Federico Pascual of The Philippine STAR described it as “political pneumonia:” the double-digit drop of President Aquino’s ratings should be disturbing not only for the Cabinet, but for the President himself. What worries Ernie Maceda, on the other hand, is that his officials may be taking this too lightly. Which is in more ways than one a big mistake: “clearing the landmines” of the previous administration is one thing, but perception makes up a good part of political reality.
I wrote to a friend that P-Noy may end up going down in history as the most polarizing President we ever had. It’s more than a “to-whom-much-is-given-much-is-expected” thing: it’s an Administration that came into power setting the bar to heights that were polarizing, and one that sought to polarize the wrongdoings of the previous Administration and frame it under the rubric of “evil.” If this Administration is to be believed, its past 365 days have been involved – completely – in the arduous process of cleaning up the ravages of Arroyo.
The problem is that P-Noy’s administration is confronted with problems that are unique to its six years, with most of its actions – and inactions – proving costly not only to the national interest, but also to public confidence. In the quest to correct the errors of Gloria, the Aquino administration also pulled itself into enough gaffes and mistakes that involved everything from handling a hostage crisis, to taking care of national patrimony. For the past year, that’s what we have. While the administration should be fairly lauded and applauded for making things right, it should be fairly criticized and castigated for things it does wrong. Most of the time, it is in the latter where the functions of a political process is highlighted: it is here where the Aquino administration is lacking. We laud the “Daang Matuwid” and all, but should a drop in public confidence be a necessary part of it?
Not that Arroyo’s errors shouldn’t be rectified and the criminals of the previous Administration should not be brought to justice, but to do that at the expense of moving forward (deliberately or by consequence) is something that requires a lot more thought.
The danger lies in the Administration reflecting Gloriaesque reactions to a survey: that is, to dismiss the diagnostic functions of a survey to “inadequately represent public sentiment.” While it doesn’t, the President should be aware that part of the job of being a popular President in a popular democracy is to be – and to remain – popular; that is, while he may not be expected to make popular decisions all the time, the confidence of the people should always be on his side. Not because a mandate is something that’s renewed during election time, but because it is renewed all the time. This Presidency exists not to solely and exclusively rectify errors of the past, but to move forward.
And that’s part and parcel of the difficulty of the task for Aquino, who has, on a number of occasions, complained about how difficult the job of a President is. Of course it should: had he been at the forefront of the roadmap to progress instead of being incidental to it by virtue of his position, no one would ever ask him an annoying question about his love life. Had Aquino demonstrated able leadership and control, no one would question his competence. And while a whole country waits – and waits – on the promises made a year ago, his ratings drop in a system where perception is nine-tenths of reality. By delegating key Presidential tasks to advisers and czars and Cabinet leaders, he, in effect, distributed public confidence, accountability, and most of all, the spirit of why he’s the President and the leader.
While the country waits – and waits – for him to act, he echoes, “Kayo ang boss ko.” Knowing, despite the value and the glitter of the rhetoric, Benigno Aquino III should, in more ways than one, be the boss of his Cabinet, his Administration, and his country. In short, the President must step up.
At the height of Typhoons Egay and Falcon, there was little to no mention of the President. He may have been in the background for all we know, but if the past year of Aquino’s administration is proof of anything, the background is not the place for the Philippine President.