Point of no return for Mr. ‘Straight Path’
President Benigno S. Aquino III’s bullheaded and combative speech televised nationwide last Monday has turned the tide against Malacanang in its defense of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). It revealed Mr. Aquino’s dark side. Rather than be introspective, if not a bit humbled, by the unanimous Supreme Court decision, the “tuwid-na-daan” president was more self-righteous than ever.
A chorus of voices - from legal experts to pundits to netizens - is thumbing down Mr. Aquino’s barefaced assertion: “DAP is good. Our intentions, our processes, and the results were correct.”
Apart from the established administration critics and oppositionists, there are the legal experts who opine a principle that they say any law school freshman would know: the Palace cannot anchor its motion for reconsideration on a mere section of the 1987 Administrative Code. The Constitution trumps the Administrative Code anytime should there be any conflict.
But obviously Mr. Aquino is not banking on legal arguments to make the SC see things his way. Apart from berating the justices about purportedly deciding without studying the government’s defense of DAP, Mr. Aquino effectively threw down the gauntlet before the SC. He even warned that he can sic his allies in Congress and his yellow crowd on the High Court, constitutional crisis be hanged!
But the odds are against him. The SC as an institution must hold their ground or risk losing what remains of their credibility and independence. Individual justices who are vulnerable to impeachment because of skeletons in their closet also stand to lose whatever high moral and political ground they attained with the DAP and PDAF decisions. But more important, any flip-flopping by the Court at this point can only add fuel to the fire and damage, perhaps irretrievably, public respect for the judiciary.
Mr. Aquino’s massaged popularity ratings have suffered a steep decline. And to think that the Social Weather Station survey was conducted even before the DAP ruling. The majority of the people feel betrayed by another elite administration whose populist rhetoric they had desperately clung to.
Mr. Aquino is deluded if he thinks he can muster a spontaneous outpouring of support from the people who may have been earlier hoodwinked into believing his anti-corruption/good governance rant. Another speech before businessmen added a measure of ludicrousness to Mr. Aquino’s growing predicament. His plea for people to “tie a yellow ribbon” to show their support for his administration has fallen on deaf ears so much so that his spokesman has had to tell the public not to take it seriously.
Duh? Maybe it is time for Social Work Secretary Dinky Soliman to sing “If we hold on together…”
Meanwhile calls for an independent DAP audit grow stronger even after Malacanang released its list of 116 projects that the DAP had supposedly funded “in good faith”. These are alongside complaints by reported beneficiaries that the DAP funds were misspent or never reached them. The public is just not taking Malacanang’s word for it anymore.
On July 24, the Senate Finance Committee headed by an Aquino ally will be hearing the Department of Budget and Management’s report on the DAP. Perhaps this is a signal that the senators who received from fifty to a hundred million additional lump sum, discretionary funds from the DAP are not willing to take the bullet for Mr. Aquino and his now isolated Budget Secretary.
An impeachment complaint by cause-oriented organizations and various anti-pork groups whose members think of themselves as ordinary citizens simply fed up with presidential and congressional pork is due to be filed today. A significant number of these folk had always stopped short of saying that Mr. Aquino was himself accountable. But last week’s speech infuriated and convinced them that Mr. Aquino is indeed guilty of culpable violations of the Constitution and ergo should be impeached.
Certainly the impeachment complaint against Mr. Aquino faces stiff opposition in the pork-fed, patronage politics-driven Congress. But his hold on Congress can still become unexpectedly loosened as Mr. Aquino’s political fortunes suffer a massive downturn. Remember that many of Mr. Aquino’s current allies were not so long ago loyalists of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They are, after all, mostly just politicians in the business of profiting handsomely from public office, and they are not averse to abandoning a sinking ship of state.
At the minimum, the impeachment process means that Mr. Aquino and his DAP will be further subjected to close public scrutiny. He won’t easily get away with his blithe and folksy explanations. Neither will his amateurish legal opinions wash.
Many people are saying that Mr. Aquino’s real character is becoming unmasked: his sense of entitlement as scion to cacique overlords reflects on his unwillingness to accept criticism, his penchant for picking a fight, and bullying those who are not in a position to defend themselves -- the peasants in his clan’s hacienda.
Others observe that his high popularity ratings have gone to his head. He believes his own propaganda that the successful impeachment of Arroyo-appointed Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and the Senate conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona is proof of his political mettle when these were paid off by presidential pork.
No, Yolanda didn’t teach him anything. No matter that international media made him out to be an incompetent Chief Executive with a habit for covering up his administration’s gross failings. The Basic Bangsamoro Law has been mangled by Malacanang even before it can be sent to Congress. It seems his rah-rah people headed by Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles even had the temerity to try to nominate him for the Nobel peace prize. But that didn’t go very far.
The call for Mr. Aquino to step down, voluntarily or involuntarily, is gaining traction by the day. Filipinos are not new to the ouster of an incumbent president via an unarmed uprising of masses of outraged people. The shift in support among power centers dominated by the elite bears watching.
But then there is another peaceable way out for Mr. Aquino. Resign. #
Published in Business World
21 July 2014