Can the Philippines Afford a Single Aquino Term in Office? This was the question posted by The World Post blogger, Daniel Wagner recently and a question a lot of Aquino supporters have been passing around lately. Not only is the question idiotic, it is also pointless. It is idiotic because it assumes that President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino is the only person out of 100 million people who has the capability to keep the country moving forward. It is pointless because the Philippine Constitution prohibits the incumbent President from seeking another term. Filipinos will have to spend billions of pesos to remove the term limit just to allow a mediocre President to run again. The thought of it is enough to make a lot of people shudder in disgust.Most rational people know the answer to the question is a definite YES, the Philippines can afford a single Aquino term. In fact, considering the first Aquino Presidency also performed below average and even suffered a tumultuous term, Filipinos didn’t really need another Aquino as their President. There were better, more qualified and more statesman-like candidates who were vying for the Presidency during the 2010 Presidential Election. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a popular mother who passed away before the election so they didn’t get the majority of the sympathy votes.
One can’t help but wonder what Wagner’s agenda is about. He had no basis for promoting a second term for BS Aquino in his article. He simply cited the country’s notable GDP growth, which should not be credited solely to the current government. As Asia Editor of the Financial Times David Pilling mentioned in his previous article, improvement in economic fundamentals already started during former President Gloria Arroyo’s term and that some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside BS Aquino’s administration, particularly at the central bank:
Much of what the government of President BS Aquino had achieved over the last four years is primarily attributable to Arroyo’s legacy…
In truth, some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside his administration, particularly at the central bank. Although his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was deeply unpopular and accused of overseeing a corrupt administration, much of the improvement in economic fundamentals can be dated to her government.
Of course we can’t expect members of the media allied with BS Aquino to highlight that important information. They want to give all the credit to their patron saint and keep painting the previous administrator as “evil” – someone who did nothing good for the country.
As mentioned before, BS Aquino’s economic policy of government spending to stimulate growth is simply a continuation of the previous administration’s policy initiated in 2008 to “counteract” the effects of the Global Financial Crisis that ravaged global markets. BS Aquino however, had to use spending to stimulate the economy after he created his own crisis when he deliberately put on hold infrastructure projects the previous administration had initiated. The effect of his decision to stop the projects slowed the economy in 2011. That gave birth to the President’s unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP. PhilSTAR columnist Alex Magno summarized the gravity of what BS Aquino did in his previous article:
In order to pool mammoth amounts of “savings,” the Aquino administration cancelled infra projects wholesale. The Belgian-assisted dredging of Laguna de Bay, the French-assisted construction of modern ro-ro ports, the Chinese-assisted Northrail project, the rehabilitation of our airports, the Japanese assisted flood control and many others were arbitrarily junked. The massacre of major infra projects in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a sharp drop in our GDP growth rate in 2011.
All these were major infra projects. They might have broadened the asset base of our economy to underpin future growth. Their multiplier effects are massive.
The DAP mechanism converted economic investments into politically configured consumption. The money taken from infra projects was converted into pork barrel slush funds designed to strengthen the grip of the Liberal Party over our politics.
The profoundness of the crime committed cannot be overstated. It has substantially diminished the opportunities for sustainable growth of the next generation of Filipinos.
Sadly, only a handful of BS Aquino’s critics in the media highlight the gross incompetence in his neglecting the economic impact of putting projects on hold during his honeymoon period. In short, prior to his justification that the DAP “helped stimulate the economy” three years after putting government projects on hold, he was actually against spending or at least spending on projects initiated by GMA. Some consider his move vindictive. It is unfortunate that only a handful of people understand what really happened and how the DAP came about.
BS Aquino simply can’t take the credit for the country’s stable economy because it is being propped up by Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW). And the policy of sending workers abroad has been in place since the early 1970s, during the Marcos years. To quote David Pilling of the Financial Times again on the country’s economic growth:
Nor is growth being driven purely by policy. Very healthy levels of remittances from abroad and strong domestic demand mean the economy is shielded more than most from external shocks. The country, where half the population is 24 or under, is entering the sort of “demographic sweet spot” that saw other Asian nations prosper.
BS Aquino and his minions have a penchant for emphasizing only the good news from foreign media. When foreign media writes something good about BS Aquino, his minions are quick to quote the article. When it’s bad, they’ll say it is baseless. An example of this was when Malacanang Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr called a New York Times article “inappropriate”. This was after they published a scathing editorial and advised BS Aquino to uphold the Constitution, stop butting heads with the Supreme Court and gracefully step down when his term is up.
Hopefully, when BS Aquino steps down from office, he will bring patronage politics with him. It was during his term when the size of pork barrel funds and lump sum funds ballooned. Now that they have been declared unconstitutional, members of Congress will be forced to do some real work for a change.
Filipinos should consider it a good thing that they are not beholden to the possible Presidential candidates for 2016 Election. Since it won’t be another Aquino, they will not treat him like a saint and they won’t hesitate to impeach him.
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