GENERAL SANTOS CITY, December 11, 2014 – Anong daang matuwid ang tinutukoy nila? In English: What straight path or road are they referring to? In Hiligaynon (formal Ilonggo): Anong matadlong nga alagyan ukon dalan ang buot nila silingon? Let someone do a translation in Bisaya-Sugbu, Bisaya-Mindanao or Bisaya-Davao.
The pronoun “nila” or “they” refers to Vice President Jejomar (nee: Jesus Jose) C. Binay and Vice President Also-Run Manuel A. Roxas III, now secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Governments. Top prospects for the presidency in May 2016, they recently endorsed “Daang Matuwid” differently – Binay vowing to continue it if he wins (Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 6, 2014); Roxas, bothered by its possible end under Binay (PDI, December 4, 2014), a warning.
What “Daang Matuwid” is there to continue or to worry about ending? This is at the core of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s platform – his Social Contract with the Filipinos. Four and a half years should show what there is.
There have been social and economic developments supported by official statistics and commended in the reports and commentaries of international financial and economic authorities. But media hype aside, with the exception of the aborted Estrada government, past governments – the Cory Aquino, Ramos and Arroyo – had put out official statistics and earned international kudos to show similar developments.
Aquino launched his “Daang Matuwid” against the backdrop of perceived incompetence and corruption during the almost ten-year Arroyo administration – the “Daang Matuwid” capsulizing the change that he vowed to do. The critical question now is: “Gaanong tuwid ba talaga ang daang matuwid?” (How straight, really, is the straight path or road?)
Let’s look at it against the backdrop of events during the last four and a half years.
Item: In late October 2011 and in early February 12, 2012, Aquino’s political adviser, Ronaldo Llamas, got embroiled in improprieties – his Uzi rifle found with his security in his car without him and his being photographed by media while buying pirated DVDs. According to media reports, Llamas’ offer to resign after apologizing was rejected. Only admonished, Llamas is still presidential political adviser. This was the first manifestation of Aquino’s tendency to protect against public criticism officials close to him.
Item: In his State of the Nation Address on July 22, 2013, he denounced the smuggling at the Bureau of Customs and the loss of some P200 billion in collections. Immediately after his address, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, whom he had handpicked for the position, offered to resign by text but was rejected. The Palace defended the President’s action and Biazon. In the following December Biazon resigned irrevocably due to his involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scandal.
Item: Health Secretary Enrique Ona may be able to satisfactorily explain the charges against him. But as cabinet secretary, he should have resigned out of delicadeza or been asked to resign. The same may be said of PNP Director Alan Purisima, especially that he has already been ordered suspended by the Ombudsman. Already tainted are “the qualities of integrity, humility and trust-worthiness in public leadership” stated in the Social Contract as expected of high officials.
Item: The exposés on the PDAF scandal in mid-2013 opened the Pandora’s box that cast doubt on the sincerity of the President to fight political patronage, the long-time and deeply embedded root of corruption, especially after the Supreme Court had ruled the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), his own baby, unconstitutional.
Item: Whatever will be the outcome of the multi-billion peso Iloilo Convention Center scandal, with Liberal Party stalwart and Senate President Franklin Drilon at the center, the administration’s so-called anti-corruption policy will be irreparably damaged. The case is now with the Ombudsman; Drilon and company have been ordered to respond to the complaint.
Item: The scandal besieging Vice President Binay, considering the hands-off stance of the Palace, will reflect adversely on the Aquino administration.
Item: Llamas commented that Binay must confront corruption allegations against him convincingly to remain on top of the list of “presidentiables” for May 2016. He foresees “that corruption would still be a dominant issue going into 2016” – admitting this early that corruption will survive the Aquino anti-corruption policy (Sun-Star, September 29, 2014).
With all the “Items” above alone, the “Gaanong tuwid ba talaga ang daang matuwid?” is a refrain that will keep coming back like Christmas carols. So,“Anong daang matuwid ang tinutukoy nila?” What is there for Binay to continue and for Roxas to worry about?
President Aquino III is still popular. Personally, unlike the once popular President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he has remained clean amidst the filth. By clinging to his coattails via the “Daang Matuwid”, they are trying to enhance their political capital.
(Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)