‘Do nothing’ tag applies to President Aquino | Inquirer News
Analysis

‘Do nothing’ tag applies to President Aquino

Early in his administration, President Benigno Aquino III is beginning to hear rumblings of unrest in the military.

On Friday, Vice Adm. Alexander Pama ordered Marine Col. Generoso Mariano confined to quarters and investigated after he called for the ouster of Mr. Aquino.

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In a video clip dated July 3, The Associated Press reported that Mariano criticized the current administration, saying that every Filipino has a duty “to replace the government” if it is “unable to address poverty and save the lives of the majority.”

The video shows Mariano reading a statement while seated at a table with a microphone. The clip was sent to journalists and distributed in military camps, according to the American news agency.

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Pama said there were no indications of dissatisfaction in the Navy’s ranks, but the military was taking no chances and was inquiring whether Mariano, who was due to retire last Sunday, had supporters.

Neither the military nor the administration has a good reason to be worried over a serious unrest in the military. But what is disturbing is that such symptoms are beginning to surface just after a year of the administration that has been elected with a resounding plurality in what is widely regarded as an honest and free elections.

The sign of unrest was reported as Mr. Aquino prepared to report to Congress on the state of the nation this month amid a fall in his public satisfaction rating, mounting criticism of his lackluster record of accomplishments, and doubts of his family’s commitment to agrarian reform over its controversial stewardship of the 4,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

There is unrest among Hacienda Luisita workers on the festering issue of whether to continue with the stock distribution option scheme or to scrap it in favor of land redistribution to farmer-tillers.

Early threat

It is strange that the current administration is facing an early issue of military loyalty or threats of a coup, when, unlike its predecessor, the Arroyo administration, Mr. Aquino is not plagued by issues of legitimacy.

The administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had faced mounting political crisis because of allegations of vote-rigging in the 2004 presidential election and corruption. She survived an impeachment attempt in September 2005 and a mutiny of some 300 soldiers in July 2003.

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In February 2006, she declared a state of emergency after the military said it had prevented a coup. The military arrested the head of its elite Scout Rangers regiment, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, after it discovered a plan by Lim to lead troops to a protest rally where he planned to announce that military units were withdrawing their support from then President Arroyo, hoping that this would spark an uprising.

Mr. Aquino faces no such contingencies now to warrant extraordinary security measures, although it cannot be ignored that the country has a history of failed military coups since the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

What should worry the President is that despite the fact that his administration has not been involved in corruption scandals that should give disgruntled soldiers grounds to depose him, his public satisfaction rating has declined and has continued to fall.

Ominous sign

An ominous sign comes from a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing that the President’s falling satisfaction rating is dragging down Vice President Jejomar Binay with him.

The new SWS report also shows that the fall is more widespread than thought, showing declines for other top officials, indicating that Mr. Aquino has become a political liability to his team.

The report, published in BusinessWorld newspaper, said both Mr. Aquino and Binay saw 5-point drops in their net satisfaction ratings last month. Binay’s rating dropped to plus-69, described as “very good,” from plus-74 (described as “excellent”) in March. SWS reported last month that the President’s net satisfaction rating had fallen to plus-46 (“good”) from plus-51 (“very good”) three months earlier.

Collateral damage

Two other key leaders suffered collateral damage. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s net score fell by 4 points to plus-39 from plus-43. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s net rating fell by 2 points—to plus-15 from plus-17. It was not explained what factors were responsible for the slump.

Mr. Aquino has been struggling over the past few months to overcome an increasing public perception that he has been a “do-nothing” President with very little to show for accomplishments other than self-righteous declarations exorcising allegedly corrupt transactions of his predecessor.

Left-handed compliment

The Makati Business Club gave the President a left-handed compliment with “laying the foundations for sustained and inclusive growth,” but the group added, “we expect the Aquino administration to take this to next level of effective implementation in Year Two.”

Among leaders of democracies, Mr. Aquino is not alone in the predicament of being criticized for not showing leadership in delivering results.

In India, Prime Minister Mamohan Singh is being harangued by the political opposition and media for his “lack of action in the face of multiple graft scandals,” reported the Wall Street Journal. This condition has prompted his critics to call him “PM in hiding.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial noted that it was encouraging to see Singh “to finally emerge with a plan of action announcing changes in the Cabinet.”

The editorial said: “The optimism soon gave way to disappointment, however, as the realization sank in that the changes were cosmetic. More pressingly, they do nothing to steer India’s ship of state in the direction of economic reforms. This direction is surely important to help Indians continue to overcome poverty and gain prosperity.”

Given the differences in the context of Philippine and Indian political and social issues, the metaphor of a “do-nothing” government still applies to the Aquino administration.

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TAGS: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Indian Prime Minister Mamohan Singh, Makati Business Club, Marine Col. Generoso Mariano, Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, Vice President Jejomar Binay
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