[This is my column which should have appeared already in the maiden issue of Good Morning Philippines, a new broadsheet.]
A year before today, we were all looking forward to the new political regime in the Philippines—that of Benigno Simeon Aquino III. It was a signal relief for many who thought Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stayed too long in power and who accumulated crisis after crisis. At the end, hounded by a huge popularity deficit and still hoping for a political comeback, she left the stage, albeit for a smaller one at the House of Representatives.
However, the story today is about President Noynoy Aquino—his own record of a year in office. Starting off with one, if not the highest, approval rating in presidential history, he enjoyed also a long political honeymoon with the people. Only now is this honeymoon ending as a sobered people also realize the human frailties of an unprepared president.
How did he and his administration fare in the first year of a six-year term? Expectedly, different analysts and political players posited their own differing opinions—as varied as the lenses they used. Most of these assessments can stem from two opposing viewpoints, describing the one year of Aquino administration as either a glass half-empty or a glass half-full.
Those who see a half-empty glass tend to emphasize the amateurish mistakes, the confusing senior management set-up, the immature plan of governance, the reactive leadership in various economic or governance crises, and the constant infighting of the new power managers. Those who see a half-full glass tend to emphasize the gains in the priority anti-corruption and anti-poverty campaigns, the continued popularity of the administration, the clean-up of stay-behind GMA troops in various governmental bodies, the consolidation of power in both executive and legislative branches, and the continued hope among the people for a better life.
I think both viewpoints are correct. In full, these describe an administration still struggling for its vision and mission—and gradually succeeding. In this sense, I join those who think this administration is a glass that is half-full.
The Aquino administration inherited a government heavily in debt, presiding over a tottering, tattered economy, laden with a corrupt bureaucracy and public officials, tolerating impunity of powerful warlords and criminal gangs in the military and police, and bereft of the sense of public service and public ethics. In addition, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration—sensing the strong public sentiment towards making it pay for its nine-year predation of democracy and the nation’s coffers—put up a series of roadblocks against the new government.
These roadblocks consisted of late and midnight appointments, laws and executive orders limiting the presidential prerogative, and even attempts to maintain its dominant influence in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives, and among the local executives.
To no avail. It can be said now that the Aquino government succeeded in consolidating the power required for his six-year term. If it can maintain its majorities in Congress and the popular support of the people, it may be in a position to even undertake the difficult reforms that previous presidents failed to undertake or complete.
However, there is a long road still to be travelled. It has to face the challenges of governance, as well as solve the internal squabbles in its own house. Above all, it has to demonstrate its own adherence to the “straight road” and its recognition of the people as the “boss.”
People knew that Noynoy Aquino would have a steep and long learning curve after his victory. The one-year long political honeymoon they gave him speaks of their trust and soaring expectations. Now they await the fruits of their trust and the fulfilment of their expectation. For them, the glass is still half-full.