When he is not playing the role of his party mates’ campaign manager, you can find Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino playing the lead role of their defense counsel. Yes, defending members of his inner circle, particularly cabinet secretaries who have been implicated in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam or pork barrel scam is the President’s top priority at the moment. In fact, he has been playing the role of campaign manager and defense counsel since Day One of his term; so long that most Filipinos have likely forgotten that he should actually be doing his role as the head of state instead.Forget about solving the unemployment problem and never mind the energy, water and all the other crises facing the country today; BS Aquino looks like he would rather spend his time and resources on damage control – at taking the helm in navigating the emergency control of a situation that may cause the sinking of a ship – his political ship.
Unfortunately for BS Aquino, the damage to his administration’s reputation this time around is not as trivial as the Mai Mislang incident in Vietnam. As a former member of Malacanang’s communication team, BS Aquino’s drinking buddy, Mislang embarrassed herself when she ungraciously whined about how “the wine sucks” on social media during a banquet hosted by Vietnam and lamented about the lack of handsome men in the host country back in 2010.
BS Aquino’s current predicament is not as easily fixed by his erring staff’s resignation just like what the President’s shooting buddy and former Undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Rico Puno did when he got caught up in dubious circumstances.
Recall that Puno had to resign when the public grew suspicious of his actions immediately after the death of his former boss DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo in a plane crash. People couldn’t understand why Puno and his men had to “break-in” to Robredo’s office to retrieve “sensitive” documents. A lot of people actually thought that Puno should have resigned a long time ago particularly after a report conducted by the Department of Justice found Puno to be one of the government officials accountable for the deaths of eight Chinese tourists in the Mendoza hostage crises in 2010.
Back then, BS Aquino already showed his bias for his allies when he absolved all of those accountable including Puno and former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim of any responsibility. It was a decision that would later anger the relatives of the Hong Kong tourists who died and infuriate Hong Kong officials. BS Aquino’s lack of empathy for the victims and refusal to apologize for his government’s shortfall even resulted in Hong Kong imposing sanctions against Filipino travellers.Fast-forward to now, it is fair to say that BS Aquino has spent most of his term defending his staff from their shenanigans. Instead of giving him the support he needs to run a smooth operation, his staff – those he handpicked himself to fill sensitive positions in government – act as Sideshow Bobs who distract him from the more important things he needs to address.
Some of his misguided supporters defend BS Aquino by saying that he is not corrupt himself but that he is surrounded by people who are. The problem with their claim is that, they don’t realize that BS Aquino’s high tolerance for corrupt activities involving his allies reflect on his inability to control even those close to him. His irrational approach to justice is beginning to look like a result of his lack of conviction. The double standards he applies to his friends and enemies alike exposes him as a coward deep down inside. His cowardliness is masked by the false bravado he projects to the public eye.
Why is BS Aquino afraid of firing or even reprimanding his own staff? It could be he is either too scared of what a disgruntled staff member might tell the public about him or he has no choice but to stick to those who swear allegiance to the yellow flag because an outsider could inadvertently disclose his incompetence to those who still believe he is for “Daang Matuwid” or “straight path”.
BS Aquino’s desperate attempts at defending his staff were so apparent when he used the “innocent until proven guilty” defense – a defense that somehow does not apply to his political enemies especially former President Gloria Arroyo (GMA) and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona.
When it comes to his allies, the President is an advocate of looking at proof or evidence before judging the accused:
Aquino said it would be improper to remove his aides because of mere criticisms.
Aquino said Villanueva had already explained to him why he was implicated in the pork barrel scam.
“Is there evidence? For instance, not to pre-judge, Secretary (Joel) Villanueva showed me his alleged request. (The) letterhead was not of his partylist CIBAC. His partylist where he had ran under was CIBAC. But the partylist (used) as letterhead in the alleged document from him was (the name of) another partylist,” Aquino said.
The people can count on BS Aquino to go the extra mile just to explain why any of his staff who are involved in scams are innocent. He even reiterates that his staff still enjoys his full trust and confidence – something that members of the opposition will never enjoy.
And you can also count on him to remind the public that he is determined to re-file the case against GMA for her alleged involvement in the fertilizer fund scam. He has already instructed DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima to find concrete evidence to support the refiling of the case. He did this immediately after the case against GMA was dismissed by the office of the ombudsman. It seems looking like a hypocrite doesn’t matter to BS Aquino at all. It just comes naturally to him. If he still doesn’t have evidence against GMA, then why is she in jail? Some people have even commented that BS Aquino is showing psychopathic tendencies in dealing with GMA.Another way of looking at why BS Aquino refuses to give in to calls for him to do something about his staff who are implicated in corrupt activities is that he and his minions also use negative propaganda against their political enemies.
Now that it has been revealed that no less than Budget Secretary Florencio Abad allegedly benefitted from the pork barrel scam, we can now understand why the budget for the PDAF kept going up every year. Abad’s 2014 budget would have allocated 200 million pesos for every senator and 70 million for every congressman. It was mind-boggling how Abad kept putting up the pork allocation when there was no evidence that the money given to the lawmakers in the past made a difference to the plight of the poor nor was the PDAF allocation improving the country’s decrepit infrastructure.
The inclusion of Abad in pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles’ list is another interesting chapter in BS Aquino’s sorry saga. It would be interesting to see how Abad can come out of this one unscathed. No matter what version of the list people look at, and there are three versions so far, Abad’s name keeps coming up.
The more BS Aquino defends his allies, the more he loses his credibility. The President appears to be too thick to realize this though. And the people who still believe that BS Aquino is not corrupt should have their heads examined.[Photo of President Aquino’s voting hands and Secretary Butch Abad courtesy Winnipeg Free Press and Bloomberg respectively.]
- The Philippines was a crisis waiting to happen even before COVID-19 struck - April 7, 2021
- Leni Robredo’s dishonesty and grandstanding during disasters is turning Filipino voters off - November 20, 2020
- Instead of blaming the gov’t for the rise in COVID-19 cases, people should take responsibility for keeping their communities safe - August 3, 2020
- Maria Ressa’s criminal conviction is a victory for the Filipino people - June 16, 2020
- ABS-CBN shutdown will strengthen Philippine institutions and compel Filipinos to follow the law - May 8, 2020