P-Noy’s dead-end presidency

By Perry Diaz

Walang-corrupt-walang-mahirapWith only one and a half years left in his presidency, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III is still trying to convince his “bosses” — the people – that he’s on track with his promise of “Walang korap, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty) on the “daang matuwid” (straight path). And after four and a half years of his scandal-ridden administration, P-Noy has yet to deliver what he vowed to accomplish: stop corruption and eradicate poverty. But what’s happening is the reverse: corruption is on the rise and more people are getting poor… and hungry.

Poverty.16What is strange is that with the “economic boom” that P-Noy had been trumpeting with all the fanfare of a conquering Caesar, the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 52% — or 11.4 Filipino families – rate themselves as “poor.” It matched the poverty rate in 2006. However, the population in 2006 was around 90 million and last year’s population exceeded 100 million. Although the percentage rates were the same, the 2014 population was 10 million more than in 2006.

“What has gone wrong?” This question has been asked by a lot of people but the answers were as elusive as the Loch Ness monster, which turned out to be a hoax 60 years after it was “photographed.” And just like “Nessie,” the Loch Ness monster, the country’s vibrant economic landscape that P-Noy’s spinmeisters have created was so convincing that most people wouldn’t attempt to do a reality check and ask, “If the economy was really booming, how come more people are in poverty today than before?”

Economic boom

Poverty.15Touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the world’s leading credit rating agencies gave the Philippines an “investment grade” status in 2013. The Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services also upgraded the country’s credit rating a notch above “investment grade.” But here’s the rub: the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The country’s elite – the major conglomerates and influential families – is taking the bulk of the wealth created by the economic boom. Poverty and employment rates have stagnated. And the hungry are increasing in numbers.

Corruption scandals

Enrile-Revilla-Estrada.3Projected as an anti-corruption crusader, P-Noy wasn’t coy about flaunting the reforms that he claimed to have instituted to rid the country of corruption. Yet, corruption today is worse than the previous administration. Two years ago, the biggest corruption scandal in government erupted involving lawmakers who conspired with a well-connected scammer who siphoned at least P10 billion of taxpayers’ money allocated to the Priority Development Assistance Programs (PDAF) or pork barrel. To date, three senators have been charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense, and are now detained in jail.

Then came the exposure of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was created by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the Office of the President. Billions were diverted from the national budget to DAP in which P-Noy has sole authority to disburse as he pleases without any congressional interference or oversight.

Indeed, DAP is patronage politics at its worst. Many call DAP P-Noy’s pork barrel and many more refer to his discretionary power in the use of DAP as “fiscal dictatorship.” But Congress wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole for obvious reason: It is the goose that lays golden eggs for the lawmakers. So why kill the goose?

Then the Supreme Court dealt P-Noy a double-whammy by ruling that PDAF and DAP were unconstitutional. P-Noy criticized the High Court’s decisions saying that they would stop his reforms to curb corruption. But Mr. President, isn’t it true that the PDAF and DAP were the corruptors, without which lawmakers would be unable to dip their hands into the people’s treasury?

Poverty vs. corruption

Corruption-in-the-Philippines.2In my article, “Rx for Poverty and Corruption” (December 9, 2005), I wrote: “A study made by Management Systems International in Washington, DC, in 2003, has concluded: ‘Corruption has direct consequences on economic and government factors, intermediaries that in turn produce poverty.’ The study produced two models. On the one hand, the ‘economic model’ postulates that corruption affects poverty by first impacting economic growth factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces economic growth which would increase poverty.’ On the other hand, the ‘government model’ asserts that corruption affects poverty by first influencing governance factors, which, in turn, impact poverty levels. In other words, ‘Increased corruption reduces governance capacity which would increase poverty.’

“Is it then fair to presume that increasing economic growth and increasing government capacity would decrease poverty? If so, in order to eradicate poverty, corruption should be dealt with in a fashion that would deter people — particularly government officials — from practicing corruption. However, the problem is: The Philippines does not have an effective deterrence to stop corruption.”

Institutionalized corruption

FOI-Rally.6So, why can’t P-Noy make real stride in fighting corruption and prosecuting corrupt government officials? There are thousands of cases gathering dust in the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court. It seems like searching for evidence is like looking into a bottomless pit – you know it’s there but you can’t reach it. If P-Noy were really serious in fighting – nay, dismantling — institutionalized corruption, there are a few things that he could do: (1) Pass the FOI bill; (2) Remove the secrecy lid of RA 6426; and (3) Comply fully with international anti-money laundering law requirements.

Aquino-and-PovertyAnd this begs the question: Does P-Noy have the cojones to use his undiminished authority to achieve his legislative objectives, no matter how unpopular they may be? If he did, then he might still be able to redeem himself from the reversals he suffered at the hands of the Supreme Court. Indeed, it shouldn’t stop him from living up to the promises he made to his “bosses.” But for him to achieve this, he should stop playing politics and do what is right for the people, not what is beneficial to his political allies and cronies.

However, if he had given up the fight and just cruise safely – and leisurely — for the rest of his term, then he might as well accept the fact that his presidency has reached a dead-end… albeit prematurely.

Perhaps, it’s about time that P-Noy should start believing that the vibrant economic landscape his spinmeisters had painted – just like “Nessie” – is not real.


7 Responses. Have your say.

  1. philip says:

    Dead right, Perry! PeNoy is an accidental president who got elected sans any qualification except his last name. I beg to differ from your observation he is just content to cruise safely and leisurely for the rest of his term. To me, he has been on cruise control from day one, a weakling taking the path of least resistance except when he extracts revenge on his perceived enemies, as in GMA and RC.

    He is disrespectful of our system of government as he doesn’t want to accept the SC decision on his illegal DAP which is his way of personal corruption.

    He is all empty rhetoric and no decisive action. His motto of walang mahirap kung walang corrupt is only for show. He has sheltered and cuddled the most corrupt politician ever and, despite criticisms against him, allowed him to stay in a cabinet post that he has used for campaigning in blatant disregard of the electoral law.

    But as you so adroitly painted, PeNoy is a wishy-washy character who believes his own magical and wishful visions far removed from reality.

    I have read somewhere that if a man stays single beyond age 50, his MAN-hood is questionable. Sorry, PH poor, PeNoy is not your savior and the coming 18 months is same old, same old era of rampant corruption.

    Maybe Sonny or Joma will do better, take your pick depending on your ideology. In my thinking, either one can serve the poor better than PeNoy or his evident cohort, Binay.

  2. Edward says:

    The answers on the SWS surveys are subjectve. I have more faith in Cielito Habito’s PiTiK assessment which indicates improvement in yhe economy. More objective surveys by the World Bank indicate unprecedented economic progress not just to the visible eye but well thought out metrics. I am just trying to be fair as it is hard to argue when there are more people who feel that they are hungry and poor.
    It is in the following aspects of management/leadership that are disappointing: not getting rid of people undeserving to be cabinet members, decisiveness and lack of presence or lack of coomunications on urgent issues. These weaknesses overshadow the many exemplary things done by Pnoy Administration.

  3. Doc Cesar says:

    Hi Perry,
    I enjoyed immensely reading the PeryScope with your brilliant perspective of President Benigno Aquino lll on a dead-end Presidency. I noted he welcomes the Philippines for 2015 with unwavering optimism. I say the implementation of reforms has failed. The showcase of President Aquino , the concretization of his slogan,” Daan Matuwid, Kung walang Kurap walang mahirap, was a daunting task. No wonder, pa Liko-Liko ang straight path! The Philippines is still cited as a country whose potential growth is eroded by corrupt institution.
    Aquinos’s detractors are saying that in the next year and half left of his term, there is no way he will succeed in leaving a legacy of incorruptibility. Yes , the FOI bill must be a priority before his term ends. This will be a legacy he will be remembered as the defining landmark of his presidency.
    According to World Bank figures, 20 percent of National annual government budget is lost to corruption. The recent budget proposed is P2.606-trillion for 2015—a Budget for Inclusive and Sustained Development. Figure out if 20% is lost to corruptions, which mean billions of pesos will be pocketed by crook politicians. Kaawaawa ang pobreng Filipino. According to the most recent data collected by international sources concerning poverty in the Philippines, 44% of the population survives on less that $2 US per day! And yet we are reading conflicting reports of economic growth. 

    The Philippine economy in recent decades was dubbed as “the sick man of Asia”. Now, it is said to have finally caught up with the Asian economic tiger –the neighbor countries of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. 

 The façade of progress in Manila and neighboring cities are what Aquino appears optimistic but beyond lies the stark of Poverty in the Philippines – a major obstacle to the success of future generations of the Filipino. According to the most recent data collected by international sources concerning poverty in the Philippines, 44% of the population survives on less that $2 US per day! And yet we are reading conflicting reports of economic growth. 

    The number of unemployed and underemployed is estimated at 10 million. There is that Conditional Cash Program by President Aquino which doles out cash at the
    rate of P1,400 a month to poor Filipino families. In my opinion, this will not stamp out the chronic and widespread Poverty in the country’s 100 million population. 

    The Philippines must develop industries that could generate more jobs, such as infrastructure, manufacturing, tourism, information technology, and agribusiness. 

It is our country’s leaders who can make the Philippines to become an “Asian Economic Tiger” and join the First World; otherwise it will still remain on its reputation as “The Sick Man of Asia.” It will remain a sick country if Filipinos will not succeed in electing the right leaders of the country. Even electing a new President in 2016, I can assure you corruption will keep going on. Corruption had become part of our culture. Again, I have to blame the electorate/voters who does not learn from the past. I predict, as what has been going on, the Philippines can never become a great nation…at least not in our lifetime. We have to accept the fact that the Philippines will remain in this sad constant for generations.

  4. Phil ESguerra says:

    Perry, thank you for writing on this most important topic.

    However, I disagree with your reader “Philip”. One can see that Philip knows not what he is talking about. He accuses Pnoy of “personal corruption”. Can Philip name one instance where President Aquino engaged in “personal corruption”?

    PNoy has the best record in fighting corruption than any of the previous presidents. Perhaps Philip is not watching because he is buried in his own guilt, for he is too busy attacking the personality of the president.

    Philip wrote ” I have read somewhere that if a man stays single beyond age 50, his MAN-hood is questionable”. What does a man read to learn that kind of garbage? Is it a man who throws that kind of generalized garbage into other man? I am betting that on his worst days, Pinoy is ten times more of a man than this “Philip”. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

    Philip fails to see that this president has done a lot more towards eradicating corruption in the Philippines than any past president has ever attempted. Can Philip name another Philippine president who has charged another president, impeached a sitting Supreme Court Justice, or charged 3 very powerful senators for corruption, or even ordered the raid on the infamous Bilibid Prisons?

    Let’s be realistic. No one person can dismantle in 4 1/2 years a behemoth like the Philippine corruption, a system that has been part of the immoral fabric since the beginning of the republic. Corruption in the Philippines is a system; it is a way of life. It is embedded very deeply in the bureaucracy. We all have to understand, it would take more than one honest and courageous administration to dismantle a system where corruption had been institutionalized for at least 60 years, and where the practitioners are ready to kill or destroy anyone who dares to “drain their swamp” of corruption.

    Perry, rather than dwell in pessimism and suffer in darkness, why don’t we all hope for the best things Pres. Aquino can do in the last 18 months of his administration. Let us move our collective might and effort so that he will be swayed to institutionalize his anti-corruption efforts by 1) Passing the FOI Bill; 2) Revoking the RA 6426 (Foreign Currency Deposit Act) and 3) Revamp the Judiciary System by tripling the number of honest judges and the justices in the Sandiganbayan.

    And if those do not pass before his term ends, too bad. Nice try. You can not win them all the time. But we can still put our hope in Grace Poe.

    “When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember your original mission was to drain the swamp.”

    • philip says:

      I am extremely flattered that I have a “reader” who took pains to try to debunk what I think about PeNoy. Firstly, I am not the first to question Penoy’s MAN-hood (maybe my “reader” lives in a cocoon that’s why he has not heard what has been bandied around for ages), it’s well-known he is not a HE-man, thus he is indecisive except when making vengeance on his enemies.

      So much brouhouha is being made on the PDAP but the greater evil is the DAP that PeNoy treats as his “personal” petty cash that is not included in the national budget. The way he bribed the senators to evict Corona is corruption of the first degree although he didn’t himself pocket the government money but he used it for his own selfish motives. He wanted to oust Corona to be able to appoint someone who he thinks will be loyal to him.

      This DAP that he alone controls and disburses has been declared unconstitutional but he does not want to respect the Supreme Court’s decision. Thank God for CJ Sereno who PeNoy appointed bypassing more deserving senior justices, thinking that she will be his lackey. Turns out this lady has bigger balls than him as she declared that she will serve only the Constitution and not any president.

      His “walang mahirap kung walang kurap” dictum (or is it the other way around, I’m confused now) is just a phantom just like Perry’s Nessie because he does not put it into practice. For goodness’ sake, why is he keeping Susmaryosep in his cabinet with all the unexplained wealth that his clan has amassed although they have no other visible sources of income other than their government salaries? He cannot remove Binay from the vice presidency, of course, but why keep him in his cabinet if he is serious about being anti-corruption? Or is he in cahoots with him who he secretly supported for VP in the last election? I saw Kris and Boy “B” interview him and they were fawning all over him in spite all the anomalies swirling around.

      When Binay criticized his administration recently, all he did was say if he’s not happy, he is free to leave. That would have been his chance to cleanly give him the boot but again, he showed his trademark wishy-washiness and let him stay instead. Or maybe PeNoy believes in what my “reader” says that corruption is a way of life beyond control. I am not saying that he is corrupt per se but he is showing the Filipino people that he is abetting it by keeping Binay in his official inner circle.

      Grace Poe, my foot! She will just be pushed around and shellacked by the trapos. As for me, give me Sonny or Joma if you want real change to improve the lot of JDLC. JJM/B? Go ahead and let the masses eat the birthday cakes from corruption!

  5. Paul Briones says:

    Mind you, even the Phil. Veteran Office, from the Officers down to the Clerks are corrupt. My father lived with his small monthly pension from his service with the Phil. Army for 34 year, and passed away in January 20, 2014. After his death, the government instead of giving his P10,000 burial expenses, the employees took it and also his remaining savings with the Land Bank. If only my father saved all his pension, maybe PVAO take back all his saving. Their reason: For 20 years, his pension was overpaid. Who makes the decision and computation for his monthly pension? PVAO. Then after his death, there were overpayments? Employees then do not know how to compute how much each pensioneers must receive. REASON: Incompetent and corrupt employees. That was the price my father got for serving the government for 34 years.

    • philip says:


      My wife suffered the same sad experience. Before we migrated, she was a public school teacher in Manila for 25 years. On reaching 65, she went home to claim her pension from the GSIS. No surprise, she was told that she already claimed her benefits in lump sum in what was clearly an inside job. This is proof that corruption in the PH is an ingrained way of life (as someone above wrote) from the lowliest clerk to the top officials of the land.

      We stayed up to 3am to hear the speeches of PeNoy and Lolo Kiko in Malacanang. As is his usual self, PeNoy was verbose and irrelevant (touching on martial law and people power, passe subjects not fit for the occasion). He was resoundingly out-staged by the Pope whose main theme was a simple call to politicians to end the rampant corruption that is taking the country’s money away from the poor. He appears well-coached by his friend and protege, Cardinal Tagle (three summa cum laudes), who might have the most brilliant mind of a Filipino since Rizal. Presidents, vice presidents and other politicians can certainly benefit from his counsel, too.

      Susmaryosep, as the Pope was speaking the camera panned on the couple who might be the epitome of corruption. Like St. Paul, I hope that they got the message from the messenger of God that it’s high time to mend their wicked ways and give back to the poor in one way or another the enormous unexplained wealth that they have amassed.

      The Pope will have fulfilled his mission to alleviate the condition of the long-suffering Filipino people if his message pricked the conscience of the rich politicians assembled in front of him.

      If Filipinos won’t listen to the word of God now, then Quezon really got his wish!

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