First 100 days of the dream

PNoy first 100 days
President Benigno Simeon Aquino swarmed by cheering students, teaching and non-teaching personnel of La Consolacion College Manila for his first 100 Days Town Hall Meeting.

President Aquino’s first 100 days in office must be taken in its entirety.   It is far too easy to highlight one issue— while ignoring the rest— that is fallacy.

An interesting factoid, the first 100 days is an American tradition, adapted in the Philippines by the first President Aquino.  Corazon’s hundred days was under a revolutionary government.  Benigno’s now trying to eclipse the blackest night of the previous regime.

We must remember the glee post election as the nation relieved that their sacrifices— standing in line under the mid-day sun to vote were not in vain.  For the first time, in a long time, this was the president who legitimately won.  When Aquino was finally sworn into office, it was as if a huge load had been lifted.

It was time to dream again.

There were false starts of course.  The first executive order of course was one.  The length of time it took to assemble the communications team was another.  The two press secretaries that the media seem hell bent to encapsulate as an example of two warring factions within the government.  The chain of command has always been clear— as highlighted by the executive order creating the communications group.  One side handles the infrastructure and delivery of the message.  One side crafts the message.

Of course, in an organization such as the government, as in every organization there are cliques, and groups.  The Army of Volunteers that fought with Aquino in the long battle for the Presidency is a heterogenous mix of personalities and interests, of backgrounds and motives.  To expect no less than for this diversity to sometimes clash, is to be ignorant of human nature and the challenge of democracy itself.  This Aquino government is a sample of infinite diversity, in infinite combinations.

That’s not to say one should not be cognizant of incompetence or simply to ignore it.

Take for example the first trial of the Aquino government.  The tragedy that befell those Hong Kong tourists on August 23, 2010 speaks to us in so many levels.  That tragedy brought the nation back from the euphoria of the post election glee to ground level.  It was a startling reminder that just because Aquino won, doesn’t magically mean the mistakes of the past have been forgotten.  The tragedy of August 23 was years in the making, and the incapacity which help spawn an inept police force and government bit the nation in its behind the night those tourists died.

The procurement of firearms is now being reassessed in light of August 23.

The tragedy of August 23 too is a test.  Evidence suggests Alfredo Lim’s gross incompetence and should he be found guilty, it is a decision that underscores the death of his brand of leadership.  The questions likewise persist with DILG undersecretary Puno— who was clearly the President’s representative and as such the principal officer to advice the president to elevate the incident to the national level.

How Aquino handled August 23— and continues to handle it— since this matter is far from over hasn’t been the best of responses.  It is nearly universally agreed that though this was brought about by years of ineptitude, the response prove that the upper echelon of leadership to have less satisfactory performance.

Aquino in the first hundred days showed us how loose he holds the reign of power.  It is as much as his personality as it is a departure from how Arroyo took to power like fish to water.  He needs to learn how to grip it a bit more tightly from time to time and from situation to situation.

The hundred days saw some serious changes.  Aquino’s government is seriously attacking   the fiscal situation— the greatest threat not just to its government but to Filipinos today.  It has cut back on the lavish benefits accorded GOCCs.  It has reduced inefficiencies in the Department of Public Works.

For the first time in a long time, there is discussion on what the budget for next year will contain.  While there is a budget increase, Aquino has been cognizant on keeping the deficit low.  Putting resources were it is needed and cutting back on some.

Lacking though is government communicating its move to the public.  During the President’s message with regard to his hundred days in office, a group of UP-manila students did a Celdran.  Their heart is in the right place, but it seem that had they asked the question, the President himself would have given them a satisfactory answer.

There are many persistent questions on education.  K-12 is just one of many, but without a doubt a key administration promise.  Other questions that need to be answered— is it the department of education’s policy to decentralize the schools under its control?  How long has that practice been going on?  Is it because by decentralizing, each university for example could make money and keep it for its operation?

What is benefit or consequences of such a policy?

The same could be said with the Department of Health.  It needs to explain, is decentralization still a key government policy?  Does this account for the reduction in budget for the major Medical Centers?

It is high time the public gets to understand why.

What the government has done for DOST and PAGASA are good plays.  The latter of course needs to be field tested against an actual storm.  It would be a great measure to test the system the government has put in place.  The forward looking plans of the Department of Science and Technology are good indicators too.

In Cebu, the chamber of commerce there asked what of infrastructure for the city.  Government’s reply was the same as the Cordillera’s— the stakeholders need to take hold of their destiny.  The citizens of Cebu need to agree upon where the mass transit would go for example.  In the Cordillera, the mining industry must  take the lead in solving their problems with the National government coming in only to support.

It is a striking contrast from years of saying Imperial Manila is king.

Proponents of Federalism must make a note of this decoupling of decision making from the national to the local level.  We go back to the Tragedy of August 23— it was primarily the failure of local government.  It wasn’t ready.  Likewise the lack of the advice to take over from locals is a primary point of failure.

Here we have a government that’s largely decoupled.  And now we’re seeing the effects of too many years under terrible micromanaging.  We can not expect though that this change be over night.

The strengthening of capacity for the various organs and layers of government is now running.  It is a rocky beginning, but one that needs to happen.  We must build capacity across every strata of the nation.

On the economic level, gross reserves are now up to 50 billion dollars.  That’s about the same amount of money Apple has in their bank.  The fiscal position of course remains the biggest problem facing the nation.  The next would be high cost of electricity.

What critics of the government are not yet realizing is that the first hundred days is the setup.  Like pieces of the chess game, the elements are being position.  It isn’t also to say that the personal appointments that the president has made are entirely acceptable, but it plays a minor role in the big picture.  It also does not trivialize the myriad missteps over the course of the past few months.  Aquino, his cabinet and his supporters– in and out of government need to step up their game.

In a nation constantly challenged by truthiness— from the Church to the media to politicians— to even that crab mentality blaming culture as the root of all evil, as much as the drama, pomp and opulence of the recent regime, to one more humble, more circumspect with less frill, it is important to remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people.”

It is too early to tell whether Aquino will be successful.  A lot is riding on the success of this government.  Seventy percent of Filipinos approve so far of the gains made in such short time.  Could it be better and faster?  Yes.  Is Aquino sincere?  The Millennium Challenge Cup gave him 434 million dollars, gambling on his sincerity.  Would MCC have done any less, if the nation did not elect him with one of the largest mandate in our recent history?

The first 100 days can be summed up as, “Though there have been many missteps, yes, but we are dreaming again and we are making the dream real.  So far so good.”

Photo credit: Malacañang Photo Bureau

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • UP n Grad,

    Where in that quote did it say the US was worried about Aquino’s MCC commitment? Note the date— March 24, which was a little more than a month prior to election, and remember it was a period where Aquino and Villar were still slugging it out.

    It was also a time when we didn’t know if the elections would push through or if it did— should the computerization thing fail.

    “MCC and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines have been working together to develop an MCC compact proposal focused on reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth. The MCC Board deferred final consideration of the compact proposal in order to engage with the incoming administration to secure their commitment to the ideals and principles of MCC and to the compact’s objectives and implementation.”

    Trans: We won’t be talking with Arroyo since she’s going out the door. We will be conversing with the next administration— it is also a subtle hint that they want the elections to push through.

    It is also in the language that they are open to negotiation post election day with whomever wins and decide then what is in their interest.

    I see nothing there that hints that it is specifically Aquino they are targeting.

  • UP nn grad

    manuelBuencamino: You have a reasonable command of the English language. Go read what the Millenium Challenge corporation stated in March, 2010 about the grant for the Philippines and you should arrive at the conclusion — MCC was worried about Noynoy Aquino’s commitment to MCC goals.

    http://www.mcc.gov/pages/press/release/release-032410-mccboardreviews
    ———————-
    March 24, 2010 Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, held its quarterly meeting today to review MCC’s poverty reduction results to date and to discuss a proposed MCC compact with the Philippines.

    MCC and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines have been working together to develop an MCC compact proposal focused on reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth. The MCC Board deferred final consideration of the compact proposal in order to engage with the incoming administration to secure their commitment to the ideals and principles of MCC and to the compact’s objectives and implementation.

    “At our meeting, the MCC Board praised the Government of the Philippines for their hard work in developing this innovative compact proposal and acknowledged the government’s commitment in working with MCC on its threshold program, which focused on corruption and ended last year,” said MCC Chief Executive Officer Daniel W. Yohannes. “We will look to the incoming Philippines’ government to demonstrate its commitment to MCC principles and the compact before final consideration.”

  • manuelbuencamino

    UPnn,

    “70%?? President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino did not get 70% at the 2010 Pilipinas elections, did he?”

    I was talking about survey ratings. Anyway, speaking of the 2010 Pilipinas elections did anyone get more votes than Aquino? Did anyone get more votes, in actual votes or percentage-wise, than he did? Your candidate was a sorry-ass loser wasn’t he?

    Yes the incoming administration got the money. They didn’t give it to your girl Gloria. They gave it to Noynoy. Period.

    “The USA MCC held off releasing the funds so they are assure that the capabilities of the Noynoy administration will at least be the same as the capabilities of previous administration with regards RATS, RATE, the information systems for BIR and cronyism/corruption with regards highway construction projects.”

    Bwahaha. There were RATS in the previous administration who took astronomical kickback RATES that information systems for BIR ignored on cronyism/corruption with highway construction projects that profited the Arroyos.

    UPnn, I didnt realize the Luli Brigade still had stragglers..

  • UP nn grad

    With regards the grant from USA’s Millenium Challenge Corporation — the $434Million amount was established, and approved, during discussions between Gloria Arroyo Administration and the Millenium Challenge Corporation. The USA MCC held off releasing the funds so they are assure that the capabilities of the Noynoy administration will at least be the same as the capabilities of previous administration with regards RATS, RATE, the information systems for BIR and cronyism/corruption with regards highway construction projects. Yes, the incoming administration got the A-okay (but remember the short “sermon” from Hillary to Noynoy about Philippine Makati Business Club and other business elite (as well as government officials) who, because they have thwarted the efforts of Pinoys-in-Pinas to progress in their own country, have chosen (and have done well) overseas).

  • UP nn grad

    70%?? President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino did not get 70% at the 2010 Pilipinas elections, did he?

    Many of those students ranting against President “Noynoy” were very mad at his slowness and tepidness — many of those students want GMA in jail now, and they wonder what keeps “Noynoy” Aquino (who is known to be generous to his shooting buddies and college friends) what keeps President Noynoy so long.

    • Felicity

      i don’t think there is a correlation with the # of votes and the ultimate score. just because you did/didn’t vote for someone should have nothing to do with the way you perceive performance (at least that should be the case, talo/panalo boto shouldn’t affect your assessment.. parang ba favoritism pag nag-grade ng essay ang teacher kung ganoon e)

  • manuelbuencamino

    Cocoy,

    “It is as much as his personality as it is a departure from how Arroyo took to power like fish to water.”

    I think Arroyo took to power like flies to shit.

    Anyway, those students…remember the student from Cavite who stood up against Arroyo? That was okay because nobody liked Arroyo, and she was an illegitimate president. Those students yesterday blew it, their protest back-fired because Aquino is the exact opposite of Arroyo. He is popular, trusted, and legitimately elected. So when they disrupted his Ulat they were, in fact, disrespecting the at least 70 per cent of the people. And when Aquino explained that how the ENTIRE DepEd budget actually increased they looked foolish. What an embarrassment they were to their colleagues in UP who pride themselves in being intelligent. Their protest was not well thought out so it back-fired.