There is a saying: “Never trust anyone who says ‘trust me’.” Recent events have proven this statement true. On the mere basis of his pedigree and family name, then presidential candidate Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III repeatedly assured the electorate that he could be trusted. And they did. The man is now President of the Philippines.
But so early in his term, these assurances started to ring hollow.
The first people who felt the vacuousness of the presidential word were no less than (at the time) two of his most loyal campaign supporters, Ben Totanes and Betty Abrantes who set up what was to become the immensely successful Facebook page BSA3 at (now deleted) Facebook.com/Noynoy.Aquino to gather support to push for a rallying behind Noynoyâ€™s candidacy shortly after the death of his mother former President Corazon Aquino in August 2009. After BS Aquino won the elections and ascended to power, Totanes and Abrantes reportedly disagreed with MalacaÃ±ang over how the page should be managed going forward. Next thing they new, their page had been shut down by Facebook admins under mysterious circumstances.
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It seems this little tale of woe set the scene for what was to become an entire presidential term symbolising an affront to the whole notion of trust.
Consider then the current situation two years into the term of the Second Aquino Presidency of the Philippines. There are currently three pillars upon which the government of President BS Aquino has traditionally built its credibility. If we are to come up with a sort of a report card organised around these three pillars, this is what it might look like:
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A commitment to freedom of expression and flow of information
We all know where the government is with the much-hyped Freedom of Information (FOI) proposal. Nowhere. Worse, the only significant bill relating to the health of the flow of essential information across Philippine society signed into law by BS Aquino is blanketed by unprecedented infamy — Republic Act 10175 or the notorious Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Implementation of that Act now languishes after the Philippine Supreme Court bowed to public protests over its perceived draconian nature and issued a temporary restraining order to restrict its application until further notice. Just the same RA 10175 will go down in history as an abominable symbol of the epic failure of what was once noisily — often hysterically — pitched as the reform government to end all reform governments.
A commitment to the secular state
Despite President BS Aquino being the gun-toting, tobacco-smoking, chick-loving swinging bachelor that is the antithesis of every prayerful staunchly-Catholic prominent Aquino and Cojuangco to come before him, the Second Aquino MalacaÃ±ang has so far been cowed by the tyranny of what remains the country’s most powerful king-makers: the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The influence of religious clerics and deference of ordinary Filipinos to ancient dogma remains as suffocating as it has ever been in the history of thePhilippine Republic. The only legislative hope to making progress around the cornerstone of efforts to reduce poverty in the Philippines — population control — has been turned into more a religous “debate” than the journey of economic and scientific discovery it could have been thanks to the CBCP and its fanatic mob of religious zealots that infest Philippine society.
More recently, a peace agreement recently entered into by the Aquino administration with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front reportedly allows Shariâ€™ah Law to be implemented within an â€œenlarged Bangsamoroâ€ autonomous region in Mindanao. The application of Shariâ€™ah Law in some countries allows for the implementation of restrictions on women’s attire and the stoning to death of adulterers among other practices.
A commitment to walking the straight path
It took a full two years before Filipinos finally saw the stepping down of failed Cabinet minister and presidential barkada Rico Puno who as early as the first few months of President BS Aquino’s rule was already linked to epic failure. Firstly, Puno was widely seen to be on top of a massive failure to contain and manage what was to become a tragic hostage situation that saw the deaths of nine Hong Kong tourists in 2010. Second, he was (by his own admission even) directly linked to the illegal jueteng (numbers game) operations that successive governments have failed to root out. Third and most recent, Puno was found to be allegedly involved in anomalous dealings with arms dealers in the procurement of weapons for the Philippine National Police.
That such a man would manage to stay in office that long despite the vast scale of the improprieties, anomalies, and borderline criminal acts he has been linked to pretty much punctuates the BS in the presidency of President BS Aquino.
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So there you have it folks. In the Philippines the word “trust” is more likely to be known more as a brand of condoms than as a virtue of leadership. President BS Aquino, indeed, is making his mark: adding “trust” to the list of otherwise noble concepts Filipinos have proved to be world-class at perverting
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.