MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 June) — Like her late mother, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, who will be sworn in as 15th Philippine president on June 30, will assume office burdened with great expectations from a country beset by the effects of the plundering, authoritarian-like ways of his predecessor. For the situation he is going to inherit is basically similar to the post-Edsa scenario: an empty public treasury, a bureaucracy mired in unrestrained graft in all levels, an atmosphere of impunity as shown in the unsolved killings of hundreds of activists and journalists, and a national leadership inured to righteous criticisms against its misdeeds.
The only thing that distinguishes outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the late dictator Marcos is the actual declaration of martial law by the latter, although General Jovito
Palparan more than made up for it with his own version of “Final Solution”. But the two unlamented leaders have one thing in common: spouses who could not resist the temptation of intervening in state affairs especially when the agenda involved the use of people’s money.
In the area of human rights, Aquino can start by giving serious attention to the unsolved extrajudicial killings to discourage future occurrences of the same incidents that greatly embarrassed the country before the international community. The way he will handle the
Ampatuan Massacre case will also give a glimpse of how the administration of justice will fare during his watch.
Unfortunately, Aquino can’t possibly bring up these incidents without being hounded by the massacre in Hacienda Luisita, a Cojuangco clan-owned sugarcane estate which, farmers groups identified with the Left said, should be placed under agrarian reform.
President Corazon Aquino refused to heed calls to have the hacienda redistributed, evaded the issue through the Stocks Distribution Option, and eventually reaped the bitter fruit of a failed reform program when soldiers fired at protesting farmers. Her son can erase the stigma of the massacre not only by giving justice to those who died but more importantly by making the hacienda a showcase of his administration’s sincerity to implement a no-nonsense agrarian reform program.
During the campaign, Aquino did speak his mind about the Hacienda Luisita issue. His position, however, was evasive and ambivalent. He said his family only owns one percent of the venture and that if he had his way, he would give up their stake in it because it has experienced so much losses anyway. His was the statement of a businessman not of a leader who envisions attaining social justice even if he may have to betray his own class.
Meanwhile, it would be interesting to watch how Aquino will respond to calls for the prosecution of Arroyo. Will he give Arroyo the same dose of medicine she gave ousted president Joseph Estrada, who was convicted of plunder and later pardoned but managed nonetheless to land behind Aquino in the 2010 elections? Or will the new president just be content with seeing his predecessor become an ordinary figure in the House of Representatives?
Admittedly, prosecuting Arroyo is easier said than done. She has stuffed the Supreme Court with her appointees to ensure a favorable ruling should it be asked to decide on cases that may be filed against her once she steps out of Malacanang. Aquino can counter Arroyo’s clout in the judiciary by getting the support of civil society and other pressure groups. He can obtain their support if he shows enough sincerity in implementing far-reaching reforms in governance.
Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s election as representative of Pampanga will put the legal Left in an awkward, if not unique, position in the House. Since they will surely block
Arroyo’s bid to become Speaker or to put one of her allies in this position, their only option is to support Quezon City Congressman-elect Feliciano Belmonte even if he belongs to the Liberal
Party, the party of incoming President Aquino.
In such a scenario the Left, particularly Bayan Muna and its allied groups, will find itself aligned with an LP-led majority while trying to maintain an independent stance on key issues. This requires a lot of balancing act and discretion considering these groups’ position towards Aquino in relation to contentious issues especially the failed agrarian reform program as typified by the Hacienda Lusisita experience. At best, relations between the Left and the majority would be fluid and would be defined mainly by the common aversion to Arroyo and whatever political agenda she may bring upon entering Congress. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so goes a classic advice in alliance building.
However, having a common adversary in Arroyo will not prevent the Left and the LP-led bloc from parting ways on contentious issues. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])