Is it “ ampao” or “ampaw?”
We have to ask the dueling Rio Alma and Joe Lad Santos on the provenance – and correct spelling – of the word recently popularized by President Aquino. Which,, unfortunately, did his critics and non-admirers toss back into the direction of the president.
Sorry to disappoint the critics. President Aquino may not wrestle like Vladimir Putin . He is not “ bro” to tattooed bikers and crypto- fascists. He is too BMI – handicapped to pose for a magazine centerfold . But, to say that he is ampao/ampaw is truthiness . The president is tough and relentless, perhaps the toughest and most determined president in contemporary times. But there is a caveat.
First thing. You may want proof of his toughness.
The frustration of some clerics that the president has been ruling like a dictator, and he always gets what he wants, is something grounded on facts. One of his first major official acts was oust an incumbent Supreme Court chief justice with a tenure that would have stretched to infinity .
He laid out an elaborate case and asked the two chambers of Congress (the House initiating and the Senate voting) to impeach Renato Corona . The DAP, the executive pork barrel, was used to soften the resolve of those who might have wanted to thwart the impeachment , according to critics . Not only that.
The most elaborate ad hoc group ever formed by President Aquino was, you have to acknowledge this, for the impeachment of Mr. Corona . And the group did obtain all relevant information that supported the impeachment without the legal cover of an FOI law. How they amassed all of the information against Corona without a legal cover, we do not know . And the president has not forgotten those who stood close to him during the impeachment , including the then private lawyers who helped impeach Mr. Corona.
How Mr. Aquino reduced the entire Congress into a cowed satrap is by now a classic study in the use of presidential power.
The total submission of Congress to the executive was brutally demonstrated several months later. A chain of events led to the scrapping of the long-entrenched pork barrel. Congress, instead of protecting its reason for being ( for most members of Congress , the reason for running and getting elected was the pork barrel ) , was too prostrate to protest .
I will ask you this. Was there ever a president who had done all these, cow the two co-equal branches of government into submission?
If you look at the composition of the Aquino cabinet, there are no independent thinkers and dissenters. They were chosen, and allowed to stay on, based on their support, unconditional and unequivocal, for the president and his programs.
There is a stark contrast. The first Aquino presidency chose the best and the brightest that it could find , and free thinking and independence of mind was a great attribute. Try scanning the faces of the present Aquino cabinet. You would not find a Joker, a Rene, a Teddyboy , a triumvirate of thinkers, writers and lawyers . The present cabinet members cannot seem to demarcate the line between serving the president and serving the republic.
Ok, the caveat.
All the toughness and relentlessness has a purpose , which can be distilled down to this – a paper chase. The present Aquino presidency has been in an excessive exercise of executive powers to accomplish these objectives .
. Robust growth rates up to 2016
. Credit upgrades from Moody, Standard and Poor, Fitch
. Alleluias from the multilateral institutions and creditors
. Cultivating the image , per the review of the international community , that graft and corruption have been stamped out in the public sector and that the president has been a determined corruption buster.
The obsession with nice charts and graphs is good if complemented with a compassion to spread out the economic gains from good governance into the doomed , unfortunate sectors below.
Nothing of this transformation has taken place because the toughness and relentlessness stops at attaining the nice charts . It is a determination guided by the supreme belief in economic orthodoxy – that economic gains are for real and they trickle-down. The obsession with technocracy has made unfortunate lives an afterthought .
The problem with this kind of heartless orthodoxy – that a leader can rest on his laurels after attaining those nice growth charts – is a growing wealth of evidence that growth can even foster greater inequality- not rein it . And that a determined effort to carry out redistribution of wealth and income gains , to level the playing field through safety nets and a genuine concern for the underclass , would not drag down growth but enhance it.
PNoy can ignore Pope Francis , the great pope who can make vacillating Catholics like myself stay Catholics forever . Pope Francis said that trickle-down is bunk, the plutocrats and the oligarchs , deifying their wealth , would not share their gains .
But he cannot ignore the evidence . A data man, President Aquino should read the magnum opus of Thomas Piketty , the French economist , who has written on the great divide. The book is titled Capital in the 21st century .
The book would shatter all the deeply-held beliefs that have driven President Aquino’s tough and relentless paper chase. And perhaps lead to the president’s change of mind and change of policies.
There is still time to shift from being president on a paper chase to a president who cares for his people.