It’s hard to be objective in assessing President Noynoy Aquino’s first year in office. He being the historic first to get an overwhelming mandate from the Filipino people, those evaluating Aquino, like me, would like to see him succeed. His victory is shared with the people, while his failure will be borne by the people alone. On the other hand, because he has a popular mandate, there are those who simply will never appreciate what he has done. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would be in this group.
But because politics has become a science, leaders have to be evaluated at least on the basis of what they promised they would do once given the mandate.
First, he promised that he would not be corrupt, and that neither would he tolerate corruption. Mr. Aquino scores big in this category. Fault him for being indecisive, fault him with KKK, fault him with lack of vision, but his primary promise was to be clean. He scores a perfect 10 on this one. Let’s put it this way, with parents like Ninoy and Cory, does he have a choice? Of course not. He would be hounded by his own parents from their graves if he were to be corrupt.
The next question though is: Has he promoted his own standard of honesty in the entire governmental machinery? Again, the answer is a resounding no. But this is to be expected. PNoy can only hope to lead by example. He cannot rid the entire system of the malaise, at least not after only 365 days. Where he needs improvement though is in implementing the laws and the rules as head of the executive branch of government. It’s not enough to be honest himself. He has to ensure that those who were corrupt are punished so that others will learn by way of example not to be corrupt. The fact is one year later, PNoy has not filed even a single case of corruption against Arroyo or her cohorts. Tax cases are simply no substitute for the enforcement of the country’s anti-graft laws. We need to hold the corrupt responsible for their deeds in order to uphold the principle that public office is a public trust. Somehow, enforcement of tax laws does not have the seriousness and resolve as upholding the most basic constitutional principle on governance.
He promised to address poverty. Unfortunately, whether or not he succeeded here will be purely speculative. Both gains and setbacks could be attributed to the past administration. What is important is how novel he has been in implementing this promise to uplift majority of our people from poverty.
I’m afraid that the answer is that there has not been too much imagination. What the President has to show for this promise is the conditional cash transfer program, a flagship also of the past administration; and the public-private partnership (PPP) program, which still has to be implemented.
Where Aquino needs to be credited, though, is the perception that under his watch, there will be a level playing field for business translated lately into an upgrade in our credit rating from Moody’s and other credit rating agencies. In fairness therefore, if only because of very limited time, we need to give the President a modest seven out of 10 on this criterion.
Then there is peace and order. He did promise that extralegal killings would stop and that their perpetrators will be punished. He even made mention of the Maguindanao massacre in particular, but without saying what he would promise for the case.
Well, the killings have not stopped, killers have not been convicted, and the Maguindanao massacre prosecution is on-going without clear indications either when it will end, or how. Here, the President almost fails, but for some redeeming points. Leila De Lima is still a gem for being the Secretary of Justice with a human-rights perspective. De Lima is about to take the ultimate litmus test herself that will determine her place in Philippine history and in the floor of the Senate: whether to charge her own client, Joel Reyes for the murder of Doc Gerry Ortega. But certainly, PNoy’s choice for the Justice portfolio is like an oasis in the desert. Furthermore, while the killings have not stopped, gone is the perception that the killings are tolerated by the highest officer of the land. This at least gives hope to both victims and advocates alike. My score here: eight.
PNoy’s Waterloo: the promise that we, the people, would be his boss and that there would be no kaibigan (friend) and kamag-anak (relative) in governance. There may not have been a literal breach of his promise insofar as relatives are concerned, to the chagrin of Rep. Peping Cojuangco et al., but instead, there were kaklase (classmates), kaibigan and kabarilan (shooting buddies). Mr. President, when you promised that we the people would be your boss, we expected not only pro-people policies; but also officials who will be pro-people themselves. We simply have not seen these from your KKKs. In fact, they may end up destroying your administration. My score here: seven.
How did the President do? Not bad. On the basis of only four criteria, he scored eight out of 10. This means that in my book, Aquino was a good President this past year, although with a lot of room for improvement. With five years still to go, there’s plenty of time and opportunity for this. Make no mistake about it, we the people are hoping and praying for PNoy’s success.