Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

P-Noy’s 5th SONA cannot be the business-as-usual bashing of political enemies, for our country in these four and a half years of his watch is in very deep crisis. The Filipino people are looking for solutions to our myriad, gargantuan problems and mulling alternatives for governance. UP experts issue their own “alternative SONA” which is not flattering to P-Noy at all.

Presidential ally Sergio Osmena III, who’s trying to project independence when expedient but who’s in reality a dyed-in-the-wool LP, was quoted in today’s Daily Tribune as stating he expects President Aquino’s 5th SONA tomorrow at the House of Representatives to be “no different” from his four previous Sonas in that, Osmena said, "it will be full of rhetorics and lack substance.” The Tribune story noted that Aquino in his previous SONAs used his 47-minute speech to bash alleged inefficient government officials and agencies.

It should be noted too, that in his past four SONAs, P-Noy’s favorite target for bashing was his predecessor, ex-President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as he probably thought this tactic would make him look gwapo.  For tomorrow’s SONA, however, P-Noy can no longer resort to such tired tactics, for this time his administration is in deep crisis and no amount of blaming others for the desperate mess our country is in at the moment can take the heat away from the President.

In fact such tactic would only aggravate his problem and turn more people against him. At this very minute he faces three impeachment cases in the House. 

But there may be indication that the President is aware of the dire status of his 5th SONA. Insider whispers from the Palace corridors report that P-Noy called an emergency Cabinet meeting at 10:30 last Saturday night, that lasted until 3 am. today, all about what to say tomorrow. 


Tomorrow’s SONA cannot be business as usual. For the fact is that people are angry and upset at the way the Aquino administration and its cohorts have run the country aground and destroyed many existing institutions. They are desperate for real, meaningful change, a national transformation---in fact a growing number are now advocating even radical change that they would articulate in their “alternative SONA.”

The “alternative SONA” had been traditionally marshaled by various groups at every opening of Congress in past administrations, usually behind barricades and in front of deep phalanxes of police and soldiers. But expect it to be louder and harsher than ever in this current one as the country faces tremendous problems.

But don’t take it from me---listen to what the experts have to say in one such “alternative SONA.”


Last Friday, just a day after the Aquino Cabinet attended the Senate hearing in full force to help beleaguered DBM Secretary Florencio Abad defend the P-Noy administration on DAP (and all of them looking so obsequious in the process), the UP-based Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg) held a political briefing and forum at the National College of Public Administration and Governance in UP Diliman. The forum sought to examine various aspects of the Aquino Administration during CenPeg's “State of the Presidency (SOP)---its 6th in time for the yearly SONA---and the forum’s title said it all: “A Damaged Presidency, a Besieged Administration.”

The CenPeg Forum took a look at the following: “The limits and Illusion of Reform” by Dr. Temario C. Rivera;  “Elite Aquinomics on the PDP,  PPP and DAP,” by Ibon Executive Director and CenPeg Fellow Jose Enrique Africa; “A Foreign Policy Not Our Own, 4 Years into the BS Aquino Administration” by Prof. Roland G. Simbulan, CenPeg Senior Fellow;  the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: Pressing for (or Against ) Time, by Dean Julkipli Wadi, of the Institute of Islamic Studies, UP Asian Center; and “The Presidency, Reform or Anti-Reform: An Institutional Perspective, by Prof. Bobby Tuazon, Director for Policy Studies, CenPeg.

Predictably, the speakers as well as reactors didn’t seem to find anything favorable to say about the above aspects affecting the P-Noy administration. In fact, toward the end of the forum, one professor confessed publicly, to the amusement of the professors, students and media, that he voted for P-Noy in 2010 and is now awfully sorry and ashamed about it, peks man.


The UP professors who conducted the forum had, to a man, a grim view of the Aquino administration’s performance in its past four and a half years. But to be fair, they maintained that in the 28 years of post-Marcos rule (from 1986 to 2014), every president since Corazon Aquino started out with a fairly high rating; but toward the end of his or her administration their ratings plunged (steepest drop was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at negative 50 in her last year), as every administration failed to cope with the many ills of the current presidential system---such as dynastic and transactional politics, corruption, economic instability, political unrest in the form of coup d’etats and mutinies, the power crisis, the challenge of globalization, etc.


Dr. Temario C. Rivera, CenPeg Board Chair and UP Political Science Professorial Lecturer, stressed, however, that President Noynoy’s case may be the most pathetic of all of Filipino Chief Executives as he started out with such high ratings---“a political capital that can be systematically used to jump-start and sustain much needed reform.”Much indecisiveness and ineptness by the President," however, said Rivera, have left a track record that falls short of earlier expectations.” He plainly put as the sub-title of his paper "Twilight of a Damaged Presidency: The Limits and Abuse of Presidential Power."

Dr. Rivera argued that our economic growth, touted to be the second best in Asia, “has not made any significant dent on poverty rates and unemployment (the worst record in the ASEAN 10 for unemployment trends during the last 8 years). With daang matuwid as its professed policy centerpiece, the P-Noy administration, said Rivera, ironically now exhibits the country’s worst corruption scandal involving some of the President’s closest allies.”

Moreover, says Rivera, its potentially lasting legacy of a definitive peace process in Mindanao also faces an uncertain endgame.”


Prof. Bobby Tuazon, on the other hand, deplored the failure of this administration to pass the Freedom of Information Law despite P-Noy’s campaign promise to do so. He also cited the corruption instruments of the PDAF and DAP that in turn have weakened the party system and turned Congress into a rubber stamp of the executive; moreover, said Tuazon, crucial agreements still hanging in the balance, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US and the MILF Agreement (MILF Chair Al Haj Murad was said to have been quite angry that the Bangsamoro Agreement inked in Malacanang with such fanfare some months ago was altered unilaterally and surreptitiously by as much as 70%) and a Judiciary under siege.  Tuazon also deplored a crony capitalism alive and kicking, the “bastardization” of the party list, and an electoral system and its administration that have been compromised.


Dean Julkipli Wadi of the Institute of Islamic Studies also does not sound optimistic about the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was forwarded to Congress last April. Wadi opined that even though forging this agreement is P-Noy’s commitment, there’s too little time for Congress to start deliberations on it and presumably it would still be be challenged in the Supreme Court. 

At this point this blogger cannot help but point out that the missing 'pantulak' for the spoiled and corrupted legislators, if this were a drinking spree, would be the DAP, as in the good old days; but that is now under SC embargo.


For Prof. Rolando Simbulan, our commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary last July 23 of the First Philippine Republic’s first Foreign Secretary, Apolinario Mabini, the Sublime Paralytic, is actually the best time to reflect on the direction of our foreign policy. He stressed that the hero was “unyielding in his struggle against Spanish colonialism and US imperialism, and is “a symbol of genuine self-determination, independence and the defense of our national sovereignty.” Simbulan, noted for his fiercely nationalistic stance on foreign policy issues, asserted that Mabini “would put to shame his successors in the DFA.”

Simbulan batted for a truly INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY that “extends friendship to all and enmity toward none” and that gives primacy to our national interests, independent of the conflict between Big Powers. He warns that being a “junior partner/follower of one of the competing powers (China and the US) would  make our country a possible target of attack in a future conflict.

Unfortunately, the path chosen by P-Noy is precisely that of a “junior partner” to the US, and one indication is that Malacanang does not consider EDCA a treaty that has to be approved by the Senate, as per mandate of the Constitution.  It’s easy to see another challenge to Malacanang in the Supreme Court.

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