Is Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino finally maturing? A lot of people have noted that his tone during his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) was less combative compared to his previous four SONAs. Some people like former Congressman and journalist Teddy Boy Locsin Jr., who is also an occasional critic of the President even said that it was BS Aquino’s best SONA.It seems Filipinos have set such a low bar when regarding BS Aquino’s speeches that any improvement tends to make some people a little bit excited. Well, I think the change in his tone has more to do with the timing of his SONA and less on his maturity rate. His SONA was delivered a week after he received a lot of flak for threatening the Supreme Court Justices over their ruling on his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
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We recall that after parts of the DAP were declared unconstitutional, BS Aquino went on the defensive on national TV. He defended his practice of transferring unused appropriations from one project to another without showing a hint of remorse and then in his classic style, he undermined the judiciary for disagreeing with his economic policy. He emphasized that it was hard for him to accept the SC’s decision and that he might be forced to ask Congress to intervene. Some people saw his statement as a threat on the country’s institutions and have labeled him a dictator.
For the President’s sake, I really do hope that the milder tone of his speech means that he is starting to act his age. It’s truly baffling how it has taken him four years to finally see that his vindictive ways do not help his cause. It certainly doesn’t help unite the Filipino people. If the saying is true that it takes a village to raise a child, then it is taking a whole country to raise President BS Aquino. The DAP controversy should be a humbling experience for him. It was obvious that the reason he became emotional towards the end of his SONA speech is because the number of people who have become disappointed with his behavior has undeniably gone up.
Because President BS Aquino has been forced to stop being generous to members of Congress and other government agencies with public funds, he is faced with the realization that he will have to use his persuasive skills — something that he is lacking in — when he needs them to cooperate with his agendas.
It would be hard indeed, for lawmakers who have been used to receiving pork, to find motivation to prioritize the President’s urgent bills now that the pork is gone. Even with grease money, they still work at turtle speed in passing important bills, what more if there is nothing in it for them? President BS Aquino will have to convince them to do something for the sake of the people – a concept that might be too alien for majority of Filipino public servants.
While the tone of President BS Aquino’s SONA this year has slightly improved, he still didn’t win brownie points with his critics. Those who have filed impeachment complaints have not recalled their petition and are even more determined to proceed. Those who think he is too full of himself still feel the same way. Some even accuse the President of being so melodramatic and weak after he became emotional and fought back tears during his speech. His behavior is a trademark of the Aquinos. After all, his family has been known to appeal to emotion instead of reason especially with celebrity sister Kris Aquino often crying on national TV to gain sympathy for her indiscretions.
Former President Fidel Ramos also commented on President Aquinos emotional SONA and didn’t like the way the President showed how the pressure of his job was affecting him. He had this to say:
The measure of psycological ability, steadiness under pressure is an optimistic, smiling face.
Indeed, Filipinos do not need an emotional President; they need someone who has a vision for the future and someone who can abide by the law. They don’t have that in President BS Aquino.When President BS Aquino boasted about his so-called “achievements” in his SONA, he made it look like he was making such a huge sacrifice doing what he was supposed to do in his job. He hates the fact that there are people who are still complaining despite his “best” efforts. The problem is, his predecessor also boasted of the same achievements. Here’s former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who even as she exhibited her achievements graciously praised her own predecessors:
We built roads and bridges, ports and airports, irrigation and education facilities where they were sorely needed. To millions of the poor, we provided free or subsidized rice, discounted fuel and electricity, or conditional cash transfers and we advanced land reform for farmers and indigenous communities.
No amount of black propaganda can erase the tangible improvements enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of families liberated from want during my decade at the helm of the nation. But these accomplishments have simply been part of the continuum of history. The gains I achieved were built on the efforts of previous leaders. Each successive government must build on the successes and progress of the previous ones: advance the programs that work, leave behind those that don’t.
I am confident that I left this nation much stronger than when I came into office. When I stepped down, I called on everyone to unite behind our new leaders. I was optimistic and I was hopeful about our future.
It seems, we have heard it all before. Of course Filipinos have the right to complain. President BS Aquino has continued the tradition of patronage politics by giving billions of pork barrel funds to lawmakers. His critics believe that he could have done more had he focused on building the nation instead of destroying his enemies. The Philippines could have had a first class international airport by now had he continued where his predecessor left off. The country could have had uninterrupted energy supply had he prioritized anticipating an energy crisis. The country could be suffering less from flooding during rainy season had he not cancelled the flood control projects of the previous administration.
It is a well-documented fact that President BS Aquino wasted a lot of time in the beginning of his term persecuting his political enemies. A few years of his six-year term were wasted on witch-hunting. This includes the vilification of former President Gloria Arroyo and former Chief Justice Renato Corona on every occasion, both of whom were charged using trumped-up complaints. As it turns out, some of the Senators who convicted Corona even committed worse crimes than what he was accused of and are now currently under arrest while Arroyo’s cases are being dismissed one by one for lack of evidence.
A displaced Zamboanga City resident Lilia Fuentevella, even dispute President BS Aquino’s claim that “by this coming August, affected families could begin to move into permanent housing units in Martha Drive Subdivision”. The resident found a pile of hollow blocks and a hill of sand and gravel in a place where her house once stood. She said the President must have been joking in his SONA.
Tyhoon Yolanda victims also disputed President BS Aquino’s claim that government aid reached them within 24-hours after the disaster hit Tacloban City:
But in an interview with GMA News, a victim from Tacloban City, the hardest-hit area of the super typhoon, said she disagreed with what Aquino said about immediate assistance from the government.
“Hindi ako sang-ayon sa sinabi ng Presidente. Wag magagalit sa akin ang President, in fact ina-idol ko siya sa pagiging President niya, pero sa ngayon parang mabigat sa dibdib [ang sinabi niya],” the woman said.
Another victim said: “Naghirap ang mga tao dito. Matagal dumating ang tulong.”
The victims noted that it was the non-government organizations which first reached them and provided assistance.
The President’s speech must have sounded so sweet to those who love to hear only good news.
BS Aquino’s critics are also unhappy about being accused of being against his “bosses”. While he was patting himself on the back during his speech, the police was hosing down thousands of protesters outside of the Batasang Pambansa. As one noted social media advocate Tweeted about her dream SONA line coming from the President:
That dream will remain a dream as long as President BS Aquino is the one sitting in Malacanang. He sees all those who oppose his views as his enemies and against his agendas. The irony in the way he thinks escapes him. In a truly democratic society, opposing views are welcome because the law protects it. I personally thought BS Aquino was delusional when he dismissed protesters and critics as simply those against his “bosses”. The protesters are his bosses.
Yung mga nakatayo sa labas, wag sana kayo ulanin, tama lang na naryan kayo. Ano ang kailangan kong marinig mula sa inyo?” Yung mga nakatayo sa labas, wag sana kayo ulanin, tama lang na naryan kayo. Ano ang kailangan kong marinig mula sa inyo?”
President BS Aquino was less combative in his fifth SONA but he still proved to be intolerant of people who disagree with his views. He may not have engaged in too much blame-game like in the past, but his emotion nevertheless betrayed him. Fighting back the urge to vilify his enemies may have been too much that it almost made him cry.
In life, things are not always what they seem.