways. President Benigno Aquino 3rd should listen these admonitions.
Those who care for him, especially his sisters, his spiritual advisers, and others close to him, should urge the Chief Executive to embrace the Lenten spirit and truthfully ponder where he committed transgressions and how he can make amends.
Many confidantes often butter up Aquino, insisting he has done no grave wrong in his presidency of nearly five years. Not the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), not the record smuggling and pork barrel, not the coddling of “KKK” cronies, not the faulty leadership that led to the bloody Mamasapano mess.
Such sycophants do immense disservice, feeding pride and perpetuating error. They reprise Israel’s ancient leaders in the Chronicles verses, who scoffed at heaven’s messengers and despised prophetic warnings, enraging God till “there was no remedy.”
Two days ago, an erstwhile supporter, resigned Akbayan lawmaker Walden Bello, tried to deliver his own warning in Congress, but administration legislators stopped him.
Rather than dismissing criticism, Aquino should give serious thought to straight, unflinching assessments from those not seeking to win his favor or exploit his goodwill. They may well be warnings from above.
Events also deliver divine messages. Since bishops consecrated the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in June 2013, the administration has faced one difficulty after another, from the pork barrel and the Inecon bribery scandals the following month, and the Zamboanga, Bohol and Tacloban disasters afterward, to last year’s pork barrel and DAP rulings, and this year’s Mamasapano carnage.
More trials for nation and leader
Our October 21, 2014, column (“As crises threaten, should Aquino step aside?) warned that his crisis mismanagement could lead to grave mishaps in coming months, with potential crises ahead, including the papal visit in January and Metro Manila’s ports, commuter train, traffic and, in summer, electricity woes.
As it turned out, it took just one untoward event to land Aquino in his deepest quagmire, and it wasn’t even among those on the watchlist. That’s because it was secretly conceived and undertaken by the President, his suspended Philippine National Police chief, and the PNP Special Action Force commander he now accuses of deceiving him.
Things can get worse with more trials ahead, and inner strains intensifying emotional pressures and undermining rational responses. Below are several challenges looming until the end of Aquino’s term on June 30, 2016. Any of them could push a delicate soul to breaking point:
• This year there are multiple international meetings leading to the November summit of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, all of which are potential terrorism targets demanding iron-clad security just like Pope Francis’s visit.
• Extremists may well be planning attacks in reprisal for the Mamasapano operation and the war on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Plus: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may react to delays and revisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
• The El Niño season just begun will spawn intense drought and storms, with debilitating impact on communities in hazard areas, as well as food supplies and prices. Inflation in edibles already pulled more than 2 million Filipinos below the poverty line last year.
• Luzon’s power cuts will add to Metro Manila frustrations with traffic and commuter trains. If Aquino gets emergency powers, generating contracts would land in his office, adding to its already clogged paper flow, and some could be marred by corruption.
• Half a trillion pesos in public-private partnership projects are to be offered to investors, from the Fort-Ortigas subway link, to the upgrading and management of several provincial airports. Scandal may tarnish a PPP deal or two.
• The 2016 elections will bring the inevitable bloody clashes, as well as shifts in all political factions. Not a few administration stalwarts could switch sides — and employ their insider knowledge to discredit Aquino and his camp.
• An administration move to oust or arrest Vice-President Jejomar Binay would almost certainly spark massive unrest by opposition supporters, which could escalate to People Power proportions.
• Segments of both the military and the police could move against the administration if they lose confidence in the Commander-in-Chief over his actions before, during and after Mamasapano, or in future incidents.
For those who can counsel Aquino
As the October column warned, “To expect none of these scenarios to happen is dumb. To think two could materialize isn’t outlandish. And to prepare for contingencies not even on the radar is wise.” Indeed, the unexpected did happen in January, and another unpleasant surprise could very well blow up in the next 15 1/2 months.
Aquino’s family, the churchmen he respects like Jesuit theologian Catalino Arevalo and
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and true friends not seeking their own advancement at his expense, should join him in sincere and truthful reflection on his rule and what God may want of him in the months ahead for the nation’s sake and his own well-being.
Let us pray for the Lord’s grace and guidance for President Benigno Aquino 3rd.