Mr. Aquino, to his dismay, is a footnote in the current campaign


Mr. Aquino has not been modest when it comes to the achievements of his administration. He sees himself as a reformer-colossus, a corruption-buster, a prodigious GDP-raiser, the slayer of years of impunity and corruption. No president in contemporary history has been as vigorously specific and pointed as Mr. Aquino on the issues of legacy and continuity. Which means his alleged greatness has to be the path, the one and only path, of the next president.

Even during the end-days of Mr. Ramos, who like Mr. Aquino got puff pieces from the foreign press and approbation from multilateral institutions for his supposed efforts to lift the country into a “ tiger” status (and was proud of his cold technocracy), there was no such gloating and boasting. Mr. Ramos, if you know your history, quietly retreated when the last political act of his government – to rewrite the constitution to pave the way for a second term – got no public support whatsoever.

One big anti cha-cha rally at Rizal Park tempered FVR’s urge to do what his cousin, Marcos, did.

Mr. Aquino is an entirely different political specie, on an entirely different planet when the issues are about legacy and continuity. He is not only ultra-proud of his presidency. He wants his supposed legacy to be at the front, back and center of the current campaign. Is he getting his wish? No. In fact, the campaign, to the president’s extreme frustration, has relegated him and his supposed achievements, into the realm of yesterday. The supposed great president-reformer has been ignored by the two men and the woman who could be president in June.

Take note on how the top three presidential contenders regard Mr. Aquino and the sum of his supposed great accomplishments. All the three – Mr. Binay, Ms. Poe and Mr. Duterte – appear to have nothing to do, no connection whatsoever, with Mr. Aquino and his presidency.

Banking giant JP Morgan, in its analysis on why a minority president cannot be that damning to the country, suggested that Mr. Binay’s focus on low income brackets may even be good for inclusive growth, which is boiler-plate in Mr. Aquino’s speeches, but has never been pursued in a meaningful way.

As one who got to college on small-scale hog raising (he now owns a modern, tunnel-ventilated piggery which I intend to build once I hit the Powerball jackpot ), he does not have the contempt for farmers and for workers that is evident in the current president. Mr. Binay panders to the working class. Do you have a problem with that?

In contrast, Mr. Aquino ‘s policies lifted yachts and mega-yachts but did very little to patch the holes in rickety boats of the marginal fishermen who are forced out into the deep sea, to drown there often, helpless against the big waves. The poor men and the deep, angry sea. That a rising tide lifts all boats, the grandest idea of governance, foundered under the Aquino presidency. The Top 1 percent got all the support and snagged 60 percent of GDP gains.

Ms. Poe ‘s economic promises center on joblessness and focus on the rural areas, including neglected Mindanao, which have never been the concerns of Mr. Aquino. The strength of her economic platform is best seen on her grassroots insurance program, which is actually a radical insurance program that functions as a safety net. The devil is in the details and the details of the insurance program are of the Nordic/Scandinavian models. In contrast, Mr. Aquino would not even raise the pension of retirees.

Mr. Duterte is making not much promise and does not pretend to be a president-wonk. His main plank is to get rid of the criminals and syndicates and restore peace and order – upon which (he claims) all commercial and economic enterprises could grow. He is basically a one-issue candidate who has parlayed that one issue into an appealing theme with a very broad appeal. The one thing impressive about Mr. Duterte is his candor. The fact that he considers Mr. Aquino and Mr. Roxas as twins in a governance of failure not only makes him an Aquino-agnostic but dismissive of the duo.

If you have been observant of US political affairs, you must have noticed the inordinate, over-the-top influence of a term-limited president in the current primary campaigns. Mr. Obama is planning for his post-presidential life but whether he likes it or not he is at the front, back and center of the primaries, especially the Democratic primaries.

If only Secretary Clinton can hang on to the Obama coat lapels till the end of the primaries, she would. In the primary debates, a dozen mention of Mr. Obama would not suffice for Mrs. Clinton. She averages about 20 mentions of Mr. Obama and Obama policies. Mr. Sanders, the challenger, now downplays his call for a primary challenge to Mr. Obama in 2012, especially now that the primaries are now heading into states with significant black voting populations.

The Republican presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, have portrayed themselves as anti-Obamas, the anti-thesis of Mr. Obama.

Mr. Aquino and his governing policies laid the groundwork for his inconsequence. By choice, he was the president of the 1 percent. The rest, he ignored. A presidential campaign is about appealing to broad swaths of voters, mostly the 99 percent Mr. Aquino ignored. That is the simple explanation of why the current campaign has relegated him into a footnote.


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  1. Very poor analysis by the writer of this article. Aquino is not a candidate so why the hell would Poe, Duterte, Binay or Santiago even find a need to mention or even criticize this administration. Aquino will be gone as soon as the winner of this election is sworn in. Criticizing this president would only anger some Liberal Party voters who are ambivalent about supporting Roxas 100 percent.

    By comparison, in US politics, those Republican Party candidates that chose to hit on Obama to start their campaign are all gone now. Their Obama rhetoric did not stick unlike Trump, whose brashness have surprisingly put him on the lead by a wide margin campaigning on the promise that he will deport all illegals and suspected terrorists out of the US. Trump also called Republican opponent Rubio an “anchor baby” whose parents came to the US illegally from Cuba. He questioned another Republican opponent Cruz as unqualified because Cruz was born in Canada.

    When foreign music artist like Taylor Swift, J-Lo and lately Madonna whose average talent fees are $1.5 – $2M USD for a 2 hour show would come to the Philippines to perform to a full house tells you that the economy is doing great. So this articles assertion that Aquino only represents the 1 percent is absolutely incorrect.

  2. Vladimir Olivares on

    Pnoy is an egotistical, delusional president and should be written of our history except perhaps, as an example of media manipulation in electing an undeserving candidate.

  3. From Aquino to Aquino the people of the Philippines got nothing good in return. Thanks pnoy wasteful,ineffective,corrupt tenure is about to end.history will judge the Aquino to Aquino and Marcos new society.

  4. All that we have in Aquino are failures, manila hostage carnage, Yolanda typhoon tragedy, metro manila horrendous traffic nightmares, lrt-mrt operation mess, NAIA-customs unstoppable mulcting practices, the DAP tainted milking cow well and the biggest bumbling and brainless and illegal?? operations of all–the mamasapano massacre that cost the country 49 SAF heroes all in all the biggest casualty incurred in a single encounter that could be comparable to the battle of Waterloo… all of us non-Aquino believers have seen these coming in 2000 who did not vote for him because what could we expect from a non performing senator who is the best symbol of INCOMPETENCE….. and how are we proven right…tsk..tsk..tsk….

  5. You are very generous, Marlen. Inilagay mo pa si Aquino sa footnote ng political page. Sa akin, off the margin si Aquino, the worst and most useless “president daw” in Philippine contemporary history. Agree? Or disagree?

    Keep writing. I always read your column.

  6. Leodegardo Pruna on

    P-Noy has made himself irrelevant to his party and opponents. If ever his name is mentioned in the campaign, it is for the money he has in store to use for whoever he supports which to mind is the disgraced Grace. But in as far as the tuwid na daan is concerned it has become one that is rough and bumpy. God save the Philippines.