In reply to President BS Aquino, and as one of the critics whom he threatened to crush in his commencement address at the Philippine Military Academy last Sunday, I will nominate His Excellency and five of his lousy speeches for induction into Failure Magazine.
Believe it or not, there is such a magazine on the planet. Failure is authentic and not a joke; it’s so interesting and original, the Washington Post published a feature on the magazine and its editor, Jason Zasky (“When all else fails, he writes about it.” Washington Post, 2 November 2008). You can read more about the magazine at its website: www.failuremag.com.
I figured that the magazine will be interested in the spectacular failures of President Aquino, particularly his speechmaking. Failure has published a five-part series by Zasky on the famous “Malaise” speech of President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He traced its history, and clarified why a speech entitled “A crisis of confidence” became known instead as the “Malaise” speech.
Besides Aquino’s PMA speech, which is destined to fail (How can he shut down free speech and press freedom in media in the Age of the Internet, when critics have more readers online than on the printed page?), I intend to submit and document four other Aquino speeches that are worthy to be documented, namely:
1.Aquino’s speech of welcome to Pope Francis in Malacañang on January 19, 2015, which gained both nationwide and global criticism, and roused an unprecedented outpouring of love and adulation for the Pope and set crowd records in the history of papal rallies.
2. Aquino’s speeches on the Mamasapano tragedy (three so far, delivered February-March 2015), arranged chronologically, each one becoming more heartless and hollow than the one preceding it.
3. Aquino’s speech attacking and threatening the Supreme Court of the Land in July 2014, which he delivered in bitterness after the High Court ruled 13-0 that his signature Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional and illegal.
Consoling words on failure
The Failure website provides some consoling features for readers who are failures, just in case they are very depressed.
One such feature is “Winning Words From Those Who’ve Known Defeat,” which is veritably a compendium of wisdom. Among the choice quotes are:
1.“A man may fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” A gem from oil tycoon and industrialist Jean Paul Getty.
This should be revelatory for PNoy, who has spent most of his time in the presidency blaming his failures on his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and other former presidents.
2. “In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Through failure, we learn a lesson in humility which is probably needed, painful though it is.”
This was spoken from the heart by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. He knows.
3. A third quote is stunning, because it comes from a spectacular success, the novelist J. K. Rowling.
In June 2008, she delivered the Harvard Commencement Address. She said in part:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. . . . Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
The author of the Harry Potter novels spent her early writing life broke and jobless.
4. “Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.” From Writer Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man.
Egotism and failure
To understand how President Aquino handles failure it is useful to note the connection between egotism and failure.
Psychologists say that Egotists are often the least able to handle failure. Egotists who encounter failure are often prone to paranoia.
When the Russian rouble suffered its biggest one-day decline since 1998 and capital flight exceeded an estimated $64 billion, President Vladimir Putin chose to blame foreign governments instead of his government. He railed against a conspiracy to weaken Russia through sanctions and unpatriotic speculation.
It is understandable why a former KGB agent should be inclined to see conspiracy everywhere as Russia founders. But in this instance, Russia’s problems begin and end with him.
Similarly, as his PMA speech shows, Aquino thinks that his critics are part of an elaborate conspiracy to set back and reverse his reforms.
But he is dumbfounded when critics shoot back at him, asking, “What reforms? Please enumerate, so we can examine them.”
Yet President Aquino and his numerous spokesmen and propagandists have never listed the reforms he claims that are supposed to have transformed our nation and our lives.
Now Aquino is cranking up his bravado to overdrive as the country prepares to host the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this year.
When failure masquerades as success
Former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno had a fine column yesterday in the Tribune, which explains why the Aquino government is full of bombast heading to the APEC meetings. They, Aquino and his officials, think the failures and setbacks of the Philippines, like Mamasapano accountability, are safely hidden.
Diokno contends that what Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and other goverment managers are manipulating things in such a manner that “failure masquerades as success” in this country.
“Except for Finance Secretary Purisima, every one should be unhappy with the government’s fiscal performance. The government has been underspending for the last five years, yet Mr. Purisima appears elated that the actual budget deficit is much smaller than the planned deficit.
“In 2014, the planned deficit, the difference between expenditures and revenues, was P266.3 billion or 2 percent of gross domestic product; actual deficit was P73.1 billion or 0.6 percent of GDP. This is a disaster for a country that is trying to reduce joblessness, poverty, and hunger.
“Instead of admitting the administration’s failure to meet its own fiscal goals, Mr. Purisima proudly announces that government actual spending has been below planned spending — as if it was its ultimate goal. Planned spending is the product of careful planning and coordination of the economic managers. The planned spending of P2.284 trillion and deficit of P266.2 trillion (or 2 percent of gross domestic product) is supposed to be consistent with GDP growth rate of between 6.5 to 7.5 percent.
“Institutionalizing reforms across all agencies translate into favorable numbers that bode well for the Filipino people. Time and again, we have proven how this government is forward-facing and actively engaged in building our prosperous future,” Purisima said.
“The Philippines continues to stand on firm fiscal footing as we grow at a sustainable pace, owing to the reforms that we have put in place,” Purisima added.
Alas, Purisima’s words cannot hide the brutal fact that revenue targets are not being met and public underspending continues to deny society “better infrastructure for the future, and more jobs, better income, and less hunger in the near term.”
I can already see the editors of Failure awarding recognition to President Aquino and his government.