Over the last couple of years, January seems to have emerged as the setting for a tradition in which Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III exhibits his renowned abject lack of leadership qualities.
Last year, in the same month, he oversaw the appalling cold-blooded massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police officers in the hands of the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The massacre was a preventable one — one that could have been avoided if the President had got the right people in the same room talking to one another.
This year, in the same month, President BS Aquino enraged millions of Filipino retirees and their dependents by summarily vetoing a bill passed in Congress that proposes a significant across-the-board increase in pension benefit payouts to members of the state Social Security System (SSS). The Manila Times editor described it as a “cruel” and “heartless” act citing the whole point of the existence of the SSS as a social safety net, in this case, for retirees who, at this point in their lives, “are having the proceeds of their own contributions to the fund returned to them.”
Much like the SAF massacre last year involved conflicting stakeholders (the Army, the Police, the Bangsamoro “peace” team, Malacanang, etc.) coming together disastrously to form a perfect storm, the SSS and the funds entrusted to it also has many stakeholders — with similarly conflicting interests — surrounding them. The job of the President as supreme leader of the land was to apply executive leadership to facilitating productive collaboration amongst these disparate parties.
Alas, leadership is not one of President BS Aquino’s stronger points — an astounding feature of his character considering he is the leader of a nation of more than 100 million souls!
Aquino’s leadership failed in January 2015 resulting in the preventable massacre of 44 elite police officers by terrorist bandits. It failed again this year after Aquino did not step up to the role he was elected to fill competently. Rather than create a government working together to serve Filipinos, Aquino has created a morass of bickering branches and personalities and, ultimately, the unprecedented catastrophic failure in institutional governance Filipinos are subject to today.
This catastrophe was avoidable as the Inquirer editor points out: “The President lost control of the legislative process. Why this happened should be the focus of inquiry.”
Did no one among the President’s advisers see the pension bill coming out of the legislative mill? Did no one in the President’s inner circle advise him to send an unmistakable veto threat to the sponsors in the Senate? Did no one among the President’s lawyers or advisers counsel him to head off the coming conflict—either through preemptive information campaigns, or consultations with key lawmakers, or candid confrontations with his two principal allies?
It is not that there is a lack of any existing process to facilitate this close working between Malacanang and Congress. The Interaksyon editor cites how under former President Fidel Ramos’s administration, “the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) was institutionalized as a mechanism for Malacanang and Congress, with representatives from the private sector and civil society, to thresh out legislative agendas.” Tragically…
The law creating it thus requires the LEDAC, chaired by the President of the Republic, to meet at least once every quarter.
PNoy convened the LEDAC twice in 2011 – and then never again.
Just not his style.
Indeed, simply put, leadership is not BS Aquino’s style. Who suffers for this lack of style? Who else but the Filipino people.
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