P-Noy (2): Reality check


Nobody wants to be a party spoiler.

Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, who prefers to be simply called “P-Noy”, came into power practically on the shoulders of a people clamoring for great change.  His June 30 inauguration was capped by a  jubilant, all-night song and dance street party at Quezon Memorial Circle attended to by a huge crowd of 120,000 people from all walks of life. 

P-Noy’s campaign pitch “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” may sound esoteric but it captured the imagination of most voters and gave fresh hope to a people grown weary and cynical from 9 years of the deeply unpopular Arroyo administration.  It would however be more prudent to temper our expectations of the Aquino administration and give it time to unfold in full.

To begin with, P-Noy may be a “brand new” president but he is presiding over a bureucracy manned by “old” career bureaucrats with mixed political loyalties and on whose tables will eventually land his marching orders.  Presidents come and go but career bureaucrats stay; they never lose an election.

The judiciary, which will try and decide the fate of any court case filed for or against P-Noy’s government, is also manned by “old” magistrates and bureaucrats with mixed political loyalties too.  It did not help that P-Noy publicly pronounced his displeasure and disapproval of the alleged midnight appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona by former Pres. Arroyo.

P-Noy’s envisioned reform agenda will require enabling acts “to fly” and here he will need the cooperation and support of both houses of congress where he will find in abundance “old” politicians who have mastered the art of transactional politics.  As a former legislator himself P-Noy should know that political horse trading, a source of corruption, is what drives congress.

P-Noy will literally walk the political tightrope balancing these realities with what he wants done before any of his promised reforms could even take a foothold.

Then there is the more complex matter of having inherited enormous socio-economic problems and very little resources to work with.  The true state of the nation as inherited by P-Noy from his predecessor is dominated by economic hardship: costly aftermath of natural calamities, market slump and company closures, job retrenchments and rising unemployment, shrinking household income, increasing defaults in housing mortgage and credit payment, spiraling cost of food and basic commodities, expensive medicines and prohibitive cost of medical services, high cost of electricity and petroleum products, inflation, hopelessness and despair.

As of end-March 2010 the national government’s total internal and external debts stood at PhP4.358 Trillion.  Theoretically, at this staggering amount, each of the 94 million Filipinos is indebted by PhP43,425.00.  Our annual national budget has breached the trillion-peso mark for some years now, but some experts say that a conservative estimate of 20% of this budget is still lost to corruption and wastage.

More than half of all Filipinos today self-rate themselves as either poor or subsistence poor (and one would think that nothing is worst than being poor).  Each year some half a million Filipinos are forced to venture abroad for any kind of work or pay in order merely to survive.

Criminality, lawlessness and illicit sale and use of prohibited drugs are also on the rise, fueled by a deeply-rooted culture of impunity among some of our politicians and law enforcement officials.

There are no quick and easy solutions to these problems.  P-Noy himself acknowledged this reality when he said: “I’m not God or Superman who has a solution for all the country’s problems.”  It would be a long and hard grind for P-Noy before he could even make a dent on the many problems and social ills plaguing this nation.

What can we reasonably expect from P-Noy’s government?  Nothing much if we don’t believe that significant change can happen to this country.  Nothing of the things we long for if we remain cynical and “disengaged”.  Nothing gratifying if we remain indifferent to the plight and concern of our fellow citiizens.  We have tried these attitudes before and nothing worked.

In his first State of the Nation Address on July 26 P-Noy issued us a challenge, and I quote in its English translation: “It is every Filipino’s duty to closely watch the leaders that you have elected.  I encourage everyone to take a step towards participation rather than fault-finding.  The former takes part in finding a solution; from the latter, never-ending complaints.”  We can all help him succeed where others have failed by offering solutions instead of becoming a part of the problem. 

Cynics and detractors may call the ban on the use of sirens and blinkers by VIPs as nothing more than pakitang gilas.  But the fact is, this “seemingly insignificant” presidential order rid our streets of “masters and maniacs of the road” and levelled the “motoring field” for the ordinary motorists.  Consider the many great things LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE can accomplish when maintained and extended beyond wang-wang. 

Consider too what leadership by example can do to change our mindset of treating our elected leaders and top bureaucrats like kings instead of public servants.  It is our duty to demand no less than this kind of leadership from P-Noy.  After all, in his own words: “Kayo ang boss ko.”

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 30 July 2010