The president is out

As I write this, Noynoy Aquino is giving his so-called Ulat sa Bayan, another self-given chance to tell the citizens of the Philippines all that he has accomplished since he assumed the presidency exactly one year ago.

I'm in a bit of a blogging rut, but I've always planned to write about this very occasion, so I decided to turn on the TV and hope that whatever he says inspires me to become a piss-poor attempt at being a political analyst. But there's the problem: I cannot be a political analyst. I cannot see things objectively at this point. I have this deep dislike for Noynoy, and his speech - or at least, the two minutes of it that I caught - illustrates why.

His speeches tend to revolve around a few things. He'll illustrate why he's best suited for the position, by talking about how he didn't plan on running for the presidency two years ago. He'll say he didn't plan to take on the monster that was a government riddled with corruption. Maybe he'll invoke the spirit of his mother, Cory Aquino, the woman in the middle of the first People Power revolution in 1986, the one that kicked out Ferdinand Marcos from a two-decade dictatorship and restored democracy. After all, it was after her death when all eyes went on Noynoy - and, just like that, he became a viable successor to Gloria Arroyo.

By "viable successor" I don't mean someone who will continue PGMA's not-so-stellar run. Sure, in the nine years before Noynoy, the Philippines saw economic growth - I don't think anybody can fudge with the figures the authorities have been supplying every quarter. Our GDP is growing comfortably, for one. The problem is, of course, that not everybody benefits from this growth. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, or so the cliché goes. And some government officials get more powerful, not the least of which is Arroyo herself, who was linked to several political scandals, almost all of them involving corruption. Either she pocketed funds from certain government agencies, or her husband did, or her closest allies did. Most damning of all, she was accused of stealing the elections in 2004 - a charge that still isn't resolved, long after her main rival, actor Fernando Poe, Jr., passed away.

Noynoy ran with the premise of being completely different from PGMA. Or so his party claimed. The Liberal Party initially wanted to field Mar Roxas, but then they realized that he never had a chance of winning, so they decided to ride the public wave of sympathy surrounding Cory's death. Noynoy became their presidential candidate, and won an overwhelming majority. Roxas gave way, decided to run for vice president, and still lost anyway.

In my mind, these circumstances didn't make Noynoy the right guy to take charge of our country. He came here because he managed to hit the Filipinos in the gut. Nako, mabait si Cory, sigurado mabait din si Noynoy. It makes sense, but it doesn't hold much weight. But I decided to give him a year.

To Noynoy's credit, that one year saw the political arena be a little more peaceful. Maybe we're still getting to grips with somebody else in charge after almost a decade of PGMA, but it's nice to see the newscasts discuss how much support the controversial reproductive health bill will garner from Congress as opposed to who's filing an impeachment complain when. Then again, "peaceful" doesn't exactly mean "quiet": one kind of noise gave way to another, and that was Noynoy getting to grips with him being in charge. It was very, very noisy.

He isn't the most experienced politician ever. No biggie, you'd say. It means he's untarnished, unlike that Arroyo bitch. And yes, it's fine for him to surround himself with his closest associates - to paraphrase him, you'd want people in the same wavelength as you to work with you. But in many instances it seems he's relying more on his associates than on his judgement, which I'm sure he has. And, recently, there's been some noise about the people he's put in position - his friends and schoolmates and shooting buddies, who are not always the best people for the job. The DILG's Rico Puno was in the hot seat during the Manila hostage crisis in August. The LTO's Virginia Torres was in the hot seat when allegations corruption in her agency surfaced. His response to these and others: "I stand by them," and "kasi naman kayo, mga taga-media, puro bad news ang gusto ninyong i-report."

But what else is there to report? I don't expect Noynoy to instigate many changes in his first year in office. He did say that he's thinking of more long-term solutions to our issues, and I respect that. But it never seemed that way. You don't see him talking about these solutions - all he talks about are the same old things. I'm different from PGMA. Unlike her, I'm genuinely concerned for all of you. Unlike her, I won't steal money from our coffers - why would I? I didn't want to run in the first place, but you wanted me here, so I don't really have much of a choice now, right? Anyway, that should be enough. She's gone. I'm here now. It's all fine.

Repeated, ad infinitum.

Oh, right, there's his constant flouting of the daang matuwid line, perhaps the most succinct way of putting everything I just wrote in italics a couple of paragraphs back. "Narito na tayo sa daang matuwid," he'd say, often, like he's still in the campaign trail - it is his election slogan, after all - and not like he's actually the president now. It seems that he's convinced that his mere presence makes everything better.

Sure, he's justified in doing that. When he assumed office it seems everybody was more confident about our country's chances. But it's been a year, and right now he should start working - no, he should already have a few things on his mind - no, a lot of them. He shouldn't just be thinking of them. He should be doing them. Instead, all he does is communicate the same old things, over and over again. Call himself a gift from heaven. Call his predecessor evil incarnate. Say that things are going to be just fine. You'll hear those words in the news, pretty much everyday, in between rising prices, "world news" and rumors of whoever the president is dating nowadays.

The honeymoon period has long passed, although Noynoy is lucky his trust ratings - which he says isn't important to him - are still higher compared to other presidents. But all he's done in the past year is revel in what he just did, which is pretty much what today's speech is all about. What has he accomplished? He became president.

Hopefully by now he knows that his position isn't a nuisance but a privilege. Not a privilege, but a massive responsibility, especially considering we are a country who thinks dole-outs is the best way to help the poor.

Hopefully by now he knows that the cult of personality surrounding him isn't enough to sustain change in the country. Being an Aquino isn't enough to effect long overdue change in this country, the same way being an Arroyo isn't enough to make you run for the hills. It's being a hard worker, a dedicated worker, a smart worker, one who's willing to sacrifice his love life, his third-hand Porsche and his privacy to make the most of his time.

Hopefully by now he knows that he only has five years left, and he has to stop focusing on communicating the same old clueless rhetoric, and actually start doing something, so that when he decides to deliver another Ulat sa Bayan - different from his State of the Nation Address, I must note - it won't be the same old tripe we've heard him say during the campaigns, but instead, it would actually be something substantial.

Hopefully by now he knows that he cannot make a fool of the Filipino people - the very thing he's accusing his predecessor of doing, and the very thing he's doing right now. The same thing happened nine years ago. We kicked out a corrupt president, we thought everything will get better, and then, we're here again. We kicked out a corrupt president. We think everything will get better.

The difference is, I believe - I sincerely believe - that Noynoy is not capable of being corrupt. I just hope he is also not capable of being a lame duck.

Sir, it's time to go home and get to work.

And your responses...

i was having this discussion with my mom in the car. i simply told her that NOTHING good is happening. i abhor noynoy, as you know. but now i started not to care and just exist in my little bubble. for the very first time in my life i got tired of commenting on the news.
it's sad.

Anonymous krizzie6/30/2011     

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