What if Gilbert Cojuangco Teodoro, not his cousin Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd, had been elected president in 2010?
Many Filipinos increasingly disappointed, if not exasperated with Aquino, wonder how it might have been if “Gibo” Teodoro had won, as he did in most mock elections conducted after presidential forums during the campaign.
While frontrunner Aquino avoided those public jousts among rival candidates, former Defense Secretary and Tarlac congressman Teodoro consistently topped the straw polls among audiences who heard several presidentiables debate national issues.
Glorianomics to Gibonomics
So how might a Gibo presidency have turned out?
One big difference between Teodoro and Aquino is their opposite attitudes toward the Gloria Arroyo presidency. Rather than decrying and junking most past policies, Teodoro would have enhanced beneficial ones while revising others.
Like Aquino, he would have kept Arroyo’s fiscal reforms, but unlike his cousin, Gibo might have less objection to new taxes, if warranted. Conditional cash transfers would have continued too, but not at P40 billion a year. Teodoro might have found more productive ways to spend that largesse — like infrastructure for investment and jobs — than monthly stipends useful in swaying poor voters.
In 2011 Teodoro would not have stanched government spending like Aquino, in a wrong-headed push to quickly balance the budget, make Arroyo seem profligate, and impress credit rating agencies. With state spending unconstrained under Gibo, that year’s GDP growth would have neared the 7.7 percent of 2010, not plunged to 3.7 percent.
Teodoro would have pushed public-private partnerships, but like Arroyo, he would not put up with the delays of Aquino’s PPPs. The bulk are for bidding only this year, despite being touted in Aquino’s very first State of the Nation Address in July 2010. Go figure why Aquino wants to contract over half a trillion pesos of PPPs in the year before elections and the end of his term.
Teodoro would not have stopped major public works with no sound basis in law or evidence. The Belgian project to dredge Laguna Lake, the French program to build more roll-on roll-off ports, and the Japanese-funded repair of Luzon flood control facilities damaged by the 2009 Ondoy and Pepeng storms — these projects would have gone ahead, having passed rigid economic and legal vetting.
Thus, when typhoons hit Luzon in 2011, there would have been far less flooding. And Laguna Lake would have absorbed more rain runoff starting mid-2012, when dredging would have been completed. Plus: taxpayers would not face a looming P6-billion bill due to legal action over the arbitrary stopping of the project.
Teodoro, who has a University of the Philippines law degree and a Master of Laws from Harvard, would never put the government in such an expensive, legally dubious hole. That’s another big difference between the Cojuangco cousins: One learned in leading institutions to know and follow the law. The other not only lacks legal training, but also enjoys video games in which there are countless “cheats” to win.
Respecting law and institutions
Thus, Gibo’s first Executive Order would not be the creation of a so-called “Truth Commission” targeting the past government, in violation of equal protection under the law. If pressured to probe his predecessor, he would still see no need to create a new body. If the Ombudsman was taking too long, the Presidential Commission on Good Government could be tasked to investigate, as Aquino’s own legal adviser had urged.
Nor would Teodoro have meddled in the Oakwood Mutiny case already in court for six years, so Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th could join the administration camp. And Gibo would not have held back the Justice Department from pursuing the Dacer-Corbito murder case against fugitive Panfilo Lacson, just to have another senator in his pocket.
Respect for the justice system would also keep Teodoro from publicly commenting on court cases, especially constitutional issues before the Supreme Court. And if there were adverse rulings, he would never have openly debated with the magistrates or let Congress squeeze them with impeachment threats and judicial fund inquiries.
Gibo, of course, would not brook even greater illegalities than meddling with due process. He would not have concocted the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) diverting funds from budgeted expenditures to unbudgeted ones, or allowed a suspended Philippine National Police chief to violate the Ombudsman’s order by overseeing a hugely perilous commando assault into rebel territory.
Steeped in the democratic principles underpinning the Constitution, Teodoro would find it utterly repugnant to bribe lawmakers into passing pet legislation or signing articles of impeachment without reading them. Nor would he offer pork barrel and DAP to senators in order to convict the Chief Justice.
Building true peace and security
Legal scruples would also make it extremely unlikely for Teodoro to get into constitutionally infirm agreements. Negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would have made sure to avoid all failings of the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, and not to add more illegal provisions.
Gibo would have consulted senators about any possible pact to ramp up US military deployment and give it access to Philippine bases. Moreover, he might have continued the past policy of joint undertakings with rival claimants in the South China Sea, which could have avoided territorial frictions cited by Aquino in letting in more American forces.
As for fighting corruption, both Teodoro and Aquino had clean reputations. Assuming he would not bribe Congress, Gibo would have no reason to treble pork barrel to P20 billion a year, and mobilize P150 billion in DAP on top of that.
And with his high-level security knowledge, Teodoro would know better than to let political friends boost smuggling five-fold to $19 billion a year — and let in a flood of guns and drugs, which fueled the doubling of crime under Aquino.
Having seen how media’s darling Aquino has misruled the country, Filipinos should look beyond the headlines to solid credentials and performance in choosing the next leader.
But we won’t.