Yellow is cowardly and treacherous, so please don’t wear it (Part 1 of 2)

by Bernadine Racoma, as originally posted at Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles.

Please wear yellow: this was President Aquino’s request to his supporters when he was asked how Filipinos and civil society could help him.

yellow-ribbon-1We say please don’t. While yellow is a color associated with cheerfulness and brightness, it comes with a number of negative meanings as defined in established dictionaries, not by political propaganda. As an adjective, it can mean a racist description for Oriental people or those with “yellow” skin (Mongoloids), an offensive reference to “tabloidish” newspapers (yellow media), dishonest editorials and sensationalized journalism, easily frightened or cowardly people, or a general description for someone affected by jaundice.

Trivial and reductive – these are words that describe the President’s plea. He could have asked the Filipino people to support him by becoming good citizens, by fulfilling their responsibilities to the nation like paying taxes and helping ensure law and order. He could have rallied the people in becoming more vigilant to ensure that corruption ceases to be the normal practice in government. Is he trying to count his remaining supporters after his popularity ratings dropped in the latest survey? We cringe to think that this is his attempt to childishly shove his popularity to his critics’ faces how by showing people who wear yellow or pin the annoying yellow ribbon on their shirts.

Does he really think people will be that patronizing to do it? It’s somewhat unpleasantly mystifying how the President appears to perceive the Filipino intellect. He seems to think people adore him to great extents that they would gladly wear yellow like blind and deaf followers out to give the senseless kind of support they can give.

It’s simply ridiculous how President Aquino, until now, still can’t distance himself from the divisive symbolisms and his fondness for rhetoric. He appears to be stuck in the campaign period. We wouldn’t actually mind it if he were consistently applying his “campaign period mode” acts. It’s disappointing how he vowed to prioritize the Freedom of Information Bill only to refuse to even certify it urgent now that he’s already the president. He promised no new taxes when he was still campaigning but now even tolls get taxed, something viewed by many as an act of imposing tax on tax itself. There were many good things he promised during his campaign but only a few appear to have materialized. Even his anti-corruption drive has become significantly tainted with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy.

The Yellow National Address

Just like yellow journalism, the President’s recent address to the nation regarding DAP was cheap and misleading. It was a lengthy litany meant to defend something that does not deserve to be defended. It had several misleading details that successfully perplexed the undiscerning many and failed to convince the skeptics. The first few paragraphs of the address were dedicated to dragging the previous administration once more in an apparent attempt to pass the blame or at least spread it.

President Aquino pointed out the supposed malversation committed by the previous administration on the government’s money that he was only left with a meager 6.5% of the total annual budget to be spent for the next six months. This is simply overdoing a hyperbole to the point of lying. Anyone who understands the concept of a budget would know that this is impossible. If it were the case, how did the government pay for the salaries of all government employees for the remaining six months? What did his team use to operate the government? How was he able to undertake projects with just 6.5% of the money that was supposed to be spent for the whole year? Playing this kind of trick surely mired the entirety of his address.

President Aquino said that DAP was needed to accelerate government spending as his administration’s underspending led to a lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (the actual line: “bumaba ang ating GDP”). This could be an honest mistake but it’s unexpected especially coming from someone who studied economics. Of course the GDP did not shrink. Since Gloria Arroyo’s presidency, the Philippines never experienced a GDP reduction even in the midst of global economic crises. What shrank was the GDP growth rate. Yes, this is a trivial detail to point out but it could be reflective of the President’s intentions as he tried to defend DAP. He was emphasizing the growth decline when his team of spokespersons tried a completely different tack a few years back. Before, the lower growth rate was downplayed and rationalized but now the President is making it sound that it was such a dire economic situation he had to deal with so he needed DAP to fast track the economy.

Aquino proceeded to lambasting the Supreme Court’s decision over DAP. He insisted that what they did with DAP was not against the Constitution since they had the Administrative Code of 1987 as their basis, particularly Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 39. He quoted a portion of the Code that supposedly justifies DAP. In a combative tone, the President declared that the he wants to have another chance to defend the constitutionality of DAP. He tried to project an image of certainty and utter confidence but looked more like someone who was so convinced by his own lies, someone who just refuses to accept authoritative opinion.

Yellow Savings, Ambivalent Savings

The problem in all DAP defenses made so far is the interpretation of savings. In the early part of his address, President Aquino likened government savings to household savings, wherein some amount is saved because the amount used was lower than allotted for or expected. As he proceeded with his address, though, his concept of savings suddenly changed into money not spent because it was not used, since the intended project was cancelled or put on hold. This only made it clear to discerning listeners how he did not really use savings but realigned the funds, telling implementing agencies that if they can’t use it, they’ll lose it.

The President can point out all the laws he can use to back his claim of DAP legality but everything boils down to the word “savings.” Was their idea of savings compatible with what law intended it to be? The Supreme Court, through the DAP decision, already provided an answer for this. DAP’s legal defense from the Palace and its sycophants are mostly equating “savings” to “government funds.” They are quoting laws that specifically mentioned “savings,” not the broader phrase “government funds.”  What the President could have done was to accept the decision and direct his allies in congress to pass a law that would clearly define savings according to what would be convenient for him, since savings has no clear written definition in Philippine law. It’s not explicitly written in the Constitution so there may be no need for charter change to have its meaning set according to Aquino’s bidding.

Just like the yellow light in traffic lights, President Aquino’s concept of savings was in between two clear “stop” and “go” signals. He was exploiting an area he thought would allow him some liberty in spending government funds. Now that the Supreme Court has released its decision on the legality of Aquino’s idea of savings, he should just listen.

Continued in Part 2


Infographic via Bulatlat. Photo via . Some rights reserved.