Roxas-Romualdez redux

RR redux

Just a final thought on the affair involving the secretary of the interior and the mayor of Tacloban in the wake of typhoon Yolanda’s devastation.

A blow by blow account has already been provided by Cocoy of their conversation as exposed by Cito Beltran. The whole “you are a Romualdez and he (the President) is an Aquino” and didn’t want to be misconstrued as running roughshod over the town in his desire to bring relief to the local populace, in my view, is just a side-bar to the incident. The real controversy is whether the actions of Roxas in seeking to take the lead in the relief efforts of the town were necessary.

Dean Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government argues in his regular column that it was “entirely appropriate” and within his rights and prerogatives for the President, given the paralysis experienced by the local city of Tacloban in Leyte, to take the lead in coordinating the disaster relief efforts. But he also contends that

if that formality required the local executive to give up his powers, I believe that such formality, whether in the form of a letter or ordinance is void ab intio and illegal as it violates the Constitution, the DRRM [National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management] law, and the Local Government Code.

The principle of the LGU as first responder in times of natural disasters was often repeated during the relief operations. It is enshrined in law. The following passage comes from Section 15 of the DRRM law cited by La Viña above

The NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk and Reducation Management Council] and intermediary LDRRMCs [Local Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council] shall always act as support to LGUs which have the primary responsibilIty as first disaster responders.

Under the Local Government Code, a municipality such as Tacloban is responsible for such things as solid waste disposal and environmental management services, including general hygiene and sanitation, municipal buildings, school buildings, clinics, health centres, sports facilities, water supply systems, sewerage, public cemetery, police and fire stations and the municipal jail.

As lead coordinator for disaster response in the first instance, LGUs are meant to bring these assets to bear in dealing with the situation. What happens then when its resources are incapacitated or swept away as was the case in Tacloban? Well, common sense dictates that either the regional disaster council acting as the LDRRMC (since the disaster affected areas comprised several provinces) or the NDRRC (chaired by the secretary of national defense) should step in to help.

We know based on Prof Solita Monsod’s chronology of events that that is exactly what happened. The national government did not hold back or play petty politics in Tacloban contrary to the claims made by its mayor. Their responders were on the ground from day one. As Monsod put it, 

It doesn’t look like Tacloban and the Romualdezes were left out in the cold. Politics does not appear to have been a factor here. Where did it come in? Not in the walk, only in the talk. Roxas wanted to protect his principal [President Aquino], and Romualdez wanted to protect himself (he was afraid that if he signed anything, it could be misinterpreted as a resignation).

Going back to La Viña’s point that such legal cover was not needed and in fact illegal if it required the mayor to “give up his powers” I would argue that turning over his lead role in disaster response to the national government would not be an abdication or resignation on his part. It is clear that the city of Tacloban did attempt to make good on its lead role as first responder, but it had very limited resources after the storm weakened its capability.

Allowing the national government to takeover this function in the second instance, after its efforts fell short, was both appropriate and ideal so that a single chain of command and control could be established.The last thing you would want in such a crisis is for meagre resources to be squandered simply because the effort was being directed by competing centres of authority.

But even if it could be misconstrued as a resignation, so what then? Simply work around the language and construction of the letter or ordinance to phrase it in a way that makes it clear that it isn’t. The national government was only seeking a time-limited mandate to direct local resources so that it could complement its own in addressing the crisis from a united front.

What is pitiful is the mayor making a spectacle of himself by insisting that he maintain his lead coordinating role when it was clear that he lacked the required assets to deal with the magnitude of the problem and then attempting to pin the blame for the inadequacy of the response on the national government.

La Viña argues that this exposed some holes in our DRRM framework. I disagree. I feel that all it exposes is the inability of some local politicians to set aside narrow-minded interests for the sake of the public’s safety and well-being.

Local autonomy means that LGUs have the “freedom to fail” by refusing help from the national government (when it doesn’t suit their needs or requirements). That is why the DRRM law distributes roles in times of crisis as it does. If we want to do away with this balance we would have to remove the LGUs’ ability to refuse help. In other words, we would have to “dummy proof” the laws concerned. But that is just it, we should not have to do so.

Is Aquino Just A Popular Version of Arroyo?

In an excellent piece for the Guardian newspaper, Slavoj Žižek makes reference to the work of philosopher Jean-Claude Milner who he says

proposed the notion of the “stabilising class”: not the old ruling class, but all who are committed to the stability and continuity of the existing social, economic and political order – the class of those who, even when they call for a change, do so to ensure that nothing really will change (emphasis mine).

Žižek asserts that the key to electoral success in 2012 was in a party’s ability to win over this class, which is what President Obama did by pitting his stable leadership against the radical changes proposed by the “Republican market and religious fundamentalists”.  Even now, Mitt Romney proves just how disconnected he is when he characterised as providing “gifts” to minorities the policies that Obama took to the electorate.  As for President Obama’s first term, Žižek goes on to say that

(m)any disappointed by his presidency held against him precisely the fact that the core of his much-publicised “hope” proved to be that the system can survive with modest changes (emphasis mine).

The same can be said of President Noynoy Aquino’s election in 2010. As the “hope and change” candidate of that electoral cycle, the people that elected him were merely seeking to restore the Philippines to the state his mother had left it in back in 1992. The purpose of his candidacy was to pull the country back from the brink of destruction and restore dignity and faith in the political system.

The very thesis of Corazon Aquino’s presidency was to prove that the pre-Martial Law, landed gentry could govern with self-restraint. For as long as the ruling class could manage to do so, the system of governance that she put in place would be able to accommodate the demands of the masses. For as long as there remained some modicum of decency (what Filipinos call delicadeza) from elites, any radical overhaul of the system could be avoided.

This is perhaps why President Aquino has so far shied away from pursuing any structural change in his campaign against corruption. This could be why he put off proposing any new revenue measures like the indexation of sin taxes until now. It could also be why despite promising to support reproductive health reforms he initially backed away from supporting it once in office. And it could also be why he signed into law the anti-cybercrime bill that many have derided for restricting freedom of expression, and why he is against tinkering with the constitution.

Instead of introducing change through these measures, Mr Aquino’s administration cranked up the programs and policies pursued by his predecessor, namely the conditional cash transfers program, universal kindergarten education, PhilHealth expansion, the anti-tax cheat program called RATE, business process outsourcing and tourism promotion and the euphemistic “fiscal consolidation” program. These were all begun by Mrs Arroyo whose popularity never seemed to benefit from them.

So, to mimic Žižek who rhetorically asked whether Obama was just “Bush with a human face”, can we also pose the question, “Is PNoy simply a popular version of PGMA?”

In the case of Obama, Žižek gives us reason to disagree with the assertion that he is merely Bush with a human face in that

(a)lthough his healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing, the debate triggered was of huge importance. A great art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly realist, feasible and legitimate, disturbs the core of the hegemonic ideology. The healthcare reforms were a step in this direction – how else to explain the panic and fury they triggered in the Republican camp?

In a previous post on this topic, I likened the debate America was having on healthcare with the one the Philippines is currently engaged in with respect to the reproductive health reform measure in Congress. Both touch on a nerve that is fundamental to the psyche of each nation with respect to the choice being considered and challenge each country’s default position with regard to the role of the state in each case.

Unlike Obama however who chose the issue of healthcare as the transformative one that would define his first term in office, despite the fact that the budget and economy were looming large as potential roadblocks to his re-election, President Aquino hasn’t really staked his presidency on any signature issue, save for impeaching Mr Corona and jailing Mrs Arroyo.

In the case of Mr Aquino, the victories over the former chief justice and ex-president respectively start to ring hollow among his supporters who don’t necessarily see the anti-corruption campaign continuing in the future under Mr Aquino’s likely successors. For them, a set of insurance policies to mitigate against any potential backsliding is required but does not seem to be forthcoming from Mr Aquino’s current leadership (or lack thereof) when it comes to the Freedom of Information bill and other similar measures.

As they see the potential dominance of the Binays, Estradas and Pacquiaos in our national political landscape for years and years to come, many are also beginning to call for the fulfilment of the anti-dynasty provisions in the constitution. Again, it does not seem as though the president will be leading on this issue. For the “will of the people” to be fulfilled, no restriction ought to be placed on their choices, he would probably say.

That so called choice presupposes however that people are indeed free to decide on their own. The framers of our present constitution perhaps knew intuitively that for this to be so, people would need to have a certain level of economic freedom and independence. Until such was achieved, they must have felt certain restrictions needed to be in place. What Milner describes as the stabilising force is nothing but a healthy middle class.

Unlike President Obama who broke with economic orthodoxy by bailing out the auto-industry and giving subsidies to clean tech companies in the hope of saving and creating jobs with living wages, President Aquino and his team feel no need to intervene in the appreciation of the peso to support our manufacturing base which is needed to grow the middle class.

For Mr Aquino, the fact that he can demonstrate the ability of the ruling class to govern with a level of integrity ought to be enough to ensure that things never go back to the way they were under Mrs Arroyo. For his fellow dynasts who supported his candidacy and form part of his ruling coalition, however, the fact that Mr Aquino thinks this way guarantees that things will indeed go back to “business as usual” when they get their turn in the driver’s seat.

The Straight Path Needs to Turn a Corner

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

-Matthew 7:13-14

I am well aware that any discussion about Daang Matuwid (the righteous path aka The Path) the anti-corruption slogan of the administration ends up becoming a theological debate. That is why I am prepared to tread on this ground quite carefully. The term itself is a reference to the Sermon on the Mount performed by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew which is quoted above.

Those who approve of this analogy will say that it is a secular version of that moral principle. Those who disapprove will counter with another idiom, the one that states the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They will point to the underspending of the government (which persists to this day) which was motivated by a desire to rid public works of corruption that led to the rapid slowdown in the rate of economic growth (which will persist as well over the next two years).

Adherents to The Path will rebut this with another slogan, kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (if there is no corruption, there will be no poverty). For them, it is not just a moral imperative to fight corruption, it is an economic one. The Path sceptics will quote a genuine Filipino proverb, kung walang tiyaga, walang nilaga (if you don’t persevere, expect no reward). The attention they say of the government has been distracted by chasing its enemies that it has lost track of the people’s real priorities.

Latest polling has been quite illuminating. While the public still assigns a net positive approval rating to the president, a majority or a plurality of them do not think he has done a good job of creating jobs, improving wages and preventing the rising cost of living. The salience of these bread and butter issues exceeds that of his anti-corruption campaign. In explaining why his performance rating is still good, one polling executive surmised that this was probably because compared to his predecessor the president still manages to come off smelling sweeter.

This brings me to my central point, that while the current dispensation may be perceived as being qualitatively different from its precedents, its implementation of daang matuwid still fails the test of sustainability. This becomes apparent when we make use of external comparisons (looking at cases from other countries) instead of internal ones (looking at cases from within our country).

Forget about comparing us to the advanced countries in Scandinavia and the North Atlantic. These nations have built up systems of good governance over several centuries, during which time they grew economically and became wealthy (some would say at the expense of their former colonies).

Forget about comparing us to East Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) and other Confucian-states (Singapore, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam). These nations have had centuries’ worth of tradition involving bureaucracies infused with a meritocratic ethos.

Instead, let us look to Indonesia, a country with whom we share common ethnic origins and similar colonial and contemporary history.

Different Paths

Emil Bolongaita is an authority on Indonesia’s experience having advised donors to the Yudhoyono government on providing assistance to its Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK. He also provided support to the Philippine Ombudsman under Simeon Marcelo during the early days of the Arroyo government. He literally wrote the book for the World Bank on anti-corruption policy in Asia.

(Just in the interests of full disclosure: I met Emil back in high school when we were both student leaders in Jesuit institutions, he at the collegiate level, and I at the secondary level. Our paths crossed again when he took up a teaching position at Carnegie Mellon University, where I had completed a Master’s degree. He then went on to take up a role at the ADB in Manila.)

In a paper, entitled Exception to the Rule? Why Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Commission succeeds while others don’t – a comparison with the Philippines, published in August 2010 shortly after the Aquino government was inaugurated into office, Emil traces the similarities and differences between the two countries’ experience in fighting corruption. The following similarities are worth noting in the outset:

  • Firstly, both countries experienced major economic upheaval and the collapse of long-standing dictatorial regimes that were characterized by widespread corruption and crony capitalism (in the rankings of the most corrupt rulers of all time, Presidents Soeharto and Marcos are placed first and second respectively). This was followed by the formation of pluralistic democracies. Transition to democracy however has not eliminated the system of patronage and clientelism in both countries.
  • Secondly, following democratic restoration, agencies were (re)created to deal with corruption—the KPK in Indonesia and the Ombudsman in the Philippines. These two institutions have the broadest mandate in both countries to receive complaints, investigate and prosecute suspects before special anti-corruption courts (the TIPOKOR in Indonesia and Sandiganbayan in the Philippines). They both are tasked with studying governance systems, identifying vulnerabilities and providing advice on corruption prevention and mitigation strategies. The KPK has the added task of monitoring the implementation of such strategies. In this sense, their scope of work is broader than the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong and New South Wales (Australia) and that of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) of Singapore whose mandates are confined to investigation.
  • Thirdly, both nations have similar levels of economic development as measured by per capita income and consequently also suffer from similar levels of perceived corruption as measured by normalised qualitative scores on corruption performed by Transparency International and the World Bank.

That is as far as the similarities go. According to Emil, the two systems diverge in terms of their performance, both qualitatively and quantitatively. He states that

In just five years, the KPK has successfully prosecuted over one hundred senior officials that before would have been considered as ‘untouchable’ by their positions and prominence. To date, the KPK has yet to lose a single case, either at the anti-corruption court or at the Supreme Court where the guilty verdicts of the TIPIKOR are appealed. In a country long perceived to be endemically corrupt, with a history of ‘untraceable’ anti-corruption performance, this accomplishment of the KPK is nothing short of extraordinary.

Emil notes further that

By comparison, the Ombudsman’s record is strikingly poor. With the notable exception of former President Joseph Estrada who was convicted of corruption in extraordinary circumstances … the highest ranking official convicted of corruption is at the level of governor; only two governors have been convicted but neither ultimately served time in prison (CENPEG 2006). Examining the records of the Sandiganbayan from 2001 to 2006, the same survey found that the conviction rate (including guilty plea) in the court was only 0.7%.

What accounts for such disparate results? Emil highlights seven factors involving the following:

  1. Jurisdiction (KPK covers the executive and legislature, but not the military, while the Ombudsman covers all offices except impeachable ones although the present office holder contends that this is not the case).
  2. Powers and capacities (KPK has the investigative powers of law enforcement agencies and can conduct wiretaps, examine bank accounts and tax records, freeze assets, issue hold orders and make arrests. The “toothless” Ombudsman has none of these powers).
  3. Operational differences (cooperation in the KPK between investigative and prosecutorial arms is not observed in the Ombudsman and the weight of evidence considered before filing a case is proof beyond reasonable doubt for the KPK, while it is only probable cause for the Ombudsman).
  4. Human resources (recruitment, selection and composition is more stringent under the KPK than the Ombudsman; consequently, they are able to achieve more with less staff).
  5. Performance measurement (objective measures for tracking and monitoring performance are more rigorous and widespread in the KPK).
  6. Accountable management (governance of KPK is handled by five commissioners acting in a collegial manner, while the Ombudsman is headed by one person).
  7. Anti-corruption courts (the adjudication process in the TIPOKOR takes about eight months on average, which includes the appeal process to the Supreme Court, while the process takes about 9.8 years in the Sandiganbayan including appeals to the Supreme Court; and, the effectivity of the sentence is immediate, even if under appeal in the case of the former, not in the case of the latter).

Beyond these specific design features, I would also suggest that what makes the Indonesian case of fighting corruption stronger than the Philippines is the underlying coherence of the state in the former, a point that I made in a previous post entitled Indonesia Rising, Philippines Waning. It should be noted however that despite its successes, recent events have cast doubt on whether the KPK will be able to perform its functions well into the future. Emil calls its history a “cautionary tale” in that within its successes lie the seeds of its own destruction.

Where to from here?

A number of obvious policy recommendations stand out from this comparative case analysis. For me the most salient ones have to do with expanding the investigative powers and prosecutorial capacities of the Ombudsman. Some of the ones Emil highlights which involve exempting select agencies within the bureaucracy from civil service compensation structures I have also discussed here.

The importance of winning cases based on the weight and integrity of the evidence has been highlighted by the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona and the “Hello Garci” incident involving former president Arroyo. In both cases, evidence involving bank accounts and wiretapped conversations cannot be admitted due to the illegal nature of obtaining them.

Similarly in the cases involving the prosecution of tax cheats and smugglers, the likelihood of conviction is quite low considering that the Department of Justice was not given sufficient funding to hire lawyers to dispose of its backlog. One wonders what sort of deterrent effect this will have.

For Emil, the litmus test for whether such reforms can succeed is the political support from the executive and legislature. He casts “serious doubts” on whether such structural transformations can occur by saying

(M)any executive officials and legislators are unlikely to welcome the idea of strengthening an agency that could pursue them for corruption.

Any reform he says needs “to be crafted to reflect the constraints and opportunities within the institutions and incentive structures that drive the Philippine political economy”. Mind you what constitutes self interest in this case is really in the eye of the beholder and defined by leaders who are in a position to shape such interests.

Gauging progress

The fact that the corruption perception index of the Indonesia or Philippines has improved recently is not an adequate benchmark for determining the success or failure of their respective reforms. Such qualitative measures merely reflect the overall perception of the panels peering into our world from the outside. While the government is to be congratulated for recent gains in tax and revenue collection, these are not the proper means for determining whether a structural shift has taken place or not.

To use a sports analogy, although the country has acquired a few star players in its team which has lifted its game somewhat, the way to ensure that such performance continues into the future when the star players have left is by playing the “long-game” by having a regimented player development program. Barcelona FC which is rated by many as the top football club in the world (recent events in La Primera Liga and UEFA Champions League notwithstanding) got to be where it is by instituting their way of playing “the beautiful game” decades ago.

The same thing has to occur in fighting graft and corruption in the Philippines. For this reason, the Righteous Path needs to turn a corner. Many of the structural and systemic proposals required have not even appeared on the policy agenda because good governance is not seen as a question of passing new laws, but of simply implementing existing ones.

Even assuming they did bubble up to the surface the enactment of such measures would be hindered for quite some time because the legislature is currently tied up ironically in the impeachment trial (or trails, if we are to believe recent pronouncements from the Palace). This makes the situation diabolically difficult for reformers to reach their destination for without the proper powers, tools and resources, how can they stick to The Righteous Path?

UPDATE: I forgot to disclose as well that it was my father, Noli who, as a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1971-73, sponsored a provision for the creation of an Ombudsman. The Tanodbayan was subsequently created by presidential decree by President Marcos. Its role was taken over by  the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the 1987 Constitution, and the Office of the Ombudsman was given the lead role to investigate complaints of corruption as the new Tanodbayan. My father tells me that the way the present Ombudsman is set-up and operates is not the way he originally intended it to be.

UPDATE 2: Despite these reservations, the third complaint filed with the Ombudsman against the Chief Justice was made by him.


That seems to be the label which the instigators of ‘memogate’ want to attach to the Vice President Jejomar Binay.

As the 2013 race for the senate heats up, members of the rival faction within the Palace opposing Jojo Binay have leaked a confidential memo he wrote to the president concerning a case involving corruption in the military. The advice contained in the memo was for the government to enter into a plea bargain deal with the former AFP comptroller General Carlos Garcia.

This mirrored the views of the office of the Ombudsman which at the time was held by Merceditas Gutierrez, Mrs Arroyo’s former justice secretary, who subsequently resigned as an impeachment case loomed against her in the Senate which was filed by palace supporters in the House incensed over her acceptance of the deal.

The tactic of the leakers is quite clear: make the public doubt Binay’s anti-Arroyo credentials, and by doing so, shed light on the fact that he too may have skeletons hidden in his closet. This follows news that the coalition headed by Binay and former president Joseph Estrada announced that it might field Arroyo allies not implicated in cases filed against her in their senatorial ticket come 2013.

Concerns over the integrity of the former mayor were conveniently swept under the rug during the heady days of the anti-Arroyo protest movement. Makati became a bastion of opposition in those days when most local government officials were allied with the administration of Mrs Arroyo. When the remains of former president Corazon Aquino were moved from La Salle Greenhills to Manila Cathedral, the cortege snaked through the streets of the central business district in recognition of the critical role it played as a staging ground for massive rallies.

What memogate reveals is the intention of loyalists associated with his political rival within the administration Secretary Mar Roxas to counter the vice president’s popularity by painting him with the same brush that tarnished Mrs Arroyo’s reputation by exposing his willingness to compromise with her on matters of principle that they deem sacrosanct. These insiders may have wanted the case against Garcia to proceed despite the weak and inadmissible evidence because of Mrs Arroyo’s alleged involvement in the “golden parachute” scheme involving large sums of money in exchange for military support for her government that the case had the potential to expose.

Reacting to an article about the incident reported on Rappler, which speculated on his potential motives for supporting the Ombudsman’s position (according to the report his wife had a pending case before her at the time), Binay called the media organization “reckless, irresponsible and malicious”.

Rappler for its part conceded that Binay got it right. The plea bargain was approved by the Sandiganbayan for lack of strong solid evidence. Although, the president and his allies in the house went to great lengths to reverse both the Ombudsman’s and the Sandiganbayan’s decisions, the general was only pinned down by the AFP for holding a green card to the US while in active service. He is currently serving a two year jail sentence for this infraction.

For his part, the vice president alleges that by making such sensitive deliberations ‘fair game’, the palace insiders have caused harm to the government. This is the fallout of such a propaganda war. By elevating narrow partisan interests above the national interest, these insiders have forgotten their role as custodians of the affairs of state.

On the other hand, such cannot be said of his ally Ernesto Maceda, a prospective senatorial candidate, who in a televised interview connected the case to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona from office with the electoral protest filed by Sec Roxas questioning the vice presidential election results of 2010. “With friends like these, who needs enemies,” the vice president must be saying to himself.

It appears this early that battle lines are already being drawn. The “knights of the round table” in Camelot are laying claim to the mantle of good governance and are intending to lump Binay along with the opposition that was comprised up to this point of Arroyo supporters. Binay on the other hand portrays them as saboteurs out to wreck the president’s effective governance of the nation.

The president for his part is not willing to make a split with his vice president an ‘inevitable’ proposition. He will after all need the support of his deputy in corralling votes in the senate for his proposals if indeed the vice president’s allies control a majority of the upper chamber as polling indicates they will.

The question now is whether the president can and would be able to control the machinations of those that serve in his team to prevent a dysfunction from setting in, if it hasn’t already.

PNoy’s popularity is more about us, than him?

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 with theme “Isang Daang Araw Sa Isang Daang Matuwid: Report Kay Boss” on Thursday, October 07, 2010 at the school’s auditorium. The proceedings were attended by representatives from multi-sector groups from the business, media, Gawad Kalinga Kapitbahayan Residents, indigenous people, environment, religious and ecumenical groups, Yellow Army volunteers, LGUs, transport and market vendors. (Photo by: Jay Morales/ Malacañang Photo Bureau).

Cito Beltran in Joke only? wrote,

Ever since President Noynoy Aquino was elected, his people have consistently shoved his high ratings at the face of his critics. Tactically speaking this helps keep their enemies in place and makes criticism a lot harder to justify.

People have even asked me: “how do we reconcile the reality of poor or average performance versus P-Noy’s consistently high-ranking?”

I am no social scientist but on a personal level, I sincerely believe that every Filipino wants P-Noy to succeed but that should not be mistaken as popularity on his part. While we did not all vote for him, we are all one with him because another failed and disappointing administration is unacceptable.

P-Noy’s score if you will, is no longer about P-Noy’s popularity as narrow-minded surveys would have you think. Rather his scores are more about us than about him. The scores are a reflection of our collective aspiration for change and progress and an equal dose of denial, that people are beginning to be annoyed or let down because of many un-kept P-Noy promises or poor performance of his amateur team.

Thinking about it some more now, he does have a point.

PNoy government scores +64 net rating versus Arroyo's -45

Public satisfaction with government is at an all time high.

Business World published:

A new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, the results of which were made exclusive to BusinessWorld, had 73% of the respondents saying they were satisfied with the new government’s general performance versus the 9% who said otherwise.

This gave President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s administration a “very good” net satisfaction rating of +64, beating the previous record of a “good” +36 notched in November 1998 during Joseph E. Estrada’s term.

Aquino on Warpath against travel advisories

The Inquirer published that President Aquino confronted President Obama and other APEC leaders with regard to travel advisories:

Mr. Aquino said he was able to speak with Obama on the sidelines of the 18th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which ended Sunday.

“We mentioned to President Obama our displeasure with the US travel advisory and he promised that he would look into it and pleaded for understanding,” Mr. Aquino said.

Obama was the second leader that President Aquino had confronted over the issue of the travel advisory while attending the APEC forum. On Saturday, he raised the issue with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their bilateral talks.

Mr. Aquino has been on the warpath since the United States and Canada, along with France, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, issued on Nov. 2 warnings of an imminent attack for the first time in shopping malls in Metro Manila. Japan later issued a toned down version of the travel advisory.

Mr. Aquino has complained that there was no basis for the alerts and that his government was not consulted.

A nation in search of utterance (updated)

Makati Skyline
The Philippines: How can we contribute towards its progress?


It was a year ago that it all began. An Aquino returned to her maker, and her son took the first tentative step into the presidency, helped by an army of volunteers determined to right wrongs and build a tomorrow. It was not that long ago that this nation trooped to brave the scorching heat and the long lines to ensure that the yellow sun would rise up. And a nation elected another Aquino to the Presidency. So began a tryst with destiny. So began the rise of hope.

When one candidate after another conceded, for a brief moment the critics were silenced. Aquino received the highest trust rating and a nation seemed to awaken with silenced sirens to brightest day from a long blackest night.

Critics in force

The critics are back and it was as if their slumber lasted for decades. If you read many of them, if you listen to many of them, it was as if ineptitude was born the day Mendoza murdered those tourists. It was as if they had slept decades, forgetting that the state of the police had fallen predates even Arroyo’s bungling. It was as if the state of our public service had somehow gotten worst, never mind that it remained bad long before and made worst in the past decade. Never mind that the media too is partly to blame, as it refuses an act of contrition. Never mind too the glaring daunting task of nation building. Forgetting that the house is not in any shape to do much.

The Germans have a word for some of these people— schadenfreude.

There is a touch of irresponsibility in that, taking only a piece and running with it. Everything must be taken into context, and everything must be taken as a whole. Some have failed to look at the bigger picture. It is those factors that the critics have misjudged the state of the nation. At the deep end of it, nothing much has changed and there is a word that best describe the present state of our nation. ‘Incapacity,’ is that word.

Incapacity isn’t the inability to think outside the box, but it is the inability to execute, often citing limitations, more likely looking at the glass half empty, instead of half full. This incapacity is a by product of years of corruption. It eats at the soul of the nation. It tells us that we cannot dream. This incapacity drives mediocre public policy, that in the native tongue is best described as the “pupuwede na” attitude.

Not entirely inept

The critics are not entirely inept. Their understanding maybe flawed, but the spirit of their complaint has merit.

Much merit.

The President has accepted his shortcoming. Undersecretary Puno has done the same. The media must do the same.

A nation is broken, not because of Arroyo. Our spirits shattered. Our will is broken.

Mister President, it would seem that the government had taken a break. The euphoria of the electoral victory, the sheer daunting task of nation building, the mountainous challenges that your government is determining everyday is exhausting. I would imagine it would be like looking down at the abyss and having the abyss stare back at you at the sheer amount of the things that need to get done. Everything is a priority and everyone demands that their’s is the bigger priority and everyone demands that theirs is the bigger priority. How can people triage?

These are the days when the night seem to have no stars, and it would seem we can’t take another step. As the rest of that Weepies song goes, walk on, walk on because we can’t go back now.

Act of contrition

It doesn’t matter whether or not your Cabinet is “inexperienced,” as some of your critics may argue. It was the so called experts who brought us this far in the state of the nation.

Mister President, it is well and good you accepted your shortcoming

Real boats rock and the nation has beaten ourselves over this enough!

Have we forgotten that an Aquino won the presidency because a nation was broken to begin with? Are we simply to believe that it would be smooth sailing forever?

Send out the call mister president. Rally your troops! Wake yourself up, get the cabinet into shape! It is time to get up. That, Mister President is your act of contrition.

And Media’s is to find a mechanism, a higher code of conduct that each practitioner agrees to take part.

And ours? What of We the People? What is our act of contrition? It is time to remember the mission is no different today than it was when Aquino ran for the presidency. It is no more different today the morning of President Aquino’s oath taking, when it seemed nothing could stop us, that there was this sense of a new beginning; that the air was so much cleaner.

We need all hands on deck!

This is our act of contrition.

Each Filipino, young and old, rich or poor must ask themselves what can I do for my country? The time for bickering is at an end, but only you mister president can call for its demise! The time for shallow discourse, is over. We can no longer afford a national discourse hellbent on who was wrong, ‘i told you so’ and less about looking forward and overcome adversity. We need serious people working to solve serious problems both in government and in the private sector.

We can no longer afford playing games. The nation can no longer afford to chop our right hand every time something bad happens. The nation can no longer afford we wallow in our own fears and our darkness. We understand our shortcomings, we pick ourselves up and start again.

This dear friends is just the beginning.

(update) Randy David offered a few thoughts on leadership in a transitional society:

Tragic events like Storm “Ondoy,” the Maguindanao massacre, and the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand have one thing in common: they all lay bare the dysfunctionality of our existing social system. They underscore the need to review and strengthen our institutions, or, at the very least, free them from the grip of traditional patrons and authority figures. The structural solutions will increasingly become clear to us in time, if we can resist the tendency to moralize and personalize everything.

Perhaps it is a good thing that despite the uniquely personal circumstances that thrust him to the presidency, President Aquino has kept a very low profile. He speaks plainly and almost diffidently, and, instead of projecting an aura of charismatic confidence, is quick to admit lapses. Given the existing political culture, this may not be the most astute demeanor for a new President to project. But it is the best setting in which to strengthen institutions.

It is a daunting task. Dig deep.

Much is riding on the Aquino government to succeed. Failure is simply not an option. We can no longer afford a nation stepped back from tomorrow when Aquino leaves office in six years. The overriding need for Aquino to succeed is our people’s responsibility. Should Aquino fail, it isn’t his failure alone, it is ours as a people. To fail translates to putting our nation back by at least another two generations.

Remember in six years, the world will be fundamentally changed. What we do know, what we can expect— the challenges of the environment would put much pressure on the world. The rapid expansion of technology would continue to give nation-states willing to embrace it, a double edge. More and more people will have diplomas, making tomorrow’s Filipino doubly challenged to find jobs that isn’t labeled “domestic help.”

A failed Aquino government would set Hope back and would it be a heartbreak that our nation could afford? Would heartbreak of failure be a road that leads deeper into the abyss?

No more games– not just government, but every Filipino from across the planet. For the lives lost that Mendoza took, to that street child hungry for love and sustenance. For the unborn children to come, for generations of Filipino who have long suffered at the selfish hands of their own kind. No more games is our act of contrition.

For our nation to be great, we must unshackle our narrow-mindedness in thought and in action.

Mister President, you need to rally your people.  That too is your act of contrition.   We need you to lead us, with strength guided by a moral compass.

Of great expectations

The expectations are great. We need to clear it.

Break’s over.

Aquino brought great hope and great tribulation. Mendoza did not change that. The mission remains the same. Mister President, we need you to lead with a strength of authority that only you can command, and to guide a nation with a moral compass which was the reason you were voted into office for.

Our nation began a tryst with destiny when they chose Benigno S. Aquino III for its 15th president.   At the stroke of noon on June 30, 2016 the nation must awaken to new life unshackled from corruption and incapacity.   To give our people opportunity.  This is the dream, the mission— unchanged by one man’s selfish attempt, a manifestation of everything that is wrong in our nation.   As someone far wiser than I have spoken, “a moment comes rarely in history when we step out of the old and into the new, when an age ends, and the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.”

The future beckons.

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission

photo by Dondi Tawatao - Getty Images AsiaPac

photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission
By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III signed on Friday Executive Order 1, creating the Truth Commission tasked to look into graft and corruption allegations that hounded the past administration.

“Today, I signed Executive Order No. 1, establishing a commission to investigate allegations of anomalies during the last nine (9) years. The process of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity has begun,” Aquino said in a statement on Friday.

Aquino said the executive order was in line with his promise to form the Truth Commission in the first 100 days of his administration.

He said that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will head the commission that has been tasked to investigate and seek the truth about corruption allegations that were committed over the last nine years by government officials and their accomplices in the private sector.

The commission, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said at a press conference, has until Dec. 31, 2012 to complete its mission.

This year, however, De Lima said the commission would be doing “organizational and initial stages” of its work.