The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in the Philippines is evidence that if the government’s priorities are right, it can accomplish or do important and difficult tasks. Case in point is the way the government spruced up Metro Manila in preparation for the arrival of the international delegates attending the summit, which included world leaders and chief executives of private enterprise.
While the beautification measures employed by the government were a bit dodgy and rushed, it was still a demonstration that if the government had enough motivation, they can do things in a short span of time.
A lot of Filipinos have been baffled and outraged at the same time, with how fast the government managed to sweep street dwellers off the pavement and fenced up eyesores like shantytowns along the major routes that the foreign dignitaries will be using. People have been asking, first, why did President Benigno Simeon Aquino feel the need to hide the poor and the decrepit state of the city from foreign guests? He didn’t care about the dignity of those affected. And then they followed it up with more questions like, why is his government only motivated to make things look nice for outsiders? How come the President did not bother to beautify the city as soon as he stepped into office for the sake of his own people?
The answer to those questions is simple. BS Aquino’s priorities were wrong from the very start. Because BS Aquino was just forced by his own party mates to run for the Presidency due to his popularity after his mother’s death, it meant he had no vision and plan for the country. He became more of a reactive administrator than a proactive one. From Day One of his term, his single priority was to get rid of the people he considers to be his political enemies.
The true reasons behind his motivations are unclear but BS Aquino acted like he had an axe to grind and someone who is suffering from tunnel vision. In his first year in office, he did everything to detain former President Gloria Arroyo including conduct a trial-by-media and violate the law one of which is the right to presumption of innocence. Even after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Arroyo’s detention is arbitrary and illegal under international law, he still continues to talk about her alleged crimes as if she had already been convicted. His speeches, including his speech at the opening of the APEC summit in front of foreign delegates, are not complete without the now-customary blame-Arroyo clauses.
After he succeeded in effecting Arroyo’s arbitrary detention in his second year in office, BS Aquino worked on removing former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona based on trumped-up charges. In the eyes of BS Aquino, if you were appointed by Arroyo, you are an enemy. While his removal may seem like quite an accomplishment to the gullible crowd, it was not what it seems. If it hadn’t been for the bribes in the guise of Priority Development Assistance Funds and what was later known as Disbursement Acceleration Program he gave to members of Congress who impeached and removed Corona, BS Aquino would not have been successful in removing Corona. In other words, had the members of Congress followed the rule book and were not in cahoots with the President, Corona would still be Chief Justice today and BS Aquino would have been properly disciplined. Instead, since he got what he wanted, he continued and still continues to act like a spoiled brat as a consequence.
BS Aquino acting like a spoiled brat is evident in the way he treats the Philippines like his own personal fiefdom and the Filipino people like his own subjects. Only in the Philippines can someone like BS Aquino get away with cancelling flights and declaring no-school and no-work for four days without giving people compensation for missing out on their activities and responsibilities. Some businesses lost revenue because they were forced to shut down their operation for the event. Some people had to walk for five hours just to get home because some roads were closed and exclusively dedicated to the VIP delegates of the APEC summit. What kind of leader would put his own people through hell this way? Only someone as inconsiderate as BS Aquino.
It is quite apparent that BS Aquino still has the strong support of Congress. It’s no surprise because the leaders of both the House of Representatives and Senate belong to the President’s Liberal Party. The President also has a lot of allies in the private sector. With their support, just imagine: if BS Aquino channeled his energy into fixing the infrastructure and beautifying the country particularly the capital city from the very beginning of his term instead of vilifying his enemies, he could have accomplished a lot. Filipinos could have been enjoying better public transport system and better roads. With political will applied to the right priorities, the country could have improved immensely in just six years. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, he didn’t have a clear vision for the country.
The 10 billion-peso budget for the APEC summit could have been spent on upgrading Subic with additional infrastructure, which could have resulted in creating another business district that could help decongest Manila. BS Aquino had a few years to build another city to prepare for the summit but he chose not to. He probably thought that it would be easier to simply make Filipinos “sacrifice” for one week.
As mentioned in my previous article, not a lot of trade deals could materialise as outcomes of the APEC summit. The traffic congestion would serve as a warning to investors that something is not right in the transport system in the country. It means it cannot handle the normal capacity of commuters and motorists moving through the city. True enough; BBC News published a report announcing that Manila was recently voted the worst city on Earth to drive in. This is bad for business because it can mean delays and loss of productivity and, eventually, loss of income.
Amidst the pomp and pageantry of the APEC summit hangs the irony that the BS Aquino government doesn’t want anyone to highlight – that while the summit aims to encourage entrepreneurship, small and big businesses suffered losses during the event. It is quite odd how BS Aquino’s economic advisers didn’t foresee that happening. He must be surrounded by a bunch of “yes” men.
It is really such a shame that BS Aquino was voted into office. His term was a waste of people’s time and resources.