by Lena Rodriguez , as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles : 2013: Top 8 moments that defined the Aquino administration
2013 is indeed a very challenging, if not bad, year for the Philippines, especially for Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s administration. It is the year that terribly tested the government’s crisis management abilities, which in turn defined the Aquino presidency.
This year is best remembered for the calamities, both natural and man-made, that struck particularly the central and southern part of the country. These disasters took away lives and living, and unveiled the administration’s real “tuwid na daan.”
So as the year ends, the Philippine Online Chronicle looks back on 2013’s Top 8 mishandled crises and defining moments of the Aquino administration:
1. Supertyphoon Yolanda
“We have to be careful because you are a Romualdez and the president is an Aquino.”
This year’s worst crisis ever handled by the Aquino administration is obviously the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. But the storm is not exactly the one that doomed the administration, but its apparent mishandling and politicizing of the relief and retrieval operations.
Who could ever forget the viral face-off caught on video between Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez? Or when Eastern Visayas Chief Supt. Elmer Soria was sacked for estimating that at least 10,000 people were dead in the storm? Or the turtle-like pace of the relief efforts?
Insensitive, calloused remarks were heard from Roxas and his wife, newsreader Korina Sanchez that even the international media were aghast of it. Yolanda, indeed, brought the best among Filipinos but the worst in the Aquino government.
2. P10-billion pork barrel scam
While it happened in the previous administration, the P10-billion pork barrel scam also did an irreparable damage to the current government.
The scam, deemed as the biggest and most systemic corruption scheme ever uncovered in Philippine history, has proven Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” slogan is curvy, not because they were the ones responsible for it, but because the government itself has become, undeniably, the number one defender of the pork barrel system.
Aquino has defended all types of pork barrel—especially his “presidential pork”—both in noontime and primetime television. But these televised speeches just fanned protests all over the country and utter demise from the public, especially those in the social media.
The administration was further lambasted in August for the “red carpet” reception of businesswoman at the center of the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles: inside Malacanang, with the open hands of the president and his cabinet members.
3. Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fiasco
As the government is trying to calm the public outrage against the pork barrel scam, DAP effortlessly entered the picture.
When Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, one of the politicians involved in the scam, unsuccessfully tried to clear his name amid the scandal, he exposed that the senators who voted in favor of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona received at least P50 million that turned out to be the administration’s little-known DAP.
Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad were quick to defend the scheme, since it helped boost the gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2011. But the court of public opinion did not accept such alibi, because it is simply a violation of the separation of powers. There are now nine petitions against DAP before the Supreme Court and the second round of oral arguments is set to be heard in January.
4. Sabah intrusion
“Ang titigas ng ulo niyo.”
Before Yolanda struck, the administration failed miserably during the intrusion of Sabah by the forces of the Sultanate of Sulu in February.
Instead of mollifying the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s armed group, Roxas—whom Liberal Party grooms to be its standard bearer in 2016—antagonized them through the secretary’s insensitive and calloused remarks, further fanning their desire to reclaim Sabah.
The conflict resurrected the strength of Philippines’ claim to Sabah, now part of Malaysia, which was technically dropped by the government in the 1970’s.
5. Meralco Power Rate Hike
Before the year ends, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has the worst gift ever to be given to consumers: a P4.15 per kilowatt hour (kWh) increase effective in December to March.
But what made the power rate hike a more bitter pill to swallow is the inutility of the government to stop, if not alleviate, the biggest increase in history to be implemented by Meralco. Add to that the unthinking statements of Department of Energy and Energy Regulatory Commission officials as if approving the power companies’ “cartel-like” behavior.
With the SC’s 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the increase, it was a better and brighter holidays for consumers.
6. US’ increased rotational presence
This year, two US officials, State Secretary John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, visited the country for the drafting of the increase rotational presence agreement as part of US rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific.
What is untold, but definitely understood by everyone, in the agreement was the Philippines will be as one of US’ strategy to contain the emerging superpower China. This move in turn aggravated Beijing, resulting to an increasing tension between the US and China, China and the Philippines.
Though what is more interesting is that more than two decades ago, under Aquino’s mother, late Pres. Corazon Aquino, American troops in Subic and Clark were expelled from the country.
7. Worsening poverty rate
“The Philippines is no longer the sick man of Asia.”
Despite the positive predictions from several financial institutions and high growth rates, poverty is still a huge dilemma left unchanged by the current government. In fact, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB) estimate that Filipinos living in poverty or $2 per day increased because of the increasing population.
In a report, NCSB said that one in every five Filipinos is living in extreme poverty, or a total of 4.2 million people in 2012.
8. 60-30-10 election results
This year’s midterm election results apparently showed that Filipinos are docile—they vote similarly from the national down to the precinct level.
Votes were perfectly sliced—60 percent went to administration bets, 30 percent to opposition candidates, and 10 percent to the independents. It is the most amazing, at the same time doubtful, results ever in the history of Philippine elections but was easily disproven by the government.
We might not want to believe that number 13 is unlucky, but 2013 is definitely an unfortunate year for the country, especially for the Aquino administration.