The time to say goodbye to Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino is finally here. It is hard to believe it has been six years. To some, it has been the most unbearable six years. The number of people who couldn’t wait for his term to end grew significantly throughout his term. In the beginning, there were only a handful of people who agreed with the view that “Daang Matuwid” is just a scam sustained by the Liberal Party to stay in power. Nowadays, the slogan has become synonymous to cheating and a group of people even changed it to “Dayaang Matuwid” after the recent Presidential Elections when alleged tampering of votes by a Smartmatic technician occurred. The said tampering was dismissed as “cosmetic” in nature by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) headed by people allied with the Liberal Party. Despite outrage from the public, the government agency has yet to open its system for investigation.Even before BS Aquino was elected into office, there were already people who knew that the then under-performing senator would be bad news for the Philippines. Not only was he unfit to lead a country of 100 million, he made things worse. His disrespect for the country’s institutions and failure to uphold the rule of law became acceptable in Philippine society. A lot of Filipinos lost their moral compass. The public became confused with regard to who to trust.
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BS Aquino managed to divide the country between those who want to uphold the rule of law and those who turn a blind eye to illegal activities as a means to an end. This was evident in a lot of cases, starting with the illegal detention of former President Gloria Arroyo, followed by the alleged bribing of Congress in order to secure the removal of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona from office. There were many more cases when the BS Aquino administration violated the law, but the icing on his cake was the claim that outgoing senator and Vice Presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos became the victim of electoral fraud by what some say is a criminal syndicate in cahoots with the government just over a month before the President stepped down. BS Aquino did once say that he will do anything to prevent a Marcos return to Malacanang.
With the help of mainstream media allied with BS Aquino, the President and his minions managed to rile up the public by demonising his perceived enemies. This resulted in some sectors of society giving him the thumbs up whenever he denied the accused the right to presumption of innocence. There may have been some people who eventually realized that BS Aquinos just played them for fools, but unfortunately, the reputations of his victims had been damaged permanently in the eyes of others especially those who are gullible and easily swayed by negative propaganda. They are mostly Liberal Party supporters and those who are still beholden to the Aquino name.
While his supporters credit the BS Aquino government for introducing some reforms that they say will benefit the economy like the Sin Tax law, the amended Cabotage Law, and the Philippine Competition Act among others, their benefits remain to be seen. Besides, they are only as good as how seriously and consistently they are implemented. As they say, some laws in the Philippines are seen to be mere guidelines, but hardly ever implemented to the fullest. This was also evident when a money laundering scam involving the illicit transfer of $81 million from the Bangladesh Central Bank to a local bank, the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), by hackers exposed weaknesses in Philippine banking institutions. Aside from the RCBC, the scam also involved a local remittance agency, PhilRem Service Corporation, casino operator Solaire Resort and Casino, Midas Hotel and Resort, and some casino junket operators. It was apparent that the the Anti-money laundering Council were not on top of money laundering scams in the Philippines. That is enough proof that the country has become a haven for international criminal syndicates during the BS Aquino regime.
As mentioned before, BS Aquino and his supporters cannot take sole credit for the gains in the country’s economy since reforms started with former President Gloria Arroyo. She introduced the value-added tax (VAT) reform and expenditure compressions. She also saved the country from the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis by using Keynesian principles — government spending on infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy. This was a policy the BS Aquino government copied using the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) initiated in 2011.
After putting Arroyo’s projects on hold out of spite in 2010 as soon as he came to office, the Philippine economy grew only at an average rate of 3.9 percent – below the six percent forecast due to government under-spending and an unfavourable world economic environment. This compelled Budget Secretary Butch Abad to come up with a scheme. He pulled all the “savings” from those cancelled projects and used it as pork barrel to “accelerate” spending to stimulate the economy. Some of the funds were said to have been used to bribe Congress particularly the senators who voted to oust former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The DAP may have helped BS Aquino look like an economic “genius”, but it was not sustainable. Since the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, the next government will not be able to maintain the unprecedented accelerated “spending” unless President Rodrigo Duterte comes up with another scheme to copy Abad’s DAP. If he doesn’t and economic growth is not sustained or goes down, the public will think the Duterte government is not handling the economy well. In other words, BS Aquino’s illegal use of funds to stimulate the economy through DAP, is not good for the incoming administration. Duterte will not have access to a similar amount of funds to spend for infrastructure projects. He will have to find more innovative ways to sustain economic growth. It’s too bad not a lot of people can comprehend this elaborate scheme. Some just know through propaganda that economic growth was due to BS Aquino’s “hard work”.
But despite the economic growth that BS Aquino keeps harping about, the public still rejected the continuation of Daang Matuwid. The people instinctively know that economic growth only benefits the few – those who can afford to spend disposable income in a consumer-driven economy. They include people who get remittances from abroad and the middle class who get approval for bank loans. The rest of the population do not feel the change. Besides, exposure to too much credit puts the economy at risk of people defaulting on the loans when fortune change. There’s a good chance BS Aquino and his supporters ignore that risk because they are still high-fiving themselves over the so-called accolades they received from foreign economists touting “the fastest growing economy in Asia”.
All the other achievements like additional classrooms and expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program are nothing to boast about. They are simply part of his responsibility as an administrator. They are not something that can be regarded as original ideas to begin with. The previous government already had a CCT program. It’s basically a dole out program that the government continued for lack of better ideas to address poverty. It remains to be seen if the beneficiaries actually benefit from the program, ideally learn to become self-sufficient rather than simply get used to relying on the government to survive. In a recent study by ADB, it turns out that 30 percent of recipients don’t even belong to the poor:
The ADB study said nearly P19 billion of the conditional cash transfer program’s P62 billion budget did not go to the poor.
It also said the CCT program needs to improve the selection of its beneficiaries.
“The inclusive growth study notes, however, that improvements are needed in the program’s targeting system to reduce an estimated leakage rate of 30 percent,” the report said.
One thing is for sure, BS Aquino’s programs will not have long-term positive effects because they do not involve a change in attitude. BS Aquino did not inspire people to become better citizens. This is evident in the little things, like the way majority of Filipinos still disobey rules on the road and throw garbage around indiscriminately. Ignoring rules is also evident in big things like the way the COMELEC ignored their own “final and non-extendible deadline” rule to accommodate the Liberal Party’s late filing of its Statement of Contributions and Expenditure (SOCE).
If there is any legacy BS Aquino is leaving behind, it is ignoring rules. No amount of economic growth can offset the negative effects of ignoring rules, unfortunately. Filipinos should get rid of this habit of ignoring the rules by saying goodbye to BS Aquino.
In life, things are not always what they seem.