BENIGNO AQUINO III: PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES BEGINNING IN 2010

BENIGNO AQUINO III

In June 2010, after elections in May, the Congress of the Philippines proclaimed Benigno “Nonoy” Acquino III as the President Elect of the Philippines. In his inaugural address on June 30, 2010, he told the Filipino people: “We are here to serve and not to lord over you. The mandate given to me was one of change. I accept your marching orders to transform our government from one that is self-serving to one that works for the welfare of the nation. My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change.”

Aquino —the only son of democracy icons Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino and President Corazon Aquino— enjoyed relatively high approval ratings as he pledged s to go beyond the usual half-hearted attempts and make a real effort to stamp out corruption and took a relatively hard line against China for its activities in waters claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea.

David Pilling wrote in the Financial Times, “As far as political honeymoons go, Mr Aquino’s was pretty long. When he was elected as a self-confessed “reluctant president”, few Filipinos expected a great deal of a man whose main qualification to lead his country of 97 million people was his illustrious family name. Commonly known as “Noynoy”, he raised expectations by waging war on corruption and presiding over an impressive economic resurgence that, against all odds, has made the Philippines a favourite of emerging market investors.” But by 2013, after three years in office, in the middle of his term, “the shine had begun to wear off Mr Aquino’s squeaky clean image. Public officials became engulfed in a scandal involving some $200 million in “pork barrel” funds, and Mr Aquino was widely accused of targeting only opposition politicians in the widening investigation.” Then his poor handling of “typhoon Haiyan, dubbed by critics as “typhoon Noynoy”, battered his reputation” further. [Source: David Pilling, Financial Times, November 14, 2013 *~*]

Benigno Aquino III’s Early Life

President Aquino was born on Feb. 8 1960. His father was assassinated while opposing a dictatorship and his late mother led the "people power" revolt against Ferdinand Marcos. He studied from elementary to college in the Ateneo de Manila University, and finished a degree in Economics in 1981. Aquino’s classmates remember him as a “quiet” yet “friendly” student. Gene Manalastas, a batch mate in grade school, said: “He could not go to parties with us on weekends because he was always visiting his dad in prison.” [Source: Office of the President of the Philippines]

His father, then a senator and opposition leader to President Ferdinand Marcos, was incarcerated after the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. In confinement, the senator wrote his son a letter, asking him to continue the family legacy of working for the good the every Filipino: “The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience. There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength. Son, the ball is now in your hands.”

In 1980, his father was allowed after a series of heart attacks to receive medical treatment in the United States. Aquino joined the family in a period of self-exile until 1983—when they had to return to the Philippines after the assassination of his father. Following his return to the Philippines, Aquino served as assistant of the Executive Director of the Philippine Business of Social Progress, an institution that coordinates the efforts of private companies to help struggling Filipinos. He was also Assistant Retail Sales Supervisor of Mondragon Philippines, and was the Assistant Promotions Manager of Nike Philippines. Aquino continued to work in the private sector even during the presidency of his mother. He was the Vice President of the Intra-Strata Assurance Corporation all through her term.

The BBC reported: “Growing up in the shadow of such admired parents, with four sisters - one of whom, Kris, is a prominent TV personality - Noynoy, himself a bachelor, has often been the quiet Aquino. He earned a degree in economics from the elite Ateneo university in Manila before joining his family in exile in Boston. On his return to the Philippines after 1983, he worked in various businesses, including the Cojuangco sugar refinery in his home Tarlac province. [Source: BBC, June 29, 2010]

In August 28, 1987, Aquino was wounded by five bullets when rebel soldiers assaulted Malacanang Palace in an unsuccessful coup attempt. One of the bullets remains embedded in Aquino’s neck.

Benigno Aquino III’s Personal Life and Character

Benigno Aquino III is unmarried and has no children. According to the Washington Post, “He's a low-key personality who shoots pool, enjoys jazz and had never seen himself as a national savior.” He has lived most of his life in his mother's modest house on the edge of Manila. [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, May 7, 2010]

By his own account, according to the Washington Post, he has been unlucky in love. "All the plans I have had with respect to that field have not materialized," Aquino told the Post. With an impish smile, he added that his romantic disappointments have a political upside: "You don't have the attendant problems of a first lady like Imelda Marcos." */*

Blaine Harden wrote in Washington Post in 2010: “At 50, Aquino is not a dynamic maker of speeches, nor is he possessed of an impressive résumé. He ran a company that sold Nike shoes. He worked at his family's 11,000-acre ranch. He helped his mother cope with several coup attempts and was badly wounded during an attack on the presidential palace. (He still has a piece of shrapnel in his neck and a gunshot wound causes him to walk with a slight limp.) As a lawmaker since 1998, he has had no major legislative achievements. */*

“While his record is regarded as thin, it is also apparently clean. Unlike so many politicians here, he has not been linked to scandal. His honest image -- combined with his mother's legacy of personal probity -- has become the essence of his campaign. "Without corrupt politicians, there are no poor people," says his ubiquitous campaign slogan. “ Before the 2010 election. it appeared “that a plurality of Filipino voters decided to trust Aquino. "They know his achievements are not inspiring," said Arsenio Balisacan, a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines. "But they are tired of corruption. They are willing to take a gamble." */*

Aquino’s critics have sought to portray him as an uncharismatic leader who had accomplished little in his political career. Her has admitted to not having presidential ambitions until his mother died of cancer in August 2009. Many have raised questions about his competence. "He has the genius of the below-average, looking and sounding like someone who does not know how to govern a country," said Homobono A. Adaza, a lawyer who worked for Aquino's mother before she prosecuted him on charges of involvement in a coup attempt. "He doesn't have a clue," said Victor A. Abola, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific. "We may have a replay of the failures of his mother's government." Although Cory Aquino's honesty was never doubted, her leadership was often feckless, bouncing from crisis to crisis and remembered by many for chronic electricity blackouts. Her signature issue was land reform, but her family resisted -- and some of them continue to resist -- state efforts to distribute the family estate to 10,000 farmers.” */*

Benigno Aquino III Political Career

In 1998, Aquino entered public service. He served as Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac from 1998 to 2007. He was elected to Congress in 1998, winning re-election in 2001 and 2004. In June 2007 he won a seat in the Senate. He is said to lack charisma, and did little to stand out in 12 years as a member of Congress and the Senate. But he did serve on a wide range of committees and so is familiar with the issues of governance. “I will be there because of the people and I will stay there because of the people and hopefully, I will be true to my word to serve the people,” Aquino’s said after announcing his candidacy for president. [Source: BBC, Office of the President of the Philippines]

As the Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac, and legislator in the House of Representatives, he worked to pass a number of bills and resolutions to uphold public accountability and address the people’s pressing concerns. These include: House Bill No. 4251, which grants annual productivity incentives to all workers in the private sector; House Bill No. 4397, which strengthens the regulatory power of the Department of Trade and Industry to effectively enforce consumer laws; and House Resolution No. 788, which creates a Congressional Oversight Committee to check and study the use of intelligence funds by government agencies. Aquino served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He, however, relinquished the post after calling for the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Hello Garci Scandal was exposed.

In the Senate, Aquino worked to make sure that accountability processes in the government were at work. He spent long hours examining the General Appropriations Act of 2009, and proposed key amendments to make sure that public funds were prudently spent. Aquino vigorously participated in Senate investigations on the abuses of government officials, and fought for justice for victims of human rights violations.

Aquino, then chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government, introduced substantial amendments to the Cooperative Code to make it more responsive to the needs of the people for which the code was enacted. Among his proposed measures were: Senate Bill 2035, which seeks to raise standards in the construction of all public infrastructures by penalizing contractors of defective infrastructures; and Senate Bill 2160, which seeks the amendment of Government Procurement Act. Although Aquino was elected president before these bills were passed into law, his efforts to make sure that government acts to bring about fairer outcomes for all Filipinos continue today.

Benigno Acquino III After His Mother’s Death

After Corazon Aquino died of cancer in August 2009, Blaine Harden wrote in the Washington Post, “His mother's death triggered a huge outpouring of emotion from the electorate, which resulted in Noynoy Aquino's sudden elevation from an unremarkable lawmaker to a presidential candidate who, in a recent poll, had won the "big trust" of seven out of 10 voters. [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, April 22, 2010]

Immediately after her wake, people began to call on Aquino, urging him to run for presidency in the 2010 elections to continue his parents’ work. Signature drives and an outpouring of support through yellow ribbons and stickers went full blast, convincing him to run. Moreover, candidates for president such as Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, and Isabela Governor Grace Padaca gave up their presidential aspirations to support Aquino. [Source: Office of the President of the Philippines]

After a spiritual retreat at the Carmellite Monastery in Zamboanga City, Aquino responded to the call to make the people’s passion for change the driving force behind a new government. On September 9, 2009, the 40th day after former president Cory Aquino’s passing, he officially announced his candidacy for president at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan—where his mother took oath on the final day of the EDSA People Power Revolution. “I want to make democracy work not just for the rich and well connected but for everybody,” he said. [Ibid]

Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: “The quiet 50-year-old lawmaker and bachelor” was “spurred by the massive outpouring of national grief for the leader who helped oust longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 "people power" revolt that restored democracy to the Philippines. She had inherited the mantle of her husband, Benigno Aquino Jr., an opposition senator gunned down by soldiers at Manila's airport in 1983 upon return from U.S. exile to challenge Marcos. Aquino's closest political lieutenant, former Education Secretary Florencio Abad, said he rode on the crest of a national yearning for an honest leader after corruption scandals under outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. [Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, May 11, 2010]

Blaine Harden wrote in Washington Post; Aquino readily acknowledges that his candidacy was an invention of voters nostalgic for the moral clarity they associate with his mother and father. "It became the entry point," he said. "All of this became possible because of the people....I wasn't thinking of running. I wasn't clamoring to be the person responsible for solving all the problems." [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, May 7, 2010]

2010 Philippines Election

During the national elections May 10, about 85,000 candidates are clamoring after 17,000 positions, from town council member to president. Political violence has claimed at least 80 lives, including 57 in one incident. As usual much of the action was controlled by families that have long called the shots. [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, April 22, 2010]

Associated Press reported: “About 50 million registered voters out of a population of 90 million will elect politicians for posts from the presidency to municipal councils. In a country where celebrities commonly seek office, former first lady Imelda Marcos is running for a seat, as is boxing star Manny Pacquiao in his second congressional bid. +++ [Source: Associated Press, May 10, 2010 +++]

Turnout was 75 percent among about 50 million eligible voters, the Elections Commission said. A high turnout was recorded despite big delays caused by new voting machines. President Gloria Arroy promised to make the handover of power as easy as possible. "The true hallmark of a strong, functioning democracy is a smooth transition to a new government," she said. "The people deserve to have their new leaders put aside politics and focus on the future and the business of governing."

Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: Flamboyant former first lady Imelda Marcos also ran for a House seat, as did boxing star Manny Pacquiao. "Pacman" was leading in the count in the southern province of Sarangani, where only about half of 300,000 registered voters cast ballots due to a daylong downpour, election official Michael Abas said. Marcos and her daughter Imee, who is running for governor of northern Ilocos Norte province, have garnered insurmountable leads and may be proclaimed winners later Tuesday, election official Alipio Castillo said.[Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, May 11, 2010 |::|]

2010 Philippines Presidential Election

Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: The son of Philippine democracy icon Corazon Aquino had a wide lead in presidential elections after campaigning on a promise to restore the government's credibility by prosecuting corrupt officials. Sen. Benigno Aquino III was leading the nine-candidate presidential race with 40.19 percent of the votes from about 78 percent of the precincts, while his closest rival, ousted President Joseph Estrada, had 25.46 percent. There is no runoff in the Philippines, and whoever has the most votes is declared winner. [Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, May 11, 2010 |::|]

“He campaigned on a strong anti-graft platform, promising to start prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks of his election and restore integrity to Congress and the judiciary. "This means he really has to deal with the problem of corruption and deal with the people identified with nine years of corruption," Abad told The Associated Press. "The other thing that he needs to do is to translate the dividends of good governance into direct benefits for the poor – education, health, food, lower prices, jobs, basic services," he said. |::|

“Some of Aquino's opponents carried the taint of scandal, all too common in the Philippines. The popularity ratings of Sen. Manny Villar, a real estate developer-turned-politician who was neck-and-neck with Aquino in early surveys, plunged after rivals accused him of using his position to enrich himself and avoid a Senate ethics probe.” |::|

Glitches and Violence During the 2010

Philippines Election

The BBC reported: “Fears of widespread chaos resulting from the use of new automated voting machines failed to materialise. The new machines did cause long delays but voters waited patiently for hours in the heat to vote. Despite high security, voting was marred by the deaths of at least 12 people in political violence. The deaths came after a bloody campaign period in which more than 30 people died. Another 57 died in a mass killing in November. In the latest reported violence, the AFP news agency said communist insurgents had ambushed an election convoy in the south of the country, killing six people and wounding 12. [Source: BBC, May 11, 2010]

Associated Press reported: “Despite glitches with new computerized counting machines and violence that claimed at least nine lives, election officials hailed the election as a success in a country where poll fraud allegations have marred previous contests. Millions of Filipinos seeking a clean start after a decade of corruption-tainted politics have been voting. At least seven people were killed and eight wounded on Monday, in addition to about 30 people gunned down in the last three months in violence tied to the election, police said. A marine and a civilian acting as a congressional candidate's bodyguards were killed in a clash outside a police station in Bacoor township in Cavite province, south of Manila. Troops and gunmen exchanged fire in southern Maguindanao province, where 57 people were massacred in the country's worst election-related attack last year, said army Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer. Two civilians were killed in fighting between armed followers of rival candidates for vice mayor, he said. About 130 deaths preceded the last vote in 2007. [Source: Associated Press, May 10, 2010 +++]

“Mr Aquino was unable to immediately cast his ballot, because a vote-counting machine broke down in his precinct. The Elections Commission extended voting for another hour to make up for delays. For the first time, optical scanning machines will count votes in 76,000 precincts. A software glitch discovered a week before the election nearly derailed the vote, but was fixed at the last minute. Still, some machines malfunctioned in the tropical humidity, including in Mr Aquino's hometown of Tarlac, north of Manila. "This is a new system of voting. We have a longer ballot, so I hope all the people can vote and not be delayed and I hope there will be no long lines of people outside when the voting ends," Mr Aquino said. +++

Aquino had to wait nearly five hours to cast his ballot. Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: Election Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that about 465 of 76,000 machines had problems but that most were replaced. The computerized machines mean that final results should be available in a few days versus previous waits of weeks for results of manual counts. "The people came in droves, the turnout was very encouraging. The machines worked more than we expected," said Election Commission Chairman Jose Melo. "I would say it was successful."[Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, May 11, 2010 |::|]

Results of the 2010

Philippines Presidential Election

2010 Philippine presidential election (candidate, party, results, votes, percent): 1)Benigno Aquino III Liberal, 12,233,002, 42.16 percent; 2) Joseph Estrada PMP, 7,749,597, 26.71 percent; 3) Manny Villar Nacionalista, 4,329,215, 14.92 percent; 4) Gilbert Teodoro Lakas Kampi CMD, 3,243,688, 11.18 percent; 5) Eddie Villanueva Bangon Pilipinas, 916,543, 3.16 percent; 6) Richard Gordon Bagumbayan-VNP, 431,954, 1.49 percent; 7) Nicanor Perlas Independent, 42,205, 0.15 percent; 8) Jamby Madrigal Independent, 37,119, 0.13 percent; 9) John Carlos de los Reyes Ang Kapatiran, 34,833, 0.12 percent. [Source: COMELEC tally, Wikipedia]

Popular vote: 1) Aquino, 42.16 percent; 2) Estrada, 26.71 percent; 3) Villar, 14.92 percent; 4) Teodoro, 11.18 percent; 5) Others, 5.03 percent Total valid votes cast, 29,018,156, 56.57 percent; Registered voters, 51,292,465, 100.00 percent; Clustered precincts reporting, 59,965, 78.41 percent. [Ibid]

Jim Gomez of Associated Press wrote: Villar conceded defeat and congratulated Aquino, saying he wanted to work with him to help deal with the enormous challenges facing the Philippines. "It's clear that despite our efforts, we were not gifted with victory in Monday's elections. I respect the voice of the people," he told a news conference. Estrada, who largely draws support from the poor, jumped to overtake Villar as No. 2. [Source: Jim Gomez, Associated Press, May 11, 2010 |::|]

Campaigning and Candidates in the 2010

Philippines Election

Campaigning for the May 2010 election in the Philippines began in February. AFP reported: “The Philippine election season kicked off with the world's best boxer and the defiant wife of a dead dictator among the dizzying array of characters hoping to grab a share of power. The Southeast Asian nation's chaotic brand of democracy will see 50 million voters choose a new president and thousands of lower positions on May 10, but observers warned candidates' promises of change were likely to prove hollow. "I don't think there will be any change in the idiosyncracies that define the Philippines," Robert Broadfoot, managing director of the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy group, told AFP. [Source: AFP, February 9, 2010 <>]

“For an international audience, much interest will focus on Manny Pacquiao, the seven-time world champion boxer who is running for a lower house seat in the nation's parliament. Pacquiao is counting on his hero status across the country to get him elected, but he failed in a similar bid in the 2007 Congressional elections and Holmes said could again be struck a knock-out political blow. "It's going to be difficult for him. He is up against someone who has been in local politics for a long time," Holmes said. <>

“Also seeking a seat in the House of Representatives is Imelda Marcos, the 80-year-old wife of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose rule ended in 1986 with the people power revolution led by Corazon Aquino. Imelda is regarded as a near certainty to win the seat in the northern province of Ilocos Norte that is being vacated by her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, as the family has maintained its grip on power there for decades. <>

“Meanwhile, President Gloria Arroyo, who is not allowed under the constitution to seek re-election, has controversially registered to run for a lower house seat in her home province of Pampagna. Arroyo's critics have warned she may secretly be aiming to use a parliamentary position as a power base to change the constitution and allow her to return to power as the country's first prime minister.” <>

Vaudine England of the BBC wrote: “Election campaigns in the Philippines usually deliver showmanship, drama, personality clashes and genuine idealism. What they rarely offer is any cogent debate of ideas or contest of policies. This campaign is no exception. For the wealthiest candidates, the political advertising has been going on for months. The violence that has been part of every Philippine election started early too - the mass killing of 57 people in the southern province of Maguindanao in November has set a grim tone. [Source: Vaudine England, BBC News, February 9, 2010 ><]

“Spending limits do exist, but an apparent lack of manpower has prevented the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from ever prosecuting anyone for over-spending. "The primary issues are the old issues of economic growth and the problem of poverty," said Mr Holmes. Alongside a widespread desire for cheaper commodity prices is the topic of corruption. There is little indication, however, that any of the current crop of candidates will make any more progress on that than the country's rich ruling class has managed in the past.” ><

Candidates and Campaigning in the 2010

Philippines Presidential Election

Campaigning for the May 2010 election in the Philippines began in February. Vaudine England of the BBC wrote: “Official campaigning has begun in the Philippines for the first presidential elections in six years. President Gloria Arroyo is not allowed to run again. Competition is intense between two opposition figures, with Mrs Arroyo's nominee and a former president lagging in the polls. Long proud of its democratic traditions, the Philippines has still failed to find a leader able to deliver peace and prosperity. [Source: Vaudine England, BBC News, February 9, 2010]

AFP reported: ““The official start of the election season allowed the presidential candidates to hold rallies and appeal directly to people for their votes, while spending limits on advertising took effect. One of the frontrunners in the presidential contest is Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, who spectacularly rode into contention last year on a wave of sympathy following the death of his mother, democracy heroine Corazon Aquino. However his huge lead in surveys has eroded almost as quickly as it was gained, with mega-rich property developer Manny Villar having caught him with nearly 40 percent support in surveys following an advertising spending spree. The ruling coalition's choice to succeed President Gloria Arroyo, former defence minister Gilberto Teodoro, is running a distant fourth with just five percent support in the latest surveys. [Source: AFP, February 9, 2010 <>]

“Adding spice to the presidential race is deposed former president Joseph Estrada's attempt at political resurrection, after he was deposed halfway through his first term in 2001 and later convicted of corruption. Estrada is running third in the surveys and, although an outside chance, analysts said the former B-grade movie star could yet achieve his wish of redemption. "It's going to be difficult for him, but he has 100 percent name recognition across the country -- it depends on how diligently he runs his campaign," said Ronald Holmes, a political lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila. <>

"It's going to be a very tight race," political analyst, writer and journalist Marites Vitug told the BBC. "Manny Villar is running a disciplined campaign and has enormous funds at his disposal - he could be our Thaksin, or our Berlusconi," she said, in reference to the wealthy former Thai and current Italian leaders. The wealthiest candidate, Mr Villar, claims an affinity with the poor, the vast voting majority. He was once a fish market seller and is now the biggest home-builder in the Philippines. ><

“Also in the race is the former Mayor of Olongapo Richard Gordon, someone known as a good manager. But as always in the Philippines, it will be the money, and the personalities, that count. "It will really take a lot of resources, and I'm not referring to money alone," said Ronald Holmes, of the political science department of Manila's De La Salle University and president of the survey group, Pulse Asia.” ><

Benigno Acquino III Declared Winner of Presidential Vote a Month After the Election

Aquino was declared the winner of the Philippine presidential election nearly a month after voters went to the polls. AFP reported: “Following a drawn-out vote tallying process, parliament finally released the complete count showing the 50-year-old son of democracy heroes had won the May 10 election in a landslide. Aquino secured just over 15.2 million votes, or nearly 42 percent of the total number cast for the most emphatic victory in modern Philippine political history, according to the results released by legislators. Former president Joseph Estrada finished well back in second place, although he still won nearly 9.5 million votes to achieve some personal redemption after being ousted half way through his term in office in 2001 for being corrupt. [Source: AFP, June 8, 2010 ^^]

“Aquino represents the Liberal Party, one of the nation's oldest that was once led by his mother and father. The party however suffered a major setback in the elections -- with its pick for the vice presidency, Mar Roxas, losing after leading in opinion surveys for most of the campaign. He conceded it will take more than the six years that the constitution sets for presidential terms to carry out his social transformation of the Philippines. "But we are hoping to provide that impetus and momentum to carry over into the next administration," he told AFP in last month's interview. ^^

“Estrada's running mate Jejomar Binay won the vice presidential contest and could now potentially be a destabilising force for Aquino. The Liberal Party will also not have a majority in either house of parliament. Arroyo's Lakas Kampi CMD will remain a powerful force in parliament, and the outgoing president won a seat in the lower house where she could lead opposition to Aquino's reform agenda. ^^

Benigno Acquino III as President of the Philippines

During his campaign for president Aquino pledged to fight corruption and ease deep poverty and and improve public health, education and the judiciary. "I want to lead by example. We talk about corruption. I did make a public vow, I will never steal...I will not only not steal, but I'll have the corrupt arrested, " Aquino told AFP and the BBC.

On the challenges facing Acquino, the BBC reported: “Filipinos remain desperate for what his name symbolises - the principles of clean, honest, committed democracy. After a landslide victory he now takes charge of a country struggling with widespread corruption, poverty and ageing infrastructure. He has pledged to establish a commission to investigate allegations of corruption levelled against his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo. But he has also played down the expectations heaped on him by many Filipinos, warning a president would have to be "Superman and Einstein combined" to solve the country's problems immediately. Whether Aquino can cope with the huge pressures of office, conflicts of interests and likely conspiracies against him to actually run his country remains to be seen. Mr Aquino's family name has got him into office. Observers will be watching closely to see where he goes from here. [Source: BBC, June 29, 2010]

“Aside from fighting corruption, Aquino has said improving the economy and bridging the enormous wealth divide will be among his top priorities in government. A third of the more than 90 million Filipinos live on less than a dollar a day, and job opportunities are so bad that nine million people work abroad. Aquino has vowed to boost foreign investment, rein in wasteful government spending, improve the civil service and invest in education.” [Source: AFP, June 8, 2010]

High crime rates has raised questions about Aquino's ability to maintain law and order. Joel D Adriano wrote in the Asia Times, “ His government has struggled to respond to the mounting high-profile crimes and pressure is intensifying for him to produce credible crime fighting results, including prosecutions of politically powerful players. During the 2010 election campaign, Aquino's political opponents often portrayed the former lawmaker as impotent and lacking in executive management experience. One rival senator has since described his administration as government run by a collegiate body, a dig on the number of his college mates appointed to high positions. His chief official for police affairs, Rico Puno, a close friend, has made himself scarce to journalists during the surge in reported police-related crimes. [Source: Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, February 5, 2011]

Aquino Begins His Term with Record High Trust Rating

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III started his presidency a record high 85 percent of Filipinos expressing trust in him, the highest trust rating ever recorded by any individual included in Pulse Asia’s trust probes since 1999. ABS-CBN News.com, “The Pulse Asia survey, conducted in early July 2010, had only 2 percent of Filipinos saying they distrust the new President while 13 percent are unable to say if they trust or distrust him. Aquino's high trust ratings are the same across the country’s geographic areas and socio-economic groupings. He scored 83 percent trust in Metro Manila, 84 percent in the rest of Luzon, 89 percent in the Visayas and 84 percent in Mindanao. He also enjoyed 86 percent trust from Class ABC respondents, 84 percent trust from Class D respondents and 88 percent from Class E. [Source: abs-cbnNEWS.com, July 26, 2010]

President Aquino’s overall trust rating has risen by +18 percentage points from April, before the May election, to July 2010 and his overall indecision and distrust ratings declined by -8 and -9 percentage points, respectively. The new survey findings matched those from an earlier survey conducted by Social Weather Stations last June 25-28, 2010. The survey was done when Aquino had already been proclaimed by Congress but had not yet assumed the presidency, which was on June 30. The June 25-28, 2010 SWS survey found that 88 percent of adult Filipinos had much trust compared to 4 percent who had little trust in Aquino, who was then still president-elect, for a "very good" net trust rating of +83.

In an interview with ANC’s Dateline Philippines, SWS President Mahar Mangahas noted Aquino may have gotten the best grade compared to previous leaders. “I don’t remember anything higher than that. I want to confirm it…but it’s [trust rating] really very, very high…I will have to look at our archives,” he said. He added that the country is probably having a “honeymoon” period with its new chief.

A spokesman of President Aquino, meanwhile, credited Aquino's high trust rating to people's belief in the new President's credibility. "Our people see that he is a leader that speaks the truth. Here is a leader that will not tell lies. New Cabinet also enjoys high approval The same survey showed that most Filipinos are aware of presidential appointments to selected government posts.

Benigno Acquino III’s Effort to Collect Taxes

Blaine Harden wrote in Washington Post: “As for what he will do as president, Aquino said a priority would be tax collection. Economists here estimate that tax evasion deprives the government of about a third of its annual operating budget. "We already have a list of people we will be investigating for tax avoidance," Aquino said, adding that he is prepared to send "people to jail on a fast-track basis." [Source: Blaine Harden, Washington Post, May 7, 2010 */*]

“A potential hiccup in the tax-enforcement scheme is Aquino's blue-blood background. He comes from one of the country's most prominent landowning families. His campaign supporters include families that have dominated the economy of the Philippines for centuries. Economist here say many of these families have gotten away with egregious tax fraud for decades, while pushing the legislature to grant them tax exemptions. */*

"How beholden am I?" Aquino said, when asked about possible conflicts with moneyed supporters. "Each time I talk to one of the groups, I tell them, `You will have a level playing field.' Our obligation is to develop the entire economy, not just to develop certain key players." */*

Benigno Acquino III’s Corruption Fighting Efforts

Manuel Mogato of Reuters wrote: “Aquino won office on a platform of curbing the corruption that has drained government coffers and entrenched poverty in the Philippines, a country of 97 million people. Since then the Philippines has recorded strong growth, improved its public finances and been awarded investment grade ratings, partly dispelling its "sick man of Asia" reputation. Investors cite the anti-corruption drive as an important reason for the growing belief the rebound is sustainable. Indeed, the Philippines' position on Transparency International's corruption perceptions index has improved, rising to 105th out of 176 countries and territories last year from 129th in 2011, overtaking Indonesia and Vietnam. A higher ranking means a cleaner public sector. [Source: Manuel Mogato, Reuters, October 31, 2013 ^=^]

“Aquino said in July that the country loses 200 billion pesos a year to corruption, or about 1.8 percent of economic output. "The mistrust will affect confidence, and confidence affects investors' perception," said Astro del Castillo, managing director of Manila-based investment house First Grade Finance Inc. The president has taken a tough line on tax evaders and launched criminal cases against former officials, including his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her family and allies. Aquino led efforts to remove the head of the anti-graft agency on allegations of corruption while the anti-corruption agency ombudsman filed graft charges against police generals over the inflated price paid for helicopters and the fake repair of armored vehicles. ^=^

The Philippines have long been plagued by endemic corruption, including graft, bribery, and extortion. A lacking and complex regulatory system and low institutional oversight to enforce existing regulations contribute to an environment of widespread corruption. Insufficient campaign finance laws and lobbying regulations, bureaucratic loopholes, and a judiciary perceived as inefficient and incompetent combine to give the Philippines a reputation as a hot spot for political corruption. [Source: Partnership for Transparency Fund]

It is into this environment that President Benigno Aquino III was inaugurated as the Philippines’ 15th President on June 30, 2010. Aquino vowed to crack down on all types of corruption, with a campaign slogan of “If there’s no corruption, there’s no poverty.” To this end, Aquino has already passed a new law protecting whistleblowers and plans to increase transparency and accountability through the Cabinet Cluster on Good Governance and Anti-Corruption and a new e-governance initiative. In response to this progress, Moody’s has upgraded the Philippines’ credit-rating outlook to “positive,” bringing it closer to an investment-grade ranking.

The year 2012 in particular has been a dramatic one in the fight against corruption. The first notable event was the arrest of Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo, President Aquino’s predecessor, was widely seen as a symbol of political corruption in the Philippines. In February 2011, the Commission on Elections indicted her for rigging an election for a candidate back in 2007. The next month, she was charged along with her husband with making a corrupt contract with a Chinese telecommunications company. Arroyo plead not guilty to both. But when she attempted to leave the country for medical treatment last November, she was promptly arrested and detained at the hospital. Though she still faces life imprisonment if convicted, on July 25th she was released on bailafter the courts found the evidence to keep her detained insufficient. This is seen as a setback for President Aquino, who made bringing her to justice a national priority upon taking office.

But the drama didn’t end there. Less than a month after Arroyo’s arrest, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato C. Corona was impeached and put on trial for allegedly violating the Constitution (by not disclosing all of his financial assets) and for a “betrayal of public trust.” Corona was appointed by President Arroyo and was seen as a major figure in her corrupt regime. In fact, her arrest was in direct violation of Justice Corona’s decision to let her leave the country. President Aquino branded Corona as “[embodying] what ails the judiciary.” Corona, for his part, has claimed his trial is political revenge for an earlier ruling requiring a sugar plantation owned by the Aquino family to be redistributed to local farmers. He has also spoken out against Arroyo’s arrest as unconstitutional and politically motivated. When testifying, Corona agreed to release his financial information, revealing millions of dollars worth of previously undisclosed money. In a Senate vote he was convicted 20 to 3. His conviction is seen as a major victory for the Aquino administration and has prompted many other politicians to disclose their assets voluntarily.

The third anti-corruption drama of the year was the threat issued by the Financial Action Task Force of the OECD to downgrade the Philippines to its “blacklist” if proper financial reforms were not implemented by June 21st. Now under pressure from both President Aquino and the FATF, the legislature drafted and passed two laws, which were signed by the President on June 18th, three days before the deadline.

The bills were called the Act to Further Strengthen Money Laundering Laws and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act. The first law expands the ability of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate financial records without prior consent, the second focuses more on freezing the assets of suspected terrorists. These laws hope to put an end to the Philippines’ reputation as a safe haven for financing illicit activities, especially terrorism. Terrorism in the Philippines is a major challenge, with multiple insurgencies operating in its territory (one of which is funded by jihadists in the Middle East). Although the third reform, which would have expanded the number of non-bank entities subject to inspection, was not passed, the FATF was satisfied and upgraded them to the “grey list.” The FATF was established in 1989 by the G7 as a special commission with the task of combating international financial crime.

Two years into President Aquino’s term, it appears that progress is being made, though much remains yet to be done. Whether or not the legal battles with Arroyo and Corona are politically motivated, punishing a few high profile corrupt politicians will do little to solve the problem of endemic corruption in the country. The Partnership for Transparency Fund has given grants to several Filipino civil society organizations (CSOs) to help them increase local transparency and accountability. Some examples of funded projects include an effort to get young people involved in anti-corruption through monitoring the money allocated for the Youth Council, an organization bringing transparency-focused CSOs into procurement projects, and a watchdog group monitoring corruption in the health and education sectors. These local projects aim to tackle the problem at the grassroots level, where much of the corruption is out of reach of the central government. Though combating corruption in the Philippines is a daunting task indeed, when citizens resolve to mobilize for greater transparency, they give those participating in it nowhere to hide.

Aquino: Anti-Corruption Program Bearing Fruit?

Doris C. Dumlao wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “What started as a presidential campaign battlecry is now unlocking the Philippines’ potential to fast-track economic growth, attract more investors and rekindle optimism among its citizens. President Benigno Aquino spoke to the World Economic Forum about his administration’s anti-corruption efforts which he vowed to institutionalize into an “enduring mainstream of progress rather a mere blip in the radar and a case study for failed expectations.” And while the President acknowledged that the work to uplift the lives of his poor countrymen was “far from over,” he said the fight against corruption has so far yielded positive results for the economy, in turn benefiting not only the rich, but the majority of the people. “We want our people to come to expect more from their government; we want to prove that their mandate, given freely during elections, counts for something,” Aquino said. [Source: Doris C. Dumlao, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 25th, 2013 ==]

“In discussing recent initiatives, Mr. Aquino said there was “rampant corruption” in the government when he first assumed office in 2010, alluding to the rice importation binge of the National Food Authority and anomalous road projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways. He also cited the impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona for the non-disclosure of the bulk of his wealth. Secretary Ramon Carandang also briefed visiting Philippine media about the anti-corruption session. “What brought everybody together was that you had governments that were taking concrete steps and they were willing to share what they learned,” Carandang said. ==

“I think this is good because… when they hear straight from the leaders about what they are doing to fight corruption, I think it helps instil confidence in them because every one of those people was a potential investor in our country. So when you explain all these things to them, they sometimes act a little surprised because some of the moves that we’ve taken are quite bold. So, I think, it creates a good impression of not just the leadership but the country in general,” he added. ==

Philippines' Aquino Wins Rare Congress Majority in Mid-term Polls

In May 2013, Philippine President Benigno Aquino won unprecedented control of the two chambers of Congress after mid-term elections, raising hopes for his reforms to sustain growth, create jobs and make a dent on chronic poverty. Manuel Mogato of Reuters wrote: “But the political comeback of disgraced former President Joseph Estrada, the leader of the opposition who won as mayor of the capital Manila, could spoil Aquino's reform momentum beyond his term, which ends in 2016. Initial results show Estrada and his ally, Vice President Jejomar Binay, remain a formidable force in Philippine politics and could stop Aquino's chosen successor from winning the next presidential elections in 2016. Binay is expected to mount a strong presidential challenge. [Source: Manuel Mogato, Reuters, May 14, 2013 \+\]

“With about 75 percent of unofficial vote tallies, Aquino's allies are poised to gain control of the Senate, with his coalition winning nine of a dozen seats up for grabs. He also keeps an overwhelming majority in the lower house of Congress, becoming the country's only president to enjoy a clear majority in Congress since democracy was restored in 1986. "This is a strong result and a clear endorsement of Aquino's reform agenda on which he now looks likely to make more progress as he gains control of the Senate," said Euben Paracuelles, an economist with Nomura in Singapore. While allegations of vote-buying and fraud, and some incidents of violence, disrupted balloting in some places in the provinces, security officials and the election organizer declared the vote a success. \+\

“Consistently enjoying popularity ratings of more than 70 percent, Aquino has overseen a revival of investor interest in the country thanks to strong growth rates, improving public finances and his anti-graft drive. The economy grew 6.6 percent in 2012, the fastest in the region after China. It also narrowed its fiscal gap and earned credit upgrades to investment grade in the last two months. \+\

“Aquino still faces problems, with a poverty rate persistently high at 28 percent and no clear fall in unemployment. Foreign direct investment also lags behind that of many neighbors. Jose Mario Cuyegkeng, an economist at ING Bank in Manila, said the government had to ensure improvements on the fiscal side in order to bring about sustained growth. "Which means you have to get the reforms on the fiscal incentives through Congress," Cuyegkeng told Reuters. The government wants to reform incentives given to investors to plug tax holes and raise more revenue. Cuyegkeng said Aquino also had to address chronic revenue shortfalls and institute an acceptable revenue-sharing measure in mining projects. \+\

“Estrada, 76, wearing his trademark orange-colored jacket and shoes and white wristband with the presidential seal, was mobbed by supporters as he was declared winner in the race for mayor of Manila. He retains a strong following among millions of poor Filipinos. His control over the vote-rich city in the next three years gives the opposition an important power base, potentially boosting its chances of taking the presidency in 2016. "This is a day of triumph not only for Erap but for the Filipino masses, especially the poor Manilans," Estrada told a boisterous crowd.” \+\

Filipino Clans, Celebrities Dominate Midterm Polls in 2013

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of Philippine political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots for congressional and local elections, which will gauge popular support for the president's anti-corruption drive and other reforms. Despite scattered violence and fears of fraud, the polls were relatively peaceful as soldiers and police secured stations in potentially violent areas. Polling started at 7 a.m. and was to end at 7 p.m. with first results expected in 48 hours. [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, May 13, 2013 |=|]

“More than 52 million Filipinos have registered to elect 18,000 officials, including half of the 24-member Senate, nearly 300 members of the House of Representatives and leaders of a Muslim autonomous region in the south, where Islamic insurgents, al-Qaida-linked gunmen and private armies have long been a concern. The logistical nightmare has been compounded by worries that some of about 80,000 automated counting machines, which are being used for only the second time since the 2010 presidential election, may fail in regions grappling with power outages. About 1,000 portable generators have been transported to problematic areas. |=|

“The official election watchdog, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said it has received reports of some breakdowns, including in metropolitan Manila. The supplier said it had expected 200-300 units to malfunction but it had 2,000 replacements on standby. Elections Commission Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the problems were minor and the polling generally smooth. The outcome will determine the level of support for President Benigno Aquino III's reforms in his remaining three years in office. Aquino has been praised at home and abroad for cracking down on widespread corruption, backing key legislation and concluding an initial peace agreement with Muslim rebels. |=|

“Among 33 senatorial candidates are two of Aquino's relatives, Binay's neophyte daughter, Estrada's son, a son of the sitting chamber president, a son of a late president, a spouse and children of former senators and there's a possibility that two pairs of siblings will be sitting in the me house. Currently, 15 senators have relatives serving in elective positions. The race for the House is even more of a family affair. Toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos' widow, the flamboyant 83-year-old Imelda, is expected to keep her seat as a representative for Ilocos Norte province, the husband's birthplace where the locals kept electing the Marcoses despite allegations of corruption and abuse during their long rule. Marcos' daughter, Imee is seeking re-election as governor and the son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., is already a senator. Boxing star and incumbent Rep. Manny Pacquiao is running unopposed and building a dynasty of his own: his brother Rogelio is running to represent his southern district and his wife Jinkee is vying to become vice-governor for Sarangani province. |=|

“At least 46 people have been killed in the run-up to the elections since January, police said. Assailants fired a grenade at a school where the voting was under way in southern Marawi city, but missed and hit a house, wounding three people. Armed followers of a mayoral candidate clashed with marines in nearby Sulu province, where troops replaced local police. |=|

Philippines Economy Under Aquino

In October 2013, gmanetwork.com reported: “The Philippines received another investment grade rating, solidifying the country's status as the latest investment hub in the region, but critics have said the government lags behind job creation and poverty alleviation. The economy grew by 7.6 percent in the first half of 2013, the fastest in Southeast Asia, while inflation remains below the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas target of 3 to 5 percent. [Source: gmanetwork.com, October 6, 2013 ]

Joblessness has been blamed for the country's stubbornly high 27.9 percent poverty rate as of June 2013 last year amid a strong economy. In speech at the an summit, Aquino said that without inclusive growth, a nation may experience "periods of cyclical growth" but any progress may be vulnerable to disruption. He said his administration has set aside a "substantial" amount of the budget to fund social services in education, health and poverty alleviation.

Aquino also made a pitch for the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which he said benefits four million families and has expanded to include families with children in high school, as “there is a 40-percent increase in income for those who finished high school versus elementary graduates.” He said among the reforms the government has undertaken are new laws such as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, which allows access to information on family planning, and the Sin Tax Reform Act, which increases revenue from tobacco and alcohol and channels them to health services. “Our task is to ensure that our people have the wherewithal to utilize, and indeed maximize, the opportunities opening up with the new-found revitalization of our economy,” he said.

Aquino's Mr. Clean Image Hurt by Philippine Pork Barrel Politics

In 2013, a scandal over lawmakers' misuse of public funds became the biggest crisis that Aquino had faced up to that time, tarnishing his image as a corruption fighter and hampering his ability to push economic reforms. Manuel Mogato of Reuters wrote: “Aquino has struggled to keep the scandal at arms length since July, when a whistleblower revealed that some lawmakers, including the president's allies, were stealing up to half the money being allocated to local projects from discretionary government funds. While corruption allegations are far from new in the Philippines, the revelations have struck a chord with Filipinos because of the scale of the wrongdoing and the shock that little had changed despite Aquino's reform drive. [Source: Manuel Mogato, Reuters, October 31, 2013 ^=^]

“Aquino has tried to tap into the public mood by saying he too is outraged by the corruption, which was corroborated in a detailed report by the state auditing body. But the allegations have drawn closer to the presidency, suggesting Aquino has failed to convincingly tackle a culture of political patronage that centers on the $586 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), widely known as the "pork barrel". His popularity rating plunged by 15 points in a recent opinion survey to 49 percent. ^=^

“The focus has now shifted to a separate development fund set up quietly in 2011 by Aquino's administration, the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Among its disbursements were transfers totaling 1.1 billion pesos ($25.5 million) to 18 senators in 2012 after they voted to impeach the Supreme Court chief justice, who was seen as an Aquino rival. Aquino has vehemently denied allegations this amounted to political bribery, accusing his opponents of trying to distract attention from the real scandal. "I have never stolen. I am not a thief. I am the one who goes after thieves," Aquino said in a national television address to explain his position. ^=^

“But the current scandal shows how discretionary funds are a crucial mechanism for controlling the two-chamber Congress in a country where party loyalties are weak. After initially resisting calls for "pork barrel" reform, Aquino announced in August that he would abolish for next year the PDAF of 70 million pesos for each lower-house member and 200 million pesos for each senator, a total of 25.2 billion pesos ($586 million). The funds are meant for local development projects such as schools, health centers and road construction, as well as for the distribution of medicine and fertilizer. The abolition of the fund could severely inhibit Aquino's ability to push through reforms such as a planned increase in mining taxes seen as crucial to attract investment into the moribund sector. It could also delay implementation of a complex peace deal to end a long-running Muslim rebellion in the resource-rich south. "The executive needs the pork as badly as the legislature because the executive needs laws to be passed; he needs elbow room to convince these legislators," Leonor Briones, a former national treasurer, told Reuters. ^=^

Aquino Government Accused of Bias in Fighting Corruption

In June 2014, The Economist reported: “The Philippine police had clapped two senators in jail by June 26th and had two secure hospital rooms ready for a third as they began rounding up politicians accused of stealing public funds. The round-up is rocking the political establishment. It appears to reinvigorate President Benigno Aquino’s campaign against corruption. The hallmark of his presidency, it had flagged since his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, was arrested on graft charges in 2011. The opposition says the round-up is simply a political vendetta, and that in a genuine campaign members of the ruling coalition would be jailed, too. [Source: The Economist, June 28, 2014 ^+^]

“Ramon “Bong” Revilla, son of an ex-senator, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the son of an ex-president, were the first senators to be arrested. The third facing prosecution is Juan Ponce “Johnny” Enrile, a veteran of President Ferdinand Marcos’s regime. If convicted, they may face life imprisonment. All are members of the opposition. ^+^

“They are accused of benefiting from the suspected embezzlement of billions of pesos from the Priority Development Assistance Fund, known as the pork barrel. Each year, the government used to give each of the 24 senators 200 million pesos ($4.6 million) from the pork barrel, and each of the 290 congressmen 70 million pesos. They were meant to spend it on development projects. The effect was to give political dynasties the wherewithal to buy the loyalty of generations of voters, and to give presidents the wherewithal to buy the loyalty of the political clans. Last year the Supreme Court ruled the fund illegal, but only after a newspaper exposed a scheme to funnel money from it to bogus NGOs, which would then give kickbacks to politicians. Investigations cast suspicion on dozens of politicians, including some in government. ^+^

“Yet Mr Aquino reacted first by defending the pork barrel, demanding its abolition only after a public outcry. Now opposition figures accuse him of having only opponents prosecuted. The government says it will make more arrests where there is enough evidence, regardless of political affiliation. A graver worry may be how it can govern without some sort of pork barrel. It has been the foundation of the system of patronage that has shored up the political establishment since Mr Aquino’s mother, Corazon Aquino, became president in 1986.” ^+^

Maybe Aquino Has Not Changed Philippines Corruption Culture Much After All

Manuel Mogato of Reuters wrote: ““Filipinos were shocked by media accounts of the opulent lifestyle of the woman who is suspected of running a massive kickback scheme for lawmakers. Janet Lim Napoles, the wife of a former Marine major, has been accused by the Department of Justice of setting up fake non-government organizations that since 2007 received lawmakers' pork barrel funds and then routed the money back to them. The whistleblower, a former associate of Napoles, testified to the Senate in a public hearing that the businesswoman received so much cash she would stash it in the bathtub of her luxury Manila home. Napoles was arrested and charged with plunder in September, along with 30 others including three senators and five former congress members. Before her arrest, Napoles denied involvement in the scheme and said her wealth came from her family's investments in coal mining in Indonesia. [Source: Manuel Mogato, Reuters, October 31, 2013 ^=^]

“The accusations that Aquino himself used public funds to buy off senators has forced him on the defensive and distracted him from his economic agenda. Last week, he reorganized his communications staff and reduced the exposure of two spokespersons who had struggled to deal with the media. The scandal has also sharpened questions over how much Aquino has achieved since he took power in 2010. Despite investigating hundreds of tax evasion and smuggling cases, his government has yet to win a single conviction. ^=^

“Critics say Aquino has failed to support reform measures to reduce the influence of money politics, such as the pending anti-graft Freedom of Information Act. They also say his efforts have targeted political foes far more than allies. "This perception endangers what gains he has made in the past three years and curbs the potential for any sustained gains in the long-term fight against corruption," said Mars Buan, senior analyst at Pacific Strategies and Assessments in Manila. ^=^

Philippines Typhoon Knocks Benigno Aquino’s Reputation

After thousands were killed by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, David Pilling wrote in the Financial Times, “President Benigno Aquino III is facing increasing pressure over his government’s response to the biggest natural calamity to hit the Philippines in living memory. Amid widespread criticism over the speed of its reaction after typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the central section of the archipelago, and of comments by the president widely condemned as arrogant and harsh, the president’s office said that Mr Aquino had directed government agencies “to come out with a mechanism that co-ordinates humanitarian action with the international community to speed up relief and rehabilitation efforts” for the victims of the disaster. [Source: David Pilling, Financial Times, November 14, 2013 *~*]

“This will come out to be one of the largest logistic and relief operation that the Philippine government has ever done in history and the president wanted to make sure that we have aligned everything,” Jose Rene Almendras, cabinet secretary, said. But this is unlikely to be enough to quickly restore the tarnished reputation of a leader seen as one of the most popular and competent Philippine presidents.*~*

“Even taking into account the unprecedented strength of the typhoon and the resultant storm surge, Philippine authorities have been exposed as unprepared for a major disaster. In the most affected areas, including Tacloban, in the centre of the strung-out archipelago where the storm hit hardest, relief aid has been first to arrive not from the Philippine government, but from foreign relief agencies and states, including the US. Even now, a week after the storm first struck, in some more remote areas, the Philippine state remains practically invisible. *~*

“Mr Aquino has lacked his usual composure, coming across at times as arrogant and even insensitive. In an interview with CNN, he dismissed estimates that the death toll would rise to 10,000, saying such inflated numbers were the product of “emotional trauma”. While no one knows how high the death toll might climb, Mr Aquino’s estimate of some 2,000 already looks optimistically low. *~*

“The president, who travelled to Tacloban, is also accused of storming out of a meeting with local officials and of being harsh in his criticism of looters. Conversely, when confronted by a businessman who complained of being attacked by a mob, the president is said to have replied dismissively: “But you did not die, right?” Jojo Robles, a columnist writing in the Manila Standard, said Mr Aquino was seeking to blame everyone for the handling of the disaster but himself. “Aquino has proven that he is obviously not up to the task,” he said.*~*

“Not everyone is critical of the president. Brillante Mendoza, a film director, said it was unfair to criticise the government given the difficult logistics of a country stretched out across multiple islands. “I don’t think it’s the time to dwell on these things. The president is intelligent and is doing his best,” he said. Speaking from Manila, which he said was largely unaffected by the storm, he conceded the gravity of the situation in the centre of the country. “Based on the news reports we can see that there really is a major problem,” he said. Some of the criticism may indeed prove to be overdone, linked to the inevitable confusion and high emotions that accompany such a devastating crisis. But the fact that it is being made at all suggests that Mr Aquino’s long streak of political good fortune may have ended.”

Four Impeachment Complaints Filed Against Aquino

In August 2014, Ellson Quismorio, Manila Bulletin, “A Makabayan congressman filed on Monday the fourth impeachment complaint against President Benigno S. Aquino III, whom he said tricked the public into believing that the 2014 national budget is “pork barrel”-free.

The latest impeachment complaint was lodged on the same day that the House plenary was expected to take action on the three previous impeachment complaints. against the Chief Executive, which were all endorsed by leftist Makabayan bloc solons last month. The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that PDAF is unconstitutional in the wake of the multi-billion peso pork barrel diversion scam purportedly hatched by Janet Lim Napoles. The scam likewise led to the scrapping of the lump sum starting with the 2014 budget. [Source: Ellson Quismorio, Manila Bulletin, August 11, 2014]

A month later Associated Press reported: “The Philippine House of Representatives' justice committee on Tuesday rejected three impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III, killing the challenges. The committee, dominated by Aquino allies, voted 54-4 against each of the complaints, declaring them insufficient in substance. The complaints were filed by mostly left-wing activists and sponsored by the House's left-wing bloc. They charged Aquino of culpable violation of the constitution, betrayal of public trust and corruption. The complaints cited Aquino's implementation of a major economic stimulus program declared partly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and a defense cooperation agreement that gives American troops greater access to bases across the Philippines. Aquino has denied any wrongdoing. [Source: Associated Press, September 2, 2014]

"Mr. Chair, this is really a terrible day for accountability, a terrible day for the congressional power over the purse, a terrible day for the Filipino people," said Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the sponsors of the complaints, addressing Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the committee chairman. About a dozen youths who raised protest banners and chanted "Oust Noynoy!" had to be forcibly evicted from the room by security personnel. Noynoy is Aquino's nickname. A spokesman for Aquino, Herminio Coloma Jr., expressed satisfaction with the result. "Just as the president said in an interview last week, he was confident that justice will prevail, and that is our position in this," he said. [Ibid]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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