If there’s a time of the year when it becomes somewhat acceptable wearing yellow as a symbol of unity and resistance to oppression, it’s perhaps February 25, the day of the historic EDSA People Power Revolution. While many would hate being associated with the yellow administration of the son of Cory Aquino, it can’t be denied that yellow was the color of the revolution that overthrew a dictatorship and restored democracy. The 1986 peaceful EDSA revolution is even known as the Yellow Revolution.
However, while recognizing the prominence of the “Aquino color,” it’s difficult not to notice how the son of a Philippine democracy icon is becoming the opposite of what people power stands for. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (BSAIII) has been duplicating many of the acts criticized or condemned during the reign of Marcos.
Human Chain vs. Human Barricade
On the day of the 29th EDSA People Power celebration, obviously, under the guidance of Malacañang, militants and others who wanted to stage their protests were blocked along EDSA and prevented from heading to Camp Crame. They were supposed to form a human chain from Camp Crame to the EDSA Shrine and have an interfaith prayer rally.
The group, which included popular satirist Mae Paner or Juana Change, claimed that they already had an agreement with the officials of the Philippine National Police that they will be allowed to hold their activities in front of Camp Crame. The protesters were also prevented from entering the area around EDSA Shrine.
On the other hand, Peping and Tingting Cojuangco, President Aquino’s relatives and some of the leading personalities during the 1986 EDSA Revolution, described the PNP’s presence in EDSA as an overkill.
The PNP said that the militants and other protesters were prevented from entering certain areas because they did not secure a permit for their activities. Juana Change, however, in an interview with DZMM, claimed that they already had an agreement with the PNP. She said that they were even served a generous meal while discussing the activities they were supposed to do.
It’s ironic how President Aquino is now doing the same acts he and his group used to criticize in his immediate predecessor. While these may not be compared to what the late strongman Marcos did under martial law, it’s still deeply disappointing that an Aquino is preventing people from assembling in an area associated with people power in the Philippines. So what’s the point of blocking roads, rerouting traffic, and declaring a no-class holiday for students when they were preventing people from assembling and voicing out their opinions? What happened to the spirit of people power?
Arguably, many of the groups that sought to assemble along EDSA have self-serving motives. The calls for President Aquino’s resignation do not sit well with the overwhelming majority of well-informed and discerning Filipinos. However, for the sake of the 29th EDSA celebration, is it too much for the government to just allow protesters to do what they were raring to do? After all, the sparsely-attended anti-Aquino rally last Sunday and the few thousands of non-Aquino-supporting people who gathered on February 25 were remotely capable of destabilizing an administration. They certainly lacked the numbers.
Would it really hurt Aquino’s pride and peace of mind to see his former allies now voicing out discontent against him or seeking his resignation? Is President Aquino becoming too paranoid to even prevent small crowds from successfully staging their activities on the day commemorating EDSA People Power? So what if only a few Aquino-critical protesters turned up at EDSA? So what if the PNP force outnumbered them? Does that justify the suppressing of their voices?
Lies and Deceit
Aside from suppressing assemblies that express discontent over the current Aquino government, it can be said that President BS Aquino III is also guilty of weaving lies and employing deceitful tactics on the people he fondly calls his “bosses.” Lies, misinformation, and aggressively self-serving propaganda, by the way, were staples during the Marcos dictatorship and it seems Aquino’s team also wants to avail of their benefits.
In his addresses on primetime regarding the Mamasapano incident, President Aquino passed the blame on SAF Director Napeñas and later accepted the resignation of his bosom buddy, Alan Purisima, but not without praising him and expressing regret over the circumstances. Never did Aquino mention that he was fed the wrong information. Later, upon realizing that the attempt to pin all the blame on Napeñas was not working, Aquino’s team apparently decided to write a new script and cry “misinformation.” He suddenly claimed that he was fed lies and finally decided to put Purisima on the spot.
Even Aquino’s communications group and cabinet secretaries were in unison in trying to hide Aquino’s role in the Mamasapano incident. On the first Senate hearing on the Mamasapano incident, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas refused to reveal details as to when he informed the President about the situation of the SAF troopers, claiming that he could not remember, and eventually admitted to sending the President a text message in the morning of January 25. Really, how could he forget that very important detail? The generals and other Aquino officials called to the Senate also tried to avoid revealing details about Aquino’s involvement in Oplan Exodus only to divulge the information that clearly showed their attempts to protect President Aquino.
These are just the most recent instances of lying and deceiving from the Aquino government. We would need more space to enumerate all of his attempts at misinformation and deception. The lies and misleading details from his SONAs alone would likely require dozens of pages.
Usurpation of Authority and Government Powers
President Aquino, along with many other hypocrite politicians and government officials, have been fondly criticizing Gloria Arroyo for having the House of Representatives as her rubber stamp Congress. Aquino also, without a doubt, has a mouthful of condemning to say over the Marcos dictatorship. However, as expectedly hypocritical as he has always been, he is himself guilty of committing the same faults.
He obviously exercises overwhelming influence over the House of Representative and is apparently also in control of the traditionally maverick Senate. Just recently, many are claiming (and it’s somewhat easy to deduce) that Aquino had a hand in putting a kibosh on the Mamasapano incident hearings in Congress. The equivalent Senate hearings have also been curiously ended despite the fact that some senators appear to still have a lot of questions to ask. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, for one, still has a lot of questions to the MILF and the government’s negotiators. Moreover, the House of Representatives suddenly decided to resume deliberations over the BBL even when Representative Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro said that the House agreed to indefinitely suspend until the MILF surrenders Basit Usman (the other target of Oplan Exodus) and the MILF members responsible for the death of the SAF44 The decision to resume hearings curiously happened after some 25 congressmen had a “chat” with President Aquino. Rodriguez even used the word “reinforced” to described their renewed enthusiasm in tackling the BBL.
And who would ever forget DAP? That alien idea in Philippine national budgeting became Aquino’s silent tool in unilaterally deciding on where government money should go, how to spend already appropriated funds, and when to declare savings. DAP allowed Aquino to effectively disregard the power of the purse of Congress. The dictator Marcos at least made it clear that he was to blame if government money was misspent or stolen. In President BS Aquino III’s regime, he allowed thieves in government to silently satisfy their greed (as eventually revealed in the cases failed against Senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla). He may have not stolen from the government coffers but he allowed thieves to dip their hands in the billions of the Philippine government. Just to take things in perspective, in Gloria Arroyo’s time, most cases of plunder only amounted in hundreds of millions. Under Aquino, they’re already in billions!
Furthermore, as if it wasn’t enough that President Aquino already encroached on legislative powers, he also inspired or permitted his underlings to usurp authority. Case in point: Cesar Alan Purisima’s directing of Oplan Exodus. Aquino knowingly allowed his suspended PNP Chief to play an active role, even directing and controlling the flow of mission intel, in the PNP operation that resulted in the death of 44 SAF troopers. Apparently, he did not learn his lesson over what happened in the setup of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and his DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno. He allowed Mar Roxas and OIC PNP Chief Espina to be kept out of the loop to let Purisima, as reported in one Manila Standard Today articles, to get his chance at redemption.
Marcos:Ver = BSAIII:Purisima
If the dictator Ferdinand Marcos had his Fabian Ver, the hardheaded Noynoy Aquino has Cesar Alan Purisima. Malicious minds can only speculate over Aquino and Purisima’s extremely close bonds but it’s clear that Purisima is a highly trusted Aquino official who appears to be willing to do everything possible for the sake of Aquino. Purisima finally decided to take the bullet for Aquino by taking responsibility over the Mamasapano incident. After finally (partially?) divulging his exchange of text messages with President Aquino, he seems to be resigned to the fact that he will have to join Napeñas as one of the fall guys to shield the President.
Lack of Compassion
Lest President Aquino forgets, it was compassion that made the EDSA People Power of 1986 successful. Perhaps people can forgive him for not listening to and remembering the message of mercy and compassion of Pope Francis since he doesn’t appear to be someone close to the Catholic Church. However, it’s difficult accepting how a direct beneficiary of the people power spirit is pathetically lacking when it comes to compassion.
He already offended sensibilities when he chose a car company’s event over the arrival of the SAF44’s remains. He made things worse when he turned up late for the necrological services for the SAF44 (the ceremony had to be temporarily stopped to wait for him). Well, he did not stop there as he also went ahead with his rampage of tactlessness and abrasiveness in the presence of the SAF44 widows and families, during a surprise visit at an event for the SAF44 families in Camp Crame. As one paper wrote it, Aquino scolded the SAF widows. He also left a number of SAF44 families hurt with his careless comments like the following:
“Namatay rin ang tatay ko, alam ko pakiramdam niyo kaya patas na rin tayo ngayon.”
“Anong gusto ninyo, kunan namin ng fingerprints ang lahat ng MILF?”
The mouthpieces of the Palace refuted the alleged “patas” or “tabla” comment through the testimony of DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, who was with the President during his surprise visit at Camp Crame. However, the President is yet to himself straightforwardly deny saying such hurtful words.
Even worse than the hurtful experiences President Aquino left to the families of the SAF44 is his shameless push for the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He ruthlessly claims that the BBL is the only solution for peace in Mindanao. Why is he rushing it? It hasn’t even been 40 days yet after the death of the SAF troopers. Senate President Franklin Drilon is also singing a similar tune, calling for everyone to “move on.” Seriously, how does he expect people to move on when the Senate hearings haven’t even clearly identified the guilty parties that should be held accountable for the deaths, when the personal belongings of the SAF troopers haven’t even been returned yet, and when the MILF (through Iqbal) still makes it appear that the MILF cannot be prosecuted?
Hopefully, President Aquino could still realize all of his hypocrisy. He still has more than a year to prove that he is really different from the predecessors he criticizes and persecutes. At the very least, he should consider listening to the real voices of the people and veer away from the habit of branding anyone with a nonconforming opinion as an enemy of the government, a remnant of the bad administrations of the past, an advocate of traditional politics, or an adversary of peace.
Meme from Pulpolitka . Photos via Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Stock photos from POC. Some rights reserved
As originally posted How the Noynoy Aquino administration is betraying the spirit of people power (Part 1) and Part 2 on Blog Watch, at the Philippine Online Chronicles.