Street talk - Greg Macabenta

PNoy’s good intentions
In spite of the barrage of criticism and outright insults that have been hurled at him in recent weeks, in connection with the pork barrel plunder, I continue to believe in the good intentions of President Benigno S. Aquino III. I am convinced that he is trying, in his own way, to live up to the expectations of those who pushed him into the presidency.

Unfortunately, the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” applies just as well to his efforts to trek the Daang Matuwid.
When Aquino agreed to have alleged billion-peso scam artist Janet Lim-Napoles surrender to him personally in Malacañang, I think he actually believed he was doing the right thing.

He must have been persuaded by his retinue of advisers that: (a) It would portray him as being “on top of the situation” (especially following criticism that he was “absent” in the wake of the recent massive floods that hit the country); (b) he could abort any evil schemes that certain shady characters in the NBI might have had to foil the ends of justice; (c) it would send the message to suspected legislative scammers that he was serious about going after them; and (d) by appointing Mar Roxas to personally arrange Napoles’ confinement, he would give Roxas brownie points as a presidential hopeful.

Apparently, neither Aquino nor Roxas saw the disastrous implications of appearing to give “special treatment” to a person who had become the object of the worst outpouring of bile since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “indicted” and consigned to “hospital arrest.”

The rationale – or defense – put up by Aquino and his mouthpieces remind you of Antonio Margarito facing Paquiao. Every time Margarito covered his body, he got hit on the face. When he covered his face, Pacquiao delivered a blow to the body.

Can anyone blame NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas for tendering his resignation, after both Aquino and Roxas suggested that his command was not to be trusted? Can anyone blame the vigilantes of social media for suspecting a deal with Napoles that would cushion the blow on Aquino allies and palace insiders, while leaving Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, Honasan and Marcos ripe for lynching?

Did Aquino’s PR advisers (among other advisers) actually convince him that he could emerge spotless after according personal attention to a fugitive straight out of the pig sty? This was a case of Crisis PR 101. The most simple, most obvious PR problem to avoid. Those advisers are either idiots or they want Aquino to look like one.

On the other hand, I hate to think that agreeing to see Napoles in Malacañang was a decision that Aquino made all by himself. Good grief!

Then there’s the issue of the pork barrel. For a president who has repeatedly declared that the people are his “bosses,” he certainly has not acted liked someone who believes what he has been saying. He seems more like the Boss of Bosses.

Why did it have to take a groundswell of protest to persuade him to relent on his indefensible position on the pork barrel? One suspects that he was cornered by Rasputins, convincing him that the consequences of depriving Congress of pork was worse than the effect of calming the storm of popular dissent.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see through the lame rationale for the retention of the pork by Aquino and the characters in Congress. It’s power and plunder. Assuming Aquino has no taste for plunder, he is apparently convinced that the Power of the Pork gives him control of the legislative piggery.

After much resistance, Aquino finally relented and agreed to the “abolition” of the PDAF. But the August 26 movement had already gained momentum. Here was another case of Crisis PR 101. Aquino could have preserved much of his credibility if he had taken the high road, early on, and had announced a merciless pursuit of the plunderers while ensuring tighter control of the purse and the pork. Indeed, tighter control of the purse and the pork – instead of total abolition - would have been more believable at that point, although it would still have been a hard sell (for one thing, a Secretary of the Budget like Butch Abad giving his own wife’s congressional district more pork than can be justified, impairs Aquino’s credibility).

By rationalizing the retention of the PDAF for so long and eventually giving in anyway (but only half-way), Aquino sent the worst kind of message. Can he blame the citizenry for doubting his sincerity and for starting to regard him as just another traditional politician pretending to be a reformist? Doesn’t he realize that perception is often taken for reality?

Right now Aquino, aside from being portrayed by his detractors as the Chief Protector of the Pig Sty, has become the Chief Fireman of the Republic, busy putting out fires.

The headlines are now saying that assorted agencies are facing the axe for having been used as channels in the pork barrel scam. If the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and the reincarnated Commission on Audit have their way, Aquino may have to abolish more and more government departments. Perhaps, they may even make Franklin Drilon’s belligerent and unthinking statement a self-fulfilling dare. Although, if you abolish Congress, will the Supreme Court and the presidency be next?

Say hello to anarchy or a military coup d’etat.

Even his objection to the Freedom of Information Act is the reasoning of someone who allows a problem to get in the way of a solution. According to him, the FOI will inhibit cabinet discussions because the statements would be “recorded.” Apparently, Aquino imagines himself as Richard Nixon, he with the incriminating recordings in the White House.

Or, maybe, Aquino’s intentions are correct but it’s just his way of expressing himself that delivers the wrong message. And it gets worse when his spokespersons translate it for the media.

Edwin Lacierda announces that “the Executive branch has submitted its own version of an FOI bill” and “the House of Representatives and Senate are expected to debate the proposals.” And adds: “Let them debate it because it’s a concern for all people. FOI proponents need to work on their constituency. A lot of us are for it but they need to work and convince the lawmakers that FOI is good for all of us.”

How does this statement resonate in the minds of an increasingly cynical populace? (A) Aquino is washing his hands of the FOI bill, (b) he has a resistance to it, and (c) he wants Congress to handle it because it’s sure not to pass.

That kind of equivocation was never apparent when Aquino went after Corona. Conclusion: He really doesn’t want the FOI bill.

And yet, at the end of the day (to use a cliché that Aquino appears to have given up using), I haven’t lost my faith in Aquino’s good intentions. He just doesn’t seem to have the street smarts to enable him to make his way up a straight path populated by highwaymen.

At the start of the presidential campaign, some of Aquino’s close advisers asked me to help in my personal capacity as a marketing communications man. I frankly felt that he wasn’t a sterling presidential prospect, but I conceded that he was the best hope for honest governance, after the disheartening Arroyo presidency. Besides, I was assured that he would be aided by the country’s best minds and would be given the best counsel conceivable.

Without going into details, I believe I helped Aquino win – or, more accurately, I helped make his most formidable opponent lose. Am I sorry for it? Not yet. But I fervently hope that the advisers who asked me to help will now come to Aquino’s rescue – as promised.

Aquino is said to be “very hardheaded.” It is said that when he makes up his mind, he stubbornly sticks to his decision. He is also said to be like his mother, the late President Cory, who disliked “unsolicited advice.”

Well, that’s too bad. Firstly, because there’s a difference between being a hardhead and a bonehead. Secondly, because he’s supposed to be President of the Philippines, not some spoiled sonnuvafamouspolitician who can’t tell right from wrong.

And, thirdly, because anyone who doesn’t learn a lesson from history is bound to see it repeated.
Volume 11 No 18 - September 16-30, 2013
Ang Peryodiko - The Newspaper For Overseas Filipino
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