Where is the President in times of trouble?

Since President Aquino took office, one of the criticisms that he has had to endure is the negative publicity and poor relationship he has with the press. Considering he is a darling of the voting public, albeit the absence of a strong body of legislative work to back him up, the people readily cast their votes in his favor. Given the choices we had, many voters felt he was their best bet for redemption, believing in his promises of a clean and honest government, which would translate to the alleviation of poverty. His mantra was “kung walang kurakot, walang mahirap”.

However, charm and an earnest attitude can only get you so far as being president. What we want are results. So far, what we are seeing is a president who seems to disappear when the going gets tough.

Scarborough Shoal

The latest criticism of his disappearing acts has to do with China’s intrusion on Philippine waters. This is a diplomatic mine field for the president since China is aggressively pursuing and claiming to territory that is nowhere near its mainland and is clearly on Philippine waters.

Two Chinese vessels blocked off our much hailed BRP Gregoria del Pilar as it was making its way to the Scarborough Shoal, also known as the Panatag Shoal. Just like the Spratley Islands, China is laying claim to the mineral rich islands and its surrounding waters.

To make matters worse, the Chinese vessels that were fishing in our marine waters were not even prevented from bringing home their catch! These fish and corals were endangered and illegally caught.

The Chinese government has claimed that it would withdraw the two ships from the Scarborough shoal. This should be taken as proof that the Chinese government is “not escalating” the given already volatile situation. They left last Sunday afternoon, although there is still one Chinese Maritime Surveillance Ship in the area. This is allegedly for law enforcement missions.

Why the heck there is a need for a Chinese vessel to enforce the law on our Philippine waters is beyond comprehension and only goes to prove the arrogance of the Chinese government in pursuing what it wants. It does not respect the country, our territory and certainly not our President. It is hard to believe they would be as aggressive in illegally fishing in the waters of Japan, Australia or the United States.

Under the radar

P-Noy has always had a low profile. Even as a senator, he was so low profile, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what good he did as a lawmaker for the country. However, given his sterling parentage, a son of a national hero father and a near saint like former president mother, Noynoy has managed to win election after election, capping off his political career as the 15th president of the country.

During his first few days in office, he literally silenced Malacanang by issuing his no wangwang policy. Now, we have no idea that there’s a president or VIP in the streets, since there are no sirens to alert to his arrival. At first, this was welcomed, but it has also come to symbolize silence on the President’s side, when we should be hearing something more positive and updated from him.

Delegator

Unlike other presidents, PNoy doesn’t mind delegating responsibility. In fact, once he delegates a task, it seems like he pretty much assumes that the problem will be handled by whoever he assigns the task to. If you ask him an update on a situation or issue, he’ll need to confer with his aides first. Now it’s no easy task to run a country with 92 million people spread over 7,100 islands, but he should always appear to have a handle on any situation.

Lackadaisical attitude

P-Noy has come off at an extremely laid back president. We got used to seeing our president working till the wee hours of the evening, just as former President Arroyo has been wont to do.

He has been reported to be dating a Korean DJ, or spending the weekend in his home province target shooting with his gun totting buddies. There’s more news about his active personal life than his actual work as president for the country.

The last bout of criticisms about him not working hard enough made Malacanang release photographs of the president, working studiously behind his desk or with a stack of paperwork and folders for his review. This was to reassure the public that P-Noy was indeed hard at work. Malacanang has also reiterated the need for the press to stop being so critical of the president and instead write more positively about him.

This however, becomes more and more difficult to do given that we need our president to become more or a man of action.

It is really a peaceful solution?

In response to the issue, Aquino said that the Philippine presence will be felt in the Shoal, through the Philippine Coast Guard, as well as utilizing the presence of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Aquino says he wants a peaceful resolution to the problem.

Aquino has remained “steadfast that it has two missions: one, not to escalate the situation; and two, to protect the sovereignty.”

Not the first time

Remember after the north was devastated by the dual typhoons Quiel and Pedring? It took PNoy days to make an appearance to the town to personally assess the damage. Given that they were the two most devastating typhoons in the country, his prolonged absence to the area was construed as if he didn’t care about what had happened, or that there were more pressing matters at hand than the thousands of displaced residents and the millions pesos worth of infrastructure and agricultural damage caused by the typhoons.

Strong against bullies

By keeping quiet and not being visible, it can only be construed as conceding to China’s high handed manner over our Philippine territory. Malacanang may say that they want to go about it diplomatically, but in the school playground, you can’t win with bullies by hiding and not standing your ground.

We need to protect what is ours and do what is necessary when other nations are robbing us blind. If PNoy doesn’t handle this, who is to say North Korea won’t try to claim Luzon or other Asian nations will try to claim Mindanao? Now is not the time to disappear but to be more visible and more vocal.

PNoy needs to show his strong presence for the country and make his displeasure clear with the Chinese government. Otherwise, we may as well bend over and give the disputed islands to the other side. We may not have the military capacity to protect what is ours, but it doesn’t mean we have to take it all silently.

 

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BlogWatch receives the “Best Story” Award for the First Data Journalism PH 2015 from the Open Knowledge Foundation and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism  for their story on “Aid Monitoring: Citizens’ Initial Efforts in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda” . Forbes Philippines also received the same award.

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