First of two parts
So who’s the president we should elect? For most Filipinos, the answer comes down to which candidate they like or dislike, focusing on one or two things about him or her. Not issues, qualifications or platforms, but personalities, reputations or survey ratings. Or who happened to let loose the latest headline-grabbing soundbite.
That’s the stupid way to vote. Rather, smart voters choose the candidate who has the right qualities, knowledge and track record to face the country’s biggest challenges.
So in choosing among Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago (assuming they’re all legitimately on the ballot in May), first figure out what struggles we face. And the biggest threat today is lawlessness.
Lawlessness on the streets, at the ports, and in the corridors of power.
Huh? That’s what readers may blurt if their usual news fare comes from pro-administration journalists in leading newspapers and broadcasters who have kept hidden some very alarming truths.
An explosion of lawlessness
And the hidden truth is that breaking laws and rules has exploded under President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the very opposite of his Tuwid na Daan slogan falsely claiming to advance good governance and the rule of law.
Crime and smuggling have trebled. Crime incidents skyrocketed from 324,083 incidents in 2010 to more than 1 million a year in 2013 and 2014, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (see https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2015%20PIF.pdf and https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2012%20PIF.pdf, noting that 2011-12 figures are grossly understated, with several police chiefs relieved or probed for false data).
That’s not the work of random criminals, who don’t just triple in a few years, but organized crime, which is now even assassinating judges.
And based on International Monetary Fund trade data, smuggling leapt from $7.9 billion in 2009 to $26.6 billion in 2014. Some P4 trillion in total undeclared or undeclared cargo slipped in under Aquino, losing P760 billion in uncollected value-added tax alone (http://www.manilatimes.net/smuggling-utterly-out-of-control-under-aquino-regime-p4-trillion-in-last-five-years/212920/).
Not to mention allowing in guns, drugs and other dangerous cargo, including contraband in more than 2,000 containers lost in 2011, with no investigation by Aquino or his chosen Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
Corruption from the top
Add to unprecedented crime and contraband the corruption in key agencies and Congress, which Aquino has abetted with “selective prosecution” of graft, as Catholic bishops called it, and the use of pork barrel to grease legislation and impeachment.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund nearly tripled to more than P20 billion a year in Aquino’s budgets, while the P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program is the biggest malversation in Philippine history.
Plus billions of pesos in anomalies involving Metro Rail Transit contracts, license plates, military helicopters, police rifles, among other agency transactions. Most notorious is the Department of Transportation and Communication under Liberal Party stalwarts Mar Roxas, the LP standard bearer, and leader Jose Emilio Abaya. Even respected analyst and Aquino backer Peter Wallace decries: “This government does not honor contracts.”
Aquino has constantly defended his coterie of classmates, allies and shooting buddies, even bailing out two LP stalwarts on trial at the Sandiganbayan. That has encouraged more crony excesses like the “laglag-bala” airport scam. And remember the Mamasapano mission in which 44 police commandos died, illegally run by suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima with Aquino’s nod.
The narco-state threat
What’s worse, the lawbreaking continues, to raise election funds and make hay one last time before Aquino goes on June 30.
After he boasted in his last State of the Nation Address that Metro Manila crime was down, the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, which handles crime data, reported that in January-June last year, there were 885,445 incidents tallied, up 46 percent over the first semester of 2014.
Index crimes surged 37 percent to 352,321. Murders jumped 45 percent to 7,245, while physical injury rose by half to 182,886 incidents. Thefts hit 105,229, up by nearly 20,000 from a year ago. And watch your car — carnapping nearly doubled to 10,039. The directorate head later claimed that many incidents were not verified, as if both police and people would actually report hundreds of thousands of crimes that never happened.
As for smuggling, the scheme of uninspected and untaxed cargo containers getting lost between ports is back many times over. As one veteran customs broker tells it, hundreds of containers are spirited out of Subic port every week, including dozens from his former client who switched to a brokerage with no scruples and no duties charged.
And if you think pork barrel is history after the Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional over a year ago, in fact, it’s bigger than ever, as fellow columnist Rigoberto Tiglao detailed yesterday (http://www.manilatimes.net/largest-pork-barrel-ever-p24-7-billion-in-election-year/237599/). No wonder congressmen have been warned of curtailed fund releases if they don’t approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Plainly, if this explosion in crime, contraband and corruption continues, the Philippines will follow the not-so-straight path taken by Latin American narco-states, where crime lords wield immense political power. That’s the threat the next president must fight.
Who can lead this battle?
So which presidential candidate is best suited to battle criminal syndicates, smuggling kingpins, and corrupt leaders helping one another?
First, he must not be part of the administration that unleashed this triple scourge. It began when Aquino not only trebled PDAF, but also kept proven jueteng fighter Jesse Robredo and customs reformer Guillermo Parayno off the police and the ports back in 2010 (see http://www.manilatimes.net/is-aquino-corrupt/217735/). That corrupted Congress, cops and customs even more, letting crime and contraband flourish.
Second, the next president should be battle-tested, for what’s ahead is nothing less than a war on crooks in concert across the archipelago. Third, the future leader must be able to mobilize the nation, for upright officialdom and citizenry must fight this battle together and with God’s grace. It will be bloody.
(The last part on Thursday will discuss who is best equipped to fight this lawless surge.)