BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘There could very well be a few more Rico E. Punos who may not have committed any wrong but must go because they are not of much use to President Aquino apart from being shooting buddies.’
Of all the presidents I have known starting from Manuel A. Roxas, Benigno Aquino III is the only one who did not prepare for the highest office in the land.
It is not with derision that I say President Aquino and his mother were accidents of their time. In the Aquino family, the politician was Benigno Aquino Jr., former senator, arch nemesis of Ferdinand Marcos.
Marcos was practically forced by Uncle Sam to call snap elections in February 1986, less than three years after Ninoy Aquino was killed on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport on Aug. 21, 1983.
Accusations of massive cheating in the snap elections flew high but the widow of Senator Aquino won the elections.
Marcos was shanghaied by the Americans to Hawaii at the height of the EDSA People Power Revolution. Mrs. Aquino immediately proclaimed herself president under a revolutionary government.
Mrs. Aquino’s biggest contribution to her country was throwing the dictatorship out of power. But she never imagined it would ever happen. It was her husband, Ninoy, who fought Marcos literally to the death.
It bears no repeating that if Ninoy had not been murdered, his wife Corazon Cojuangco would remain a housewife. She was not even a political asset of her husband but she remained steadfast with him although she did not say much, not half as much as the supporters of Ninoy said of Ferdinand Marcos.
Mrs. Aquino was supposed to have restored democracy and the rule of law after she threw Marcos out of Malacañang. Maybe she did in the sense that the whole democratic world adored and idolized her.
Beyond that, we might say she fell short of expectations in the sense that the economy did not prosper that fast. But she continues to be credited with the destruction of Marcos cronyism even in death.
Her popularity would have allowed her a second term but she refused. She rightly felt that she vindicated not just the murder of her husband but the death of democracy. She resuscitated it from the grave.
Still, the meaningful change that everybody expected did not come at all. The Presidential Commission on Good Government failed to send any of the Marcos cronies to jail for corruption.
In fairness, the little time that Mrs. Aquino had before she agreed to fight Marcos in the snap elections enabled her to earn the support of a few good men, notably Jaime V. Ongpin, who snuffed out his own life not too long after Mrs. Aquino took her oath.
Three presidents came and went – although the term of Joseph Estrada was abbreviated by his Vice President Gloria Arroyo, who cried corruption. Civil society and businessmen supported Mrs. Arroyo. She stayed in power for nine long years without a mandate of the people.
Mrs. Arroyo’s first term was grabbed from Joseph Estrada. The second was stolen from the people through electoral fraud.
Noynoy Aquino was elected senator in his mother’s lifetime. We thought he never dreamed of becoming anybody else but a hardly noticed senator. It was towards election time that his mother passed away, a victim of cancer.
Back then, in late 2009, the candidate of the Liberal Party was Sen. Manuel Araneta Roxas in a field against deposed but come-backing former President Joseph Estrada. There developed a consensus that only Noynoy Aquino could beat Joseph Estrada, who has proven that the grabbed and stolen terms of Gloria Arroyo were more graft-ridden than his.
On the other hand, Corazon Aquino expressed sincere regrets for supporting Mrs. Arroyo against Estrada in Edsa II.
We are narrating these events to try and prove that even in politics there are matters beyond the control of the politicians. As it happened, Noynoy Aquino, who never dreamed of going further than the Senate, found himself overwhelmingly supported by voters for the presidency obviously in gratitude to his late mother and father before her.
It is almost serendipitous that Mrs. Aquino passed away when the national elections were almost at hand. There was just enough time for the Liberal Party to make a decision that the only son of the former president and murdered senator was the sure winner.
And so it came to pass that, indeed, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, or Noynoy, ran for the presidency and won.
He had nothing but victory to bring to his office. He never found it necessary to pick the minds of seasoned politicians when he was a senator. He practically kept to himself and to his target-shooting buddies after attending sessions.
Viewed in this light, and probably the fact that he owed his victory to the names of his parents and the reality that he could be bullheaded on matters he does not have familiarity with, he brought with him the target shooting-buddies as his closest advisers.
He did not seem to trust anyone.
The folly of picking cabinet officials almost solely on the basis of close friendship – and not much more – took its toll in the resignation of Rico E. Puno, undersecretary of interior and local government who was given his own turf – the police.
There are lessons to learn from picking men based on friendship. There could very well be a few more Rico E. Punos who may not have committed any wrong but must go because they are not of much use to the President apart from being with him in target-shooting.
I would guess the case of Puno is a wake-up call for President Aquino. A full revamp should happen after the local elections next year.
Even with a changing of the guard nothing much can improve if the President does not come to grips with the fact that he himself has to change by listening to other people, not only the target shooting partners.