Philippine President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino’s speeches quite often make me laugh and cringe at the same time. Everything about his speeches is a joke – the way he delivers them and the way these are peppered with motherhood statements. I don’t think he even sees the way he frequently contradicts his own statements in every other sentence he speaks. Although sometimes I also wonder if he is fully aware that what he is saying is mostly bullshit, which could be the reason why he finds it hard to keep a straight face. That permanent smirk on his face seem to be telling his critics “up yours!”Take his recent speech before 10,000 high-school graduates who are said to be beneficiaries of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program or CCT. BS Aquino’s speech was so bad that a fifth grader could have written a better one. In his speech he asked his audience, “Can anyone say that the government did not give people opportunities to succeed? Can anyone say that nothing has changed despite our style of government? Can anyone say that we did not improve after 4 years of Daang Matuwid?”
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Were they meant to be rhetorical questions? They are silly questions. He already knows the answer is yes, there are people who say that the government does not give people the right opportunities to succeed; yes, there are people who say not much has changed because of his style of government; and yes, things did not improve after 4 years of him saying the hallowed words “daang matuwid” or “straight path”. He keeps saying daang matuwid as if it means something good. In reality, people now associate the words with incompetence, arrogance, impunity and patronage politics.
Knowing that his administration’s satisfaction rating has fallen to a record low, what possessed BS Aquino to ask those questions? Maybe his staff forgot to inform him that less than half of those surveyed in the first quarter of 2015 were satisfied with his administration’s performance. Or maybe he is too arrogant to admit that he is losing his mandate. Either way, he appears to be losing his grip on reality.
Someone even said that the President delivering a speech to a captive audience – those students were there mainly because they were beneficiaries of the CCT – was akin to tabling a bar girl and paying for conversation. Consider too that the audience was comprised mostly of teenagers – kids not mature enough to understand the impact of what he was saying and who were more interested in playing with their cellphones and chatting with their seatmates. It was a pathetic scene, really.
In his speech, BS Aquino was so proud of giving away public funds to the poor. He said so himself: “Since 2010, over P232 billion has been spent on the 4Ps program”. But he shouldn’t really consider that an achievement. It is so easy to give money away, specially when it is not his money to begin with.The program is not even BS Aquino’s original policy. He did not come up with the idea. It was former President Gloria Arroyo who introduced the program of giving cash subsidies and educational scholarship programs at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to the poor during her term in 2008. However, BS Aquino made it the “centerpiece program” of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the leadership of Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman. Fast-forward to today, BS Aquino’s administration is taking full credit for it.
They said the CCT program is supposed to “increase the productivity of the poor” and “break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.” But does the program even work in alleviating poverty in the country? The data says no:
Poverty incidence in the Philippines increased in the first half of 2014, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)’s Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) showed that poverty incidence among Filipino individuals rose by 1.2 percentage points to 25.8 percent in the first semester of 2014 from the 24.6 percent registered in the first half of 2013.
Some lawmakers are also against the CCT. During a twitter exchange, Senator JV Ejercito had this to say:
CCT is breeding culture of mendicancy. It is a political tool. And it’s the main poverty alleviation program of admin.
What we need are portfolio investments that would produce jobs and opportunities. This is genuine inclusive growth.
(I’m) Still against spending P78B for CCT. We could have used that for much needed INFRA projects. Cash for work.
Senator Ejercito was one of the 37 Congressmen who signed a manifesto opposing BS Aquino’s P21.9 billion budget allocation for the CCT in 2010. Here is an excerpt of their manifesto:
It is apparent that BS Aquino’s advisers did not take inflation into consideration when they thought of using the CCT as the flagship program of their poverty reduction effort. It seems they didn’t think food prices would go up. They forgot about natural disasters like typhoons affecting people’s lifestyle and they did not bother to come up with a strategy for job creation, which is a more sustainable solution to reducing poverty.
The (CCT is) a costly palliative, an unsustainable program of dole-outs that will perpetuate the politics of patronage and encourage a culture of mendicancy. CCTs cannot take the place of a long-term strategy that addresses the root causes of poverty through asset redistribution and job generation.
Speaking of jobs, BS Aquino mentioned in his speech that a former TESDA-trained mechanic is now working in Australia and earning more money than him. The irony of what he said escaped him and his teenaged audience. Had the TESDA trained mechanic stayed in the Philippines, he’d still be stuck in a local talyer or auto repair shop earning peanuts. Meaning, under BS Aquino’s government, Filipinos are still forced to look for work abroad and leave loved ones behind just to make a decent living. What progress is he talking about?
Speaking of progress, another international study has confirmed what some of us have been saying all along: that Filipinos who act with impunity are preventing the Philippines from progressing. As a matter of fact, the study conducted by Impunity and Justice Research Center of the Universidad de las Americas concluded that out of 59 countries, the Philippines has “the worst record in bringing wrongdoers to justice”. In other words, we suck big time at catching and prosecuting the perpetrators of crime in the country.No wonder journalists get assassinated on a regular basis in the Philippines. Killing is like a walk in the park for assassins riding in tandem on a motorbike. They usually get away leaving grieving families to accept that local authorities do not have the motivation to catch the killers. The recent murder of former Inquirer correspondent Melinda ‘Mei’ Magsino brings to 26 the number of media personnel killed under the watch of BS Aquino. The rest of the public seems to have gotten used to the killings that there is hardly any outrage when someone is murdered in broad daylight.
Impunity has become worse under BS Aquino’s regime, indeed. His Cabinet members and allies seem to act with little regard for the consequences of their actions. The public is helpless against BS Aquino’s illegal activities like bribing lawmakers using public funds to make them do what he wants. It is also impossible to impeach BS Aquino because the lawmakers are unwilling to impeach him for fear of incriminating themselves after accepting his bribes. The public also sees how BS Aquino’s buddies like former Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima get away with actions that result in multiple deaths without being made accountable for them just because they are close to the President.
The impunity report has certainly put into context BS Aquino’s behavior in public. The next time you see BS Aquino smiling during his public appearances, it’s probably because he thinks he can do anything and get away with it. You can expect the next administrators to behave the same way.
In life, things are not always what they seem.