By Erick Fabian
IN President Benigno Aquino III’s recent forum with Miriam College high school students who visited the Palace last January 7 (Tuesday), he told them that his New Year’s resolution is “to ignore critics”. He added, “”We have a cottage industry already of people who make a living criticizing me. And it [distracts me] from solving the problems of this country if I have to attend to them…Walang makitang maganda sa sasabihin mo” (they see nothing good in what I will say). He called his critics ‘hopeless’ and told the students that devoting time to them will only distract him from his work.
While giant news outlets barely glossed over this seemingly inconsequential piece of news, a simple reading between the lines says so much about the arrogant attitude of the person who holds the most powerful position in a country of almost 100 million people.
A quick look at the news shows that 2014 is becoming the harbinger of things to come as far as the failure of the Aquino administration to address the country’s actual concerns. His term ends in 2016, and he is playing a desperate game of patching his pockmarked public image. One would think that a more sophisticated politician would do a more elaborate stunt, but his PRs resort to publicizing a President regaling wide-eyed, star-struck high school students about how he is doing the country a lot of good by ignoring his critics. This is where the problem lies.
Democracy, in whatever permutation, at its most basic requires a two-way dialogue where each party plays both speaker and listener, giver and receiver. Calling your critics ‘hopeless’ and labelling them in a simplistic manner, by calling them ‘a cottage industry of critics who make a living criticizing the President’, is a conversation killer.
Just like the foolish emperor in the story ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, it appears that the man who touted himself the people’s hero and a crusader against corruption is not even attempting to hide his disdain for people like you and me, Filipinos who are doing their best to be good citizens by being truthful and honest, rather than pretend that there is nothing wrong.
It’s no surprise really, seeing as honesty is the farthest thing from his mind. A person who desires to engage in mature discourse will show respect for the other person, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what the other person is saying. It is already a given that when you hold the highest position in the land, the conversation is between you and the collective of citizens that you extract taxes from. You agree to follow the social contract, to serve the interests of the people you are governing. All other interests fall on the bottom priority. At least, that’s the ideal that public servants are supposed to aim for.
Ignoring criticism is a symptom of a social cancer that has been befouling our political landscape since day one of the republic. An administration that spends most of its time and the taxpayers’ money on hand-waving PR maneuvers rather than making the most of its last two years in power by coming clean to the public and actually doing reparations and responding to the grievances of the people is an indicator of collective neurosis and mental incapacity to handle the job, not to mention immaturity.
Please, let’s stop fooling ourselves: we are not his boss, like he keeps saying over and over you’d wish he’d just recorded it and pushed the button on demand. His boss is Henry Sy. His boss is Manny Pangilinan. His boss is Lucio Tan. His bosses are the taipans. His bosses are the powerful people who keep him from seeing that he is a public embarrassment, again, like the emperor who thought that he looks grand in his invisible clothes. His bosses are only those who are willing to kiss his bottom end in exchange for favors and power.
It is too easy to allow awestruck high schoolers and field-tripping students who will be dazzled with the initial grandiosity of power, and all the perks of holding the most influential position in the country. On the other hand, student activists and civil groups with real-life concerns are rarely welcomed beyond the gates of the Palace compound, if at all.
Mr. Aquino also said that he will not pressure his Cabinet, as part of his New Year’s resolution. Saying that is tantamount to saying that he will not do his work properly. He should be pressuring them to bring about changes that will benefit Filipino society and improving the lives of the general populace. He should be shouting orders short of beating their backs with a stick because there are life-and-death decisions to be made, and he is making light of things can save people’s lives and ensure a better future even after his administration is over.
Sadly, the President is not interested in those things. He cares more about impressing high school girls, his Yellow cult, and the public by putting up a nice guy image. Sure, he is nice. He is not your typical movie villain. He is no Darth Vader and he is not planning to blow up a planet. Neither is he planning to address the suffering of millions of Filipinos who are hungry, homeless, jobless and desperate. He may not do the evil laugh, but what makes him any better than evil people?
In his last two years as President, if he keeps doing this, then there will be no resolution for the rest of us.
It’s all a brave front, a dismissive response, and nothing but the bravado of a political failure who is desperate to keep his already tattered public image. We should be concerned because we do not want two years of hell for the rest of us.