After Mr. Aquino was overwhelmingly elected president in 2010, there was this sense that he would usher in a real springtime for liberal democracy. And in that springtime, a central feature would be the strengthening of the country’s democratic institutions and the full blossoming of the nation’s civic virtues.
How would not he? He was regarded as a political progressive with a technocratic bent toward promoting growth, without forsaking the fundamental function of leadership. Which is to prop up the limited social safety nets and create a viable middle class. A middle class that is formidable enough to thwart any anti-democratic challenge from anti-democratic forces. That is what progressive liberal democrats do first and foremost — build the institutions of democracy to neutralize any attempt to undermine such institutions.
In short, Mr. Aquino would serve as the steady steward, the incubator-in-chief, for all the progressive values and ambitions of liberal democracy.
And that was not even hard to do.
All he had to do, theoretically, was to allow those with capital to do business with the minimum of corruption and without the unnecessary regulations. Minus the heavy hand of government and with official corruption at a tolerable level, business would flourish. After all, business just had to complement the two strong areas that bring around $50 billion a year and millions in employment with barely any lift, any investment, from government. These are the two famous acronyms: OFWs and the BPOs.
Any and all radical initiatives to carry out pre-distribution and redistribution policies, this is a fact, are easier to carry out under a booming economy with an expanded revenue base.
The external factors were encouraging. A dovish Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. Oil prices were past their $100 per barrel peak and were softening. With rival India mainly focused on the hard-core segments of the BPO, the Philippines was left to absorb all the voice segments of the BPO sector – it was the manpower side that the PH had to take care of.
While Islamic jihadists sowed terror in Brussels, France and elsewhere, they were less a problem in the Philippines despite a possible mass base that was ripe for indoctrination and recruitment.
Of course, we had major calamities. But the dent dealt on the growth momentum by the calamities – if we speak of the numbers and not of the emotional and human side – was negligible.
Internally, Mr. Aquino governed with a pliant Congress. Though It was not unusual for a Philippine president to have a pliant, submissive Congress. The political opposition was in shambles. Only the Left was left as the de facto opposition and its representatives in Congress were not enough to vote against the initiatives of the Aquino government. As usual, the Left took to the streets but with barely any effect on the capability of Mr. Aquino to push through with its initiatives.
No president in our contemporary history had that amount of governing leeway, brought about by internal and external factors, to do good. How did Mr. Aquino perform with all these sets of favorable ?
Mr. Aquino just took care of one class, the Top 1 percent, and left the others to fend for themselves. He was especially cruel to one economic subset, the really poor and the really vulnerable. He was, for all intents and purposes, the President of the Top 1 percent.
The legislative measures passed to uplift those on the “laylayan” were many, from a great charter for the poor to a pension increase from the SSS. But the budget-balancing obsession of Mr. Aquino led him to veto these measures.
Mr. Aquino designed his major economic policies with two goals, GDP growth and credit upgrades. The GDP growth was realized in full six years – mostly at the expense of the neglected underclass. The credit upgrades were achieved by a string of budget –balancing measures, also at the expense of the meager social safety net upgrades passed by Congress but vetoed by Mr. Aquino. Even the upgrade of the MRT 3, that ferries around 500,000 tired and weary metropolitan passengers a day, was rejected by the GDP-obsessed Mr. Aquino.
No such thing as tender mercies for those below the 1 percent.
Mr. Aquino was also very cavalier about his Supreme Court appointments. Was there a conscious effort to name one with the legal mind set of CJ Sereno? None and that was a great fail on the part of Mr. Aquino.
As he was cavalier with all things beyond his favored paper chases.
Mr. Aquino left office in the middle of the year a lonely forgotten man. He left a nation deeply alienated by his “For the 1 percent, By the 1 percent and Of the 1 percent rule.”
His candidate for president was shellacked in the polls, a plus 6 million vote lead tallied by Mr. Duterte. He lost his moral voice and his moral suasion.
You reap what you sow. The SC vote that allows the Libingan ng mga Bayani burial of Mr. Marcos was what the nation harvested from Mr. Aquino’s epic failures and grand omissions. He incubated the second life of the Marcoses.
History has rendered a verdict on Mr. Aquino and it is a cruel, unfavorable one. It came in form of a SC ruling to bury Mr. Marcos at a sacred ground for heroes and martyrs.