Daang Matuwid. What the hell does it mean? Its literal translation in English is “straight path”. Without any context, it does not make a lot of sense. Straight path to where, exactly? However, its ambiguity helped launch the Presidency of a non-performing lawmaker Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III back in 2010. A lot of people assumed that he was talking about taking the country on a straight path to greatness. Fast-forward six years later, more people now realize he just led the country on a straight path to even greater chaos.
The idiotic thing is, BS Aquino’s anointed one, Presidential candidate Mar Roxas is promising to continue Daang Matuwid if he gets elected into office in the next election. It’s as if it was so successful that Roxas can just ride on its wave and allow it to propel him to victory.
Now I know we all have to be a little bit delusional to survive in this world but some people like Roxas and his supporters seem to be more delusional than the rest of us. He is in denial that the current government’s performance in the last six years was appalling. Likewise, Roxas is assuming that the voting public is too stupid to be fooled by their mantra for the second time. That just proves that he is out of touch with reality.
For the sake of clarity, let us help Roxas and his supporters understand what Daang Matuwid means for us:
1. Daang Matuwid means patronage politics.
When BS Aquino was still campaigning, he promised to “level the playing field”. I don’t know if he meant something else because he did exactly the opposite. He appointed a lot of his friends and relatives to sensitive positions in government and refused to fire them or at least sanction them when they failed to perform their duties. The list is long but we can start with an incident on the President’s first few months in office involving his shooting buddy former Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno.
BS Aquino cleared Puno immediately of any wrongdoing even after the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) recommended that administrative and criminal charges be filed against Puno among others for their failure to prevent the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists during the Rolando Mendoza hostage crisis in August 2010. This incident was the first major fiasco of the BS Aquino administration but hardly anyone, especially those allied with him, got sacked or was punished for it.
A more recent display of patronage politics involves another close friend, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima. Even after the Ombudsman suspended Purisima for a separate corruption case, BS Aquino still ordered Purisima to plan and execute Oplan Exodus – an operation that resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers. So far, Purisima is still being handled with kids’ gloves. BS Aquino’s refusal to trust people outside of his circle of friends seems to have compelled him to use his friend Purisima for a covert operation, neglecting the fact that he was breaking the PNP chain of command.
As mentioned earlier, the list of BS Aquino’s friends in sensitive posts is long but we still have to give special mention to those who are directly making millions of lives miserable every day. There’s Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio ‘Jun’ Abaya who still enjoys the full support of the President despite the deterioration of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) system and nightmarish traffic condition on Metro Manila roads.
Another person who has charmed BS Aquino is Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman. It’s hard to imagine how in the world she managed to get the President under her spell because the rap sheet against her is already quite thick, but she still manages to garner praises from BS Aquino nonetheless. He’s probably happy with the way she hides the street dwellers out of sight at the last minute before international delegates arrive for high-profile events. Either that or he’s also into rainbow colored hairdos. Soliman’s handling of the distribution of relief goods for typhoon Yolanda victims was disgusting and inhumane. Instead of giving the food donations to survivors, her department allowed P2.8M worth of relief goods for ‘Yolanda’ survivors to rot in warehouses. It’s baffling the way she did not authorize the distribution of these supplies to the poor victims right away.
Let’s not forget to mention Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado. Honrado is said to be very close to the Aquino family, a relationship going back to the Cory Aquino days. The “laglag-bala” extortion scheme that remains unresolved at the international airport was still not reason enough for him to get sacked.
2. Daang Matuwid is for ignoring the constitution or rule of law.
With the help of Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, BS Aquino got away with using public funds to buy favors. Granted, this practice of giving pork barrel to members of Congress was done by previous administrators too, but at least they did not pretend to be for Daang Matuwid. Abad was the architect behind the transfer of funds that were not utilized by one government agency to another without approval from the legislative branch of government. He declared it as “savings” and used cryptic jargon to refer to it — “Disbursement Acceleration Program”, also known by its acronym, DAP. The Executive branch used its own discretion in spending it. You can give them brownie points for being honest enough to admit they wanted to accelerate the spending of the funds. They really did it all in haste.
While the Supreme Court ruled DAP unconstitutional, their ruling gave BS Aquino and Abad an escape clause. BS Aquino’s good friends in the high court agreed that the concept behind DAP was presumed to have been done in “good faith”. Never mind that DAP funds were allegedly used for bribing senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in 2012. The senators who voted to convict were allegedly given Php50 million after the trial and those who voted otherwise did not get any. It’s hard to find evidence that spending Php144 billion in DAP funds was done in good faith. The country’s infrastructure remained decrepit. It seems ambiguity has been a lifesaver for BS Aquino and his ilk. It works because regular folks cannot comprehend legal and accounting jargon and couldn’t be bothered to understand their implications.
You’d expect the only son of so-called “democracy icons” to respect what some people refer to as the “Cory Constitution” (it was during her term that the current constitution was drafted) but, no. BS Aquino attempted to extend his Presidential term a few times in the past, something the Constitution does not allow. He kept floating the idea of the need to continue the “gains” of his administration. But the idea quickly drew flak from both his critics and some of his own supporters who thought he has become too full of himself.
As discussed many times in previous articles, BS Aquino’s number one violation was in denying his political enemies the right to presumption of innocence. He went after former President Gloria Arroyo and former Chief Justice Corona like a hound by attacking them in front of the media every chance he got. He used his influence on the different branches of government and media outlets to demonize his other enemies in the Senate as well. If he can do that to people who held powerful positions in government in the past, ordinary people do not have a chance of getting a fair trial with the kind of environment he created — one that was vindictive.
If he is genuine about wanting reforms, Presidential aspirant Roxas or at least his PR guys would try to understand how the public perceives Daang Matuwid. It has gone past its use-by date. Who knows? Maybe once he realizes what people actually think it means, he will come to his senses and drop the pretense.
The problem with some people is they are too arrogant to admit or recognize when something has failed. Even when the evidence is already staring them in the face, they will still continue doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that someone who does that is either insane or stupid.