Mr. Duterte should restore the ‘I’ word banished by Mr. Aquino

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CASUAL observers of governance still remember with weariness a word struck out by Mr. Aquino from the governing lexicon. Pope Francis and President Obama agreed that the word banished by Mr. Aquino “is the defining issue of our time.” It bedevils countries rich and poor, First World and sub-Sahara types, countries large and small.

Mr. Aquino’s loathed word was—inequality.

Mr. Aquino did that on purpose. As he started his term, he set out doing his priority, which was to make the economy grow and post nice GDP charts through an inspired approach that would make Ayn Rand very proud. It was a “winner-take-all” approach that boosted Rand’s “creators” through lax rules and an ideal, unfettered, wealth-making environment.

We all know the results, Mr. Aquino’s six years in office posted prodigious growth rates. His term enabled the emergence of a new class of dollar-billionaires, called by a billionaire tracker as the “those-who-can-buy-a-small-country-rich.”


Mr. Aquino became the darling of the Davos crowd and the Makati Business Club. The foreign financial press called him a “wonky technocrat.” Steve Forbes, the policy crackpot who once sought the Republican presidential nomination and a strong advocate of flat tax and balanced budgets endearingly told Mr. Aquino that he should be President of the US.

Mr. Aquino all but ignored the brutal downside. For the first time in the country’s history, the dollar-billionaires all but sucked up the income gains, leaving the crumbs to the 99 percent. So skewed was the income distribution that the phrase “40 families own 75 percent of the country” became part of the national conversation.

To make his Randian worship less of a national torture, he purged the word “inequality”—and all tamer versions of the word—from the governing lexicon. Not a single speech, not a single proclamation, not a single statement mentioned the word that disturbed Pope Francis and President Obama. And which remains even today—as evidenced by the Brexit vote and the rise of Donald Trump—as a malingering global curse.

The ordure of Mr. Aquino’s Randian worship was cleverly deodorized by his supposed “war on corruption.” He jailed senators after the release of a damning expose on unprecedented congressional corruption, pushed Congress into impeaching a sitting Chief Justice, orchestrated the arrest and detention of a former President. He was abetted by Big Media and the so-called “civil society.” Mr. Aquino’s supposed “Daang Matuwid” became the national issue, its dominance so overwhelming and overpowering that it drowned the real curse of the nation—a society of Gilded Age levels of inequality.

The fight against “corruption” degenerated into a farcical affair, a “wag-the-dog” tactic to obscure the dark underbelly of Mr. Aquino’s all-business presidency.

But as the Bard wrote, all lies and cover-ups end up badly. The May elections voted into power the antithesis of Mr. Aquino, Mr. Duterte. Before May 2016 moved out of the calendar, the Liberal Party, the ruling coalition led by Mr. Aquino, lay in ruins. It was, to use a popular term, the “resbak” of an alienated nation against Mr. Aquino and his political clique. No one paid attention as he left office. The top 1 percent he served was busy finding connections to the new mandarins.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Mr. Duterte’s rise to power had its roots on Mr. Aquino’s many acts of banishments. He banished the “I” word, he alienated the 99 percent, whom he dismissed as without consequence, he moved with and circulated among the winners and bristled at any contact with the losers. What Peping Cojuangco said in the dying days of the campaign was painfully true. It was an insensitive government that alienated the people and imperiled the normal processes of a democracy that posed a real threat to democracy—not Mr. Duterte’s intemperate language.

Through deeds and not through words, Mr. Duterte should embark on a government of restoration. He should place at the front, back and center of his government the word inequality. The superrich can very well take care of themselves. The vulnerable just need the elementary safety nets from government.

Unless he gives to the Great Divide the kind of focus, the kind of intensity his government has been devoting to the campaign against drugs, the most urgent global issue will not ease even by a bit.

A UC Berkeley-based economist, Mr. Emmanuel Saez, recently updated his figures on income gains in the US. Drawing from IRS data, he found out that income gains that went to America’s top 1 percent in 2015 grew by 7.7 percent over 2014 levels.

What was called the “best year for the 99 percent” did not look good, compared to the gains of the top 1 percent. The income gains of the 99 percent were only 3.9 percent.

It is worse here.

Mr. Duterte’s government, if its intent is really to build an egalitarian society, should start with gathering the factual data on the vast chasm, then work out the programs from there.

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10 Comments

  1. ernie del rosario on

    The fight against corruption should be as intense as that against criminality and drugs. After all stealing from government is also a crime.

  2. PNoy’s GDP stats are not even due to his good governance. The figure the yellows like to cite is 6.2% GDP growth, which by itself is meaningless. What counts is GDP growth per capita after inflation.

    Under PNOY, inflation was 3.0%. Population growth was 1.7%. If you subtract These numbers from 6.2%, you get only 1.2%. (3.0 +1.7 = 5.0 when the sum is compounded)

    The 1.2% real per capita GDP growth is entirely due to the increase in OFW remittance and call center outsourcing income. PNoy cannot claim any credit for these. It was GMA who established the foundation for the call center outsourcing industry.

    He cannot even claim credit for the lower inflation rate under his watch.

    n GMA’s time 2001~2010, annual oil price increase averaged 6.3%.
    In PNoy’s time 2011~2015, annual oil price increase averaged -15.4%.

    In GMA’s time, annual inflation averaged 5.1%.
    In PNoy’s time, annual inflation averaged 3.0%.

    It looks like inflation was 2.1 points higher under GMA. But if you take into account the price of oil, it is a wash. Oil price is totally out of Malacanang’s control. So PNoy did not really do better than GMA in controlling inflation.

    The yellows cannot name any specific policy of PNoy that resulted in specific improvement for our country. All they do is tout stats, that may or may not have anything to do with PNoy.

    They cannot cite specific examples of PNoy’s competence. Stats do not prove causality. Logic does.

  3. Ernesto Dela Cruz on

    meeny, I suggest Ombdusman Morales and CJ Sereno be jailed too if they would defend Panot (sorry, Pnoy pala).

  4. Sad to say, we lost 6 years of our productive life because of a president that is only concerned with GDP and Rating Bureau. The government has been sucking the gains of the middle class by outdated tax rates of 32 per cent and letting the super rich at the rate of 20 percent from the so called dividend income. The government must prosecute this guy. 5 generals named as drug lord protector. This was during Pnoy term. Pnoy knew these generals because the lists has been made years ago. It is only Duterte that has the nerve to expose them. I am sure, very sur that Pnoy knew these generals. I personally know a general that owns 10 condominium units. Where did he get the money ? The worst is he gave it to his Kabit.

    • tagaDumantay on

      Widen your perspective on the tax rates. Your 32% paid income is more likely too small compared to 20% dividend income of one single rich people. If you want to enjoy the 20% rate, then invest as well in stock markets; nobody is stopping you.
      You know a general who owns 10 condo, named him here and list down where his condos are. If you are brave enough, ask the general how he do it. If he has done it legally, then you learn how to became rich as well and follow his lead. Being rich is not a sin, it’s how did you do it might be.

    • renato irlanda on

      you can give the generals name to digong or de la rosa.
      do your part, to the max

  5. Hector David on

    You hit the nail on the head..
    PNOY is and will be remembered as a leader that widened the gap between the haves and have not … no amount of economic data nor sugar coating by Coloma can save him from the truth..

  6. The actions taken so far by President Duterte and his lieutenants appear to be leading towards the well being of the country and the Filipino people. These pronouncements are laudable up to a certain extent since none appears to be in line with what his “kingmaker” (who has been by his side in a number of occasions) had accomplished during his term in the Palace.

  7. Not only did BS Aquino ignored the 99% but took more from them. He privatized government hospitals, raised the fare of MRT at the same time let the train system deteriorate. I could go on but we all know about his attitude and what damage he has done to the nation.I hope the current administration execute him to fullest extent of the law, jail him and throw away the keys but with Ombudsman Morales and CJ Sereno around to defend him, i could just be daydreaming.

    • Once you analyze it, the deterioration of MRT and traffic was deliberate and calculated for PROFITEERING. It caused fuel consumption to double to quadrupled due to traffic, creating a domino effect in raising the transport of consumer goods and higher cost, resulting in engineered hyper-inflation. Commuters fed up with unreliable public transport and the traffic chaos rushed to buy, motorbikes and cars, further exacerbating the problem with a 70% increase in new vehicles. For those who could afford it, sale of condos soared as living in the center of the city became another way of beating traffic. While rising cost of everything drained the consumer, the super rich who orchestrated this scheme profited immensely, boasting the country’s 6% growth as an economic miracle that they themselves mostly benefited from.

      To add insult to injury, the Aquino administration delayed MRT rehab-expansion starting only when his term was ending as a tactic to avoid paying all but the fraction acceptance fee of the project. Leaving the remaining balance to be the worry of the Duterte administration.