The President speaks: Will the people listen?

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When President Benigno Aquino 3rd addresses the nation this evening, he will convince millions of Filipinos hearing him on TV and radio or reading and listening to highlights of his speech in pro-Aquino media. Despite years of open disregard for the law, double standard treatment of friends and foes, and the unprecedented anomalies in public spending and smuggling, many Filipinos who supported him since 2010 are just waiting for some sliver of justification to keep their faith.

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That is the power of media narrative, which also makes it hard even for journalists to abandon an entrenched perspective on a well-covered topic, whether it is Aquino’s purportedly reformist rule, or his predecessor’s widely assumed corruption (see March 14 column, “The Pope and the President’s Mystique Sticks”). Such stubborn views persist despite evidence to the contrary. And that will make Aquino credible to many.

But for a growing number of Filipinos and media who put actions and facts above rhetoric and spin, nothing the President can say will persuade, simply because his actions and policies speak far louder than his soundbites.

He will repeat the Palace claim that the Disbursement Acceleration Program was done in good faith for the people’s welfare, offering examples of beneficial DAP-funded projects and programs. And his diehard supporters will echo those cited initiatives on the street, with friends, in print, on the air, online, and most especially in their minds.

The big questions
Other citizens and journalists, however, will pass up the presidential hook, line and sinker, and ask some telling questions, ideally with fellow countrymen listening:

Why didn’t Aquino ask for a supplementary budget to fund all those supposedly admirable undertakings, which would have been quickly passed with his immense clout in Congress and the hefty DAP allocation for legislators?

When will the nation see a full list of DAP-funded items, to judge for ourselves if most of the money was indeed spent wisely?

If Aquino and Secretary Florencio Abad purportedly made honest mistakes in violating the Constitution, how exactly did they miss established budgeting tenets and rules which Abad long knew as a lawyer, former House Appropriations Committee chairman and a two-time Cabinet secretary, and which Aquino espoused in a 2009 Senate Bill 3211 curbing the President’s power to withhold and realign budget allocations? (That bill, by the way, has lately disappeared from the Senate website. Nice one, Frank.)

CBCP vs. KKK
Aquino will also likely speak on the issue, most recently raised the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, that the pork barrel investigations and prosecutions are selective, targeting opposition figures but largely sparing his allies. He may point to some token figures also charged over the Priority Development Assistance Fund anomalies. And he may argue that the independent Ombudsman is in charge of prosecution, and he cannot tell her whom to charge and when?

Hard-core Aquinistas will nod in unison and intone, “Tama naman” (That is right). And they will not bother wondering, as the more impartial and better informed will:

If Aquino is not playing favorites, why didn’t he order Abad to comply with the Commission on Audit’s repeated requests to provide all PDAF papers for COA’s pork barrel report, instead of just one-third of 2007-09 documents now used in prosecuting opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla?

Why hasn’t Aquino urged his appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to speedily charge offenders in his camp, when he harangued and eventually ousted her predecessor Merceditas Gutierrez for not prosecuting former president Gloria Arroyo? And isn’t his alter ego Justice Secretary Leila de Lima part of and, from all appearances, leading the three-agency pork barrel investigation task force?

Why should the public believe Aquino’s claims of blind justice when he has repeatedly defended and never seriously investigated and sanctioned his crony clique of “Kaklase, Kakampi at Kabarilan”?

The KKK include, among many others: former interior undersecretary Rico Puno over alleged jueteng payoffs and dubious billion-peso firearms bidding; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa for the reported P40-million mansion and reputed customs bagman; Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and missing tax returns; gaming czar Cristino Naguiat after the state casinos’ P400-million loss to foreign fraudsters.

Add to that list Political Affairs Adviser Ronald Llamas on firearms and video piracy violations; close friend Ernesto Dioko and two other Bureau of Corrections directors ousted for prison anomalies; and former Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres for improper corporate meddling and casino playing.

Plus two partymates Aquino bailed out in their graft cases: Environment adviser Neric Acosta and erstwhile election commissioner Grace Padaca, the latter belatedly removed after it emerged that she failed to file statements of assets, liabilities and net worth for three years as governor. And most recently, Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, both named by alleged pork barrel operator Janet Lim Napoles.

Good leader, bad leader
The third and most frequently trotted-out Aquino speech ploy is harping on past anomalies to make his rule seem squeaky clean and staunchly against corruption. There would be the usual references to investment grade ratings, sustained growth performance and forecasts, and international and local commendation for the administraiton’s anti-corruption campaign. Along with this well-worn spiel, there may be implicit or outright warnings that those attacking him are part of a dark conspiracy to reverse his claimed reforms and return the nation to past sleaze and subjugation.

As those wearing yellow-tinted glasses applaud, those with clear vision cannot but ask:

If good governance is so crucial to economic gains, shouldn’t the administration desist from violating the Constitution and sparing allies from accountability?

If the nation has really progressed, how come basic problems like food and crime are worse than ever after four years of Aquino? His claimed rice sufficiency is a myth conjured by massive smuggling, which allows official imports to fall, as noted in “Note for the CBCP: Guard truth, justice and lives”. The July 2 column also cited corrected crime data showing a rate nearly double the 2010 incidence.

If past regimes are far worse, can Aquino say which one has illegally misappropriated more than the estimated P150 billion in DAP funds, depending on his tally—if it ever comes out? Not to mention P62 billion in PDAF, much of it plus DAP given to allies amid impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Gutierrez and then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, as well as during the Reproductive Health bill voting.

Rather than just nodding, clapping and cheering this evening, let’s hope most Filipinos, especially media, ask these inescapable questions.

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14 Comments

  1. Edgar G. Festin on

    Mr. Saludo, majority of the people did not listen–how could they when they would rather entertain themselves with songs and dances or working to survive and earn their daily bread?
    Why has Pres. Aquino challenged the Supreme Court the way he did yesterday evening? Because if the justices do not reconsider and give him the free hand he and Abad want, the President will declare martial law or emergency rule, get overhwelming approval of Congress as required by the Constitution, make the Judiciary as cooperative with the Executive as it was during the Marcis Martial Law regime. But this time, unlike Marcos, strong government will serve the goal of uplifting the poor and making agrarian reform work through the Hacienda Luisita Formula of turning haciendas into successful agricultural corporations without the foolishness of communist and National Democratic Front organizations.
    Then will the Philippines be as prosperous and better governed as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are now.

  2. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

    The trademark of this administration is vindictiveness and downright lies. What this
    abnoy wants he gets no matter what. It does not matter whether he follows the law
    or not. After all, he can always reason out that what he did was in good faith.
    He no longer respect the law nor the judiciary anymore. He jailed GMA, then
    the 3 opposition senators and now COA is probing the JDF an act of getting back
    at the Supreme Court. Respect? No longer. I have not seen any administration
    in the past who was in a direct collision course with the Supreme Court. Mr. Laguatan
    in his comment is very correct. This administration should understand that
    ours is a government of laws and not of men. DURA LEX SED LEX (The law is
    harsh but it is the law) People are bound to respect and obey the laws of this
    country. And, IGNORANTIA LEGIS EST NIMENEM ESCUSAT( All people are
    presumed to know the law and ignorance of the law excuses no one from
    compliance therewith. As president, he should be the very first person to respect and
    be fully knowledgeable of the laws of this country. It is downright shameful for
    a president to claiming ignorance of the law. What a shame for Filipinos.

  3. “Will the people listen?” Hanga po ako sa tiyaga ninyo sa pagpapalakas ng aming loob na karaniwang Pilipinong umaasa sa isang matinong lider ng aing bayan. Habang binabasa ko po ang pagpapahayag ninyo sa ppamamagitan ng artikulong ito, ay sumagi s’aking alaala ‘yong tulang “Highwayman” ni Alfred Noyes. Para bang si PNoy ang highwayman na nangako kay Bess (Abad), kaya lang panot si Butch sasmantalang mahaba at malasutla ang buhok ni Bess. Nangako si PNoy gaya ng highwayman na siya’y babalik kahima’t tangkain ng impiyerno siyang hadlangan, alalaong baga’y parang sinabi ni PNoy kay Abad: “Tatanghalin muna akong bangkay bago ka malaglag sa kamay ng bayang ating niloko at pinagsamantalahan.” Kaya naman ang sagot ni Abad sa kanyang “Mystery Knight”: “Pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo’y aking ibibigay, pagkat ikaw lamang ang tangi kong mahal. Lumayo ka man ako’y maghihintay, ganyan kita kamahal.” Kaya pala nakalimutan na ni PNoy ang pinangangalandakan niyang “Kayo po ang Boss ko”, kasi may iba na siyabg “Aba-ruray at Aba-rinding!!! Ipagpaumanhin po ninyo, Mr. Saludo. ang tirada kong ito. Isa lamang pong paraan upang labanan ang dipresyong halos umagaw sa katinuan ng isip at damdaming kong mak-Pilipino at maka-Kristiyano. Pag-utusan po,

  4. I vehemently disagree with Sonny Reyes on his opinion to give Aquino the benefit of the doubt. What are you talking about? You blind Aquino follower, what Aquino will tell the Filipino people tonight is nothing but another bunch of rhetorical lies.. The SC have declared the DAP unconstitutional – what is e the law with impunity. Perhaps he thinks he can be excused because he is not a lawyer. But the legal doctrine states – “DURA LEX SED LEX” (the law is hard but it is the law). “Ignorantia legis nemenem, ignorantia legis non excusat” (ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith). There you are. Even if PNoy will take refuge under his crooked belief that he can be excused because of his ignorance of the law for having blatantly misused DAP funds is, of no moment, an inexcusable strategy. Under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” Aquino is jointly and severally accountable to the people who elected him to the highest position of the land.

  5. Is it the character of a wise-man to give negative opinion after the fact? Instead of helping our president to know the exact formula of good governance. I do hope those people who have exceptionally intelligent mind help him win the fight against people who just meddling around waiting for an opportunity be on his position. Our president is just a human that needs your help by understanding the big pictures around us, who else would do this for us? Are these kind of people who plundered us and being prosecuted by this government and the silent allies who is obviously laughing at his back is a kind of people you wanted to take his place? May God bless the righteous one.

  6. Don’t be too negative of course the oppositions especially will listen. Very carefully.

  7. What else should be explained? The SC already ruled on it. There is no short cut to the straight path (“Daang Matuwid”), period.

  8. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

    Of course there will be clapping among’st these drumbeaters/lapdongs/tuta of
    this corrupt abnoy. As the final arbiter of law, the decision of the Supreme Court
    becomes the law of the land. In the case of the DAP, it was clearly declared
    as unconstitutional and the doctrine of operative fact does not apply to these
    authors, proponents and implementors. USING THE DAP TO BUY OR BRIBE
    THESE LAWMAKERS WHO VOTED TO IMPEACH CORONA IS NOT GOOD
    FAITH. PEOPLE ARE BOUND TO RESPECT THE LAW -DURA LEX SED
    LEX(THE LAW IS HARSH BUT IT IS THE LAW.

  9. I dont think all will be disclosed today on where these funds went. He will tell the people of a few of them as i think they only have records of where a few went. The first thing he should have done after the decision of the supreme court is disclose where all the money was spent & who controlled it. He should go into great detail to show it wasnt stolen or misused but he wont. He will waffle & waffle & most will accept, even the journalists. Hopefully they will have a chance to question him after he makes his speech & if they dont get that chance then pnoys is hiding himself from being made to look corrupt. If they do get the chance to question him lets see how good a job they do, i dont think they will do a good job as they never do, you need some journalists from the uk here they would show you how to do it & they would show you how to not let them fob you off with spin & waffle as that is also what they will do. So lets see today how it pans out & then im sure tomorrow we can dissect it & then comment. But a good article & its very important.

  10. I may be part of the few, I am still willing to listen and give the President the benefit of the doubt seeing personally some of the fruit of such DAP.

  11. Johnny Ramos on

    The communication group will be busy trending the social media were they have thousands of account. As usual, Abs Cbn will help in trending. Since we have millions of poor who are busy finding food on the table these Dap will find its ways to the gutter and people will easily forget. I have notice no one care on the rising prices of commodities which favorable to Pnoy. I just hope that Pnoy will be unlucky in manipulating his successor in 2016.

  12. Of course there will be very loud cheers and clapping of hands whatever King of Fraud PNoy speaks, may the subject matter does not make sense, plain lines and diversion of issues or whatever his speech writer dictates on him. The legislators will be extremely focus on signs that PNoy will again reward or bribe them and when. They yellows will be cheering very hard if only to show off to the public that their idol is still very popular and the yellow media will continue to spread the “daang matuwid slogan.”