THE defenders of Mr. Aquino have been shaking their heads in endless frustration. They point to the intersection of two figures, the first of which was about a milestone feat for the Philippine Stock Exchange: it reached a historic high, the 8,000 territory. Meanwhile the SWS, the polling firm, reported that the satisfaction rating of the president has dived to an all-time low, a precarious 11 percent.
Plus, with the findings of a US-based think-tank, which boldly asserted that the Philippines is now the most resilient emerging economy in the world, the defenders are at a loss explaining what seems to be a great disconnect: a president pushing growth to the limits and the people’s lack of appreciation for the work of their beloved president. Are Filipinos that ungrateful?
Is Mr. Aquino just like a prophet of the old times – unappreciated in his own land?
But is there really a great disconnect? Or are the two figures, the PSE’s all-time high and Mr. Aquino’s all-time low, normal expectations, things which are bound to happen, under the administration of Mr. Aquino? Which is which?
The answer? There is no disconnect between the two figures. They are perfectly in sync. And the whys are not even hard-to-grasp, complex issues.
From 2010 up to today, Mr. Aquino has pursued a tough and unrelenting growth-at-all-cost policy. The regulatory and fiscal environment was designed for capital to flourish. There was no humanity to that policy as Mr. Aquino is a John Galt on steroids. For as long as Mr. Aquino’s paper chase was fulfilled — his lust for GDP growth, credit upgrades and a thriving bourse — Mr. Aquino assumed not much else need to be done.
Even the optics of his presidency validated that one-track effort, his resoluteness, in attaining solid growth figures and nothing else. One who cannot even commiserate with victims of great tragedies (remember his reaction to the question on whether he would attend the wake of Jennifer Laude), Mr. Aquino lights up and lightens up in the company of the plutocrats and oligarchs.
If that growth caused the spread opportunities all around, if those nice charts resulted in a broadly based prosperity, fine. If not, Mr. Aquino would just shrug off and play deaf and blind to the Social Darwinism of his growth-at-all-cost policies. Mr. Aquino is a leader who has not probably read the greatest and loftiest speech of all time – The Sermon on the Mount.
Every now and then Mr. Aquino invokes an empty slogan – inclusive growth — to demonstrate that there is a sliver of humanity to his growth agenda. But it is all lip service. The fact is this: before Mr. Aquino, “ inclusive growth” was a phrase with a sense of purpose. Now, it is not even worth “ a pitcher of warm spit.” The definition of “ inclusive growth” made by his Cabinet secretary in a talk before business groups was a classic in Orwellian formulation.
Mr. Almendras’s definition of “inclusive growth” validated this universal truth: Atrocious language is atrocious policy.
For about four years, Mr. Aquino had gotten away with his growth-at-all-cost policy, even if the costs to ordinary human lives of his elitist policies were horrific. The 1 percent favored by Mr. Aquino built their surging and impossible wealth level on the backs of the working class – whose organizing and bargaining power had been completely eviscerated.
In the malls and retail establishments owned by the 1 percent, the salary scales of the workers would make the Waltons and McDonald owners the paragon of enlightened capitalism.
In the rural areas, where almost 30 percent of the work force live off marginal farms, poverty has been brutal and wrenching.
The social safety nets are a joke. The body politics even regards the meager cash transfer program, whose yearly fund is just barely 2 percent of the national budget, as “ bloated.”
Mr. Aquino, amid the ever-bulging wealth of his beloved 1 percent, remains allergic to the words inequality and redistribution. Even after a beloved visitor, Pope Francis, made the caring of the poor and the condemning of inequality as the main themes of his visit.
The response to Yolanda exposed the hollowness, the lack of a human component of Mr. Aquino’s growth- at- all- cost policies. It was at this point that many noticed the president’s utter inability to relate to public suffering. And his lack of concern for the unfortunate.
Then came the Mamasapano carnage, which demonstrated that except on matters that would improve his nice growth charts, the presidency was either clueless or incompetent. Or, out of touch with reality.
The 11 percent is the verdict of the faceless and the voiceless. You don’t care about us. We don’t care about you either.
It is payback time. The president can have the most bullish stock exchange in the nation’s history. But he can’t have the appreciation and the love of the governed.