When former President Gloria Arroyo (GMA) was in power, people were quick to blame her government for what happened during the flooding brought about by typhoon Ondoy in September 2009. Yes, her government could have done more to prevent the flooding but the deluge brought forth by the rains induced by the storm that caused the overflowing of dams and rivers was unprecedented. In fact, incumbent President President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino was quick to take advantage of the public’s anger when it happened a few months before the Presidential election in 2010. He promised that things would greatly improve under his regime. Most Filipinos realize now that what he said during the election was just a tactic to get the votes in. It was a case of overpromising without delivering.
[Photo courtesy TheAtlantic.com.]
President BS Aquino knew that there was great risk of another Ondoy-like flooding and that it could happen anytime especially during the rainy season. Alas, he did not mount a big enough effort to prevent it from happening again. He even cancelled GMA’s PhP1.9 billion worth of various flood control projects as well as the P18.7 billion Laguna de Bay dredging project signed during her term — allegedly out of spite. He recently claimed that the project was a “joke” and that it would not have made any difference in easing the perennial flooding of the capital. How he knows that it wouldn’t have made a difference is a real mystery and it goes to show that he seems to be treating most things as a joke. This could explain the permanent sneer and sarcastic tone people observe coming from the President.
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Two years after having won the election, much of the country still experienced flooding; flooding that in this instance has brought many industries — including the vital financial services industry — to a standstill for more than a week in the beginning of August. The President is only now scrambling to talk of flood prevention projects after the fact. From the drawing board, he promised ring-road dikes along Laguna de Bay, embankments and catch basins in the Marikina River watershed and an 8-kilometer dike and pumping station in the Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) area.
That’s all well and good but he could have done this as soon as he moved into Malacañang. He could have put this down as his top priority considering he kept blaming GMA for Ondoy. While speaking to evacuees at the time, he vowed “to complete the three anti-flood projects before the end of his term in 2016”. It’s not like we haven’t heard him promise things before but he still had the nerve to ask the people to be patient, even complimenting himself for his projection, “It’s not in my nature to engage in flattery…I can finish this.”
As of this writing, the nameless disaster that befell Manila claimed 72 deaths so far while nearly 850,000 remain stranded or displaced. The amount of damage to public and private property including agriculture and infrastructure remain unaccounted for with sinkholes wreaking havoc on major roads and highways causing further damage to unsuspecting motorists.
Like his predecessor, President BS Aquino is not entirely to blame for the recent flooding in the Philippines. I’m sure he wishes that this calamity didn’t happen. And I’m sure he’d rather sleep in after his regular late nights of boozing with his drinking buddies as some have alleged, instead of going to flooded areas for photo ops. However, he was in charge of allocating the national budget and setting the national agenda. A lot of people are saying that for the last two years, he has been very preoccupied with exacting revenge from his perceived enemies instead of prioritizing what is important.
Instead of focusing his time, energy and all the resources at his disposal on fixing and cleaning up the major cities and priming the country’s economy, he has been focusing his time, energy and all the resources at his disposal on publicly persecuting GMA and her allies. It is a documented fact that more than six months was devoted to crucifying former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona which, in turn, resulted in a vacant Chief Justice post that is proving to be hard to fill.
President BS Aquino’s obsession has put efforts to address major issues plaguing the nation on hold since most of the members of Congress who, even on normal days, are already considered too slow to act were likewise distracted from their day-to-day functions. Some people are baffled as to why BS Aquino was and still is so focused on his predecessor when in fact, the situation in the Philippines remains unchanged, with some claiming that it has even gotten worse since he took over.
To be fair, members of Philippine society also played a part in the preventable disaster. As discussed in my previous article, the recent typhoon to hit the Philippines (code named “Gener”) just before the onslaught of this week’s monsoon rains left Manila littered with mountains of garbage swept in by big waves onto the Baywalk area along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. No less than 48 garbage trucks had to haul the mess gathered from along the length of the iconic highway. The sight provided a grim reminder of the Filipino people’s worst traits: laziness and negligence. Most obviously do not think of the consequences of their habit of throwing their garbage everywhere indiscriminately.
Yes, BS Aquino could say that people can’t blame him for other people’s actions. He cannot even relocate the estimated 100,000 “informal settlers” who are the Number One culprits when it comes to indiscriminate dumping of garbage onto Manila’s rivers and creeks. But it is worth mentioning that his government has actually allowed this situation to get out of hand by patronizing the Filipino people’s apathy and indifference. Saying things like “Ang sarap maging Pilipino ngayon” can only make some of us feel complacent or think that we are right on track for success when in fact, there is so much to be done.
The thing that annoys most of the President’s critics is his triumphalist stance. He thinks his government is doing great and he will not tolerate any views to the contrary from other people. In his recently-concluded State of the Nation Address (SONA), he emphasized that things have improved under his watch. The recent disaster has proven his claim to be false. He cannot even inspire people to change much less improve their situation. Most of the time people just see him vilifying or admonishing his political enemies and his critics — something that is very unproductive.
[Photo courtesy Showbiz Government.]
No, President BS Aquino does not inspire unity and camaraderie. On the contrary, he causes division in Philippine society with his “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” mentality. His continued use of yellow paraphernalia also leaves a bad taste in other people’s mouths. People question why he needs to wear a yellow shirt and a yellow pin when he is out and about. It is too divisive. He seems to forget that he did not win the votes by a landslide. One can be forgiven for thinking that he’s only partial to people who wear the same color or if you want to belong, you need to pledge your allegiance to his party. But shouldn’t he rather be encouraging people to pledge allegiance to the country? That’s really something. No wonder a lot of people blame him for the country’s misery.
In life, things are not always what they seem.