The mobbing of Budget Secretary Butch Abad by angry students from the University of the Philippines (UP) is a sign that the system in the Philippines has broken down. The fact that a large group of Filipinos did not hesitate to verbally abuse a public official and were even prepared to physically assault him shows that there are people who are increasingly getting frustrated at the lack of attention to their complaints. This incident is unprecedented and could be a prelude to anarchy.
Philippine President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino was said to have reacted with disappointment at this sorry situation. The statement from Malacanang spokesman, Herminio Coloma Jr. was that the President “believes that as the premier university, the UP is expected to promote responsibility in the exercise of the freedom of expression and civility while engaging in political discourse.”
Another Malacanang spokesperson, Abigail Valte reiterated “every citizen is free to express his opinion on any matter. However, it is different when an opinion is expressed with a view to violence or threats. The latter should have no place in our society.”
What they are saying is true. Of course, a peaceful dialogue is always preferable to violence and shouting matches. However, coming from Malacanang, the suggestion seems too phoney. It is very convenient for the President and his minions to hide behind the façade of “civility” now that they are under attack but when did they ever listen to the real voice of the people anyway? They only listen to their allies and the people who praise them.
In fact, President BS Aquino refers to his critics as those who are against him. He has this narrow-minded view that those who do not agree with him are allied with his political enemies. His attitude has divided the sentiments of the people.
His appalling treatment of his critics was evident while he was delivering his Fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA). Thousands of protesters went out into the streets calling for accountability on the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and Abad’s resignation. However, President BS Aquino was not even moved to invite the protesters to a “peaceful dialogue”. He showed no concern for the protesters while they were being water cannoned and simply dismissed their grievances. He also mocked them by praising Abad and by declaring his continued trust in him.
Sadly, President BS Aquino will soon realize that there is a limit to how long he can pretend that the Filipino people are okay with the way his government mismanaged public funds. If he continues to show his arrogance and think nothing of calls for accountability and demands that he sack cabinet members who are embroiled in controversy, he will see an increase in mob attacks targeting government officials particularly those who are allied with him. Something has got to give.
Like the President, some people also expressed their disappointment at the way the students behaved. They said that they expected more from students who represent the country’s premier state university. But the truth is, it would be far more disappointing if the country’s “elite” students just stood back and allowed the country’s politicians to get away with their crimes.
The students have probably had enough of the lies and deceit of the government. They realized that the executive and his allies in Congress have made a mockery of the country’s institutions and that any attempts to hold the President accountable for his transgressions will only reach a dead end. The speed with which the impeachment cases against President BS Aquino were dismissed by his allies in the Justice Committee is proof of this.
As usual, President BS Aquino and his minions are quick to act like victims after Abad’s mobbing incident at the UP Diliman. But the students’ behavior was a natural reaction to the way the President has been disrespecting the rule of law and undermining the members of the Supreme Court after their unfavorable ruling on the DAP.
A lot of Filipinos do understand and even applaud the way the students heckled and manhandled Secretary Abad. Some even think he should have been thrown into the garbage bin. They say he has a lot of nerve acting like he hasn’t done anything wrong. He has yet to provide details of where the funds disbursed through his spending program went. Abad obviously gets his overconfidence from the President’s trust and undying support. There are even talks that Abad has got the goods on the President and has him by the balls.
It was President BS Aquino himself who inadvertently admitted what a master manipulator Abad is in a speech during 75th anniversary of the Department of Budget and Management on April 25, 2011. The President recalled how, at the height of the campaign for the 2010 Presidential Election, Abad was the one who came up with the idea of creating a buzz around the then candidate Noynoy by fooling the public into believing that he was going out with a famous singer:
Butch has been my campaign manager on two occasions already. To show you how creative he is… before, when I was in the opposition and without money, he thought up a way to make me known to the people. What he did was, there was this famous singer-actress who made it possible for me to be in the newspapers for about eight months. I was surprised, because I had met this woman only once and Butch Abad made it appear like I attended all her concerts and that we had a thing going. For eight months, that story ran, and I was wondering how a story with nothing to it could run that long. Later I learned that friends of Butch Abad had been sending the woman flowers, which she always accepted. And every time flowers were sent, the story about our affair kept going even if nothing really happened.
“I said, Butch, you’re so good at inventing fiction, you should have been a writer.”
So now we know that Senator Noynoy only pretended to be romantically involved with a woman to make himself look interesting during the campaign. It seems President BS Aquino owes Abad big time. No wonder he cannot ask Abad to step down. We can already predict a bad end to a bad situation.
The President is really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Aside from Abad, a few of the President’s cabinet members are being asked to step down by his “bosses”. Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary, Jun Abaya is also in the hot seat for mismanaging the operation of the MRT. There are allegations that the train has not been properly maintained, which is why it has been breaking down on a regular basis.
Filipinos are likewise asking for the head of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman to roll for her incompetence in handling of donations and relief goods for victims of disasters. Instead of distributing the goods to typhoon Yolanda victims, she left the goods to rot in warehouses. Despite this, she doesn’t apologize for her shortfalls and can be seen acting like everything is in order. Never mind those who are suffering a year on after the devastating typhoon that ravaged Leyte and the siege in Zamboanga City.
Let’s not forget calls for the Chief of Philippine National Police Alan Purisima to step down amid rising criminality in the country, including crimes committed by the cops themselves. In his case, it is indeed a bit too soon to ask him to step down. Just because some cops were witnessed brazenly kidnapping a businessman in broad daylight and in the middle of EDSA recently doesn’t mean it is something new. After all, rogue cops in the Philippines have been operating for a long time. It’s only now that they have been busted thanks to people’s easy access to sophisticated devices and the increasing use of social media for citizen journalism. The real question is, was Purisima aware of his men’s extra-curricular activities prior to this bust or not? It remains to be seen how he plans to police members of the police force.
With trust in government including members of law enforcement agencies running low, it’s no surprise some Filipinos are taking matters into their own hands. The people’s morale go down even further when they hear President BS Aquino blame everything on the previous administrator after four years in office, then brags about his government’s “gains” and wanting a term extension. Hearing him repeat the same thing over and over is enough to make people go crazy and turn aggressive.
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