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Who do the people believe?

By Leandro DD coronelBy Leandro DD coronel

MANILA

The President of the Philippines, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, has been in office for two years. He was at first reluctant to run for the highest office because he felt he wasn't ready. But when he did join the fray, he vowed to go after government officials who stole the people's money and abused their power.

Aquino has kept his campaign promise, he has sicced the powers and forces of government on past public officials who overstepped their bounds, including and especially the former President, Gloria Arroyo.

Mrs. Arroyo is currently under detention at a government hospital on charges of rigging the 2007 elections and for graft charges. Her husband Mike, who is said to be the architect of alleged scams perpetrated during Arroyo's time in office, is also being hounded by several criminal charges.

 

Foreign businesses are looking at the Philippines again as a potential investment market. Market-rating agencies abroad have been upgrading the investment-worthiness of the country. The Manila Stock Exchange is alive and well.

Domestically, infrastructure projects are getting into the pipeline again after being suspended for a time so they can be reviewed and cleansed of the old practice of bribing project officers and/or giving kickbacks from project proceeds to officials whose approval was required.

Self-sufficiency in rice, the Philippines' staple and which had hitherto been the elusive Holy Grail of Filipino presidents, appears achievable next year. In Manila, the government has been experimenting with ways to make the metropolis a less chaotic place.

In general, the Aquino administration has had positive results. Mr. Aquino has ordered his cabinet secretaries to perform or else they're out of a job. Going by the President's public approval ratings, majority of the people still support him, although his current numbers are not as robust as in the beginning of his term. But his numbers have remained on the positive side.

And yet, his critics refuse to see the good side of the Aquino administration's performance. For the political opposition, ideological groups or critical newspapers, President Aquino hasn't done scratch. They've all given him a failing grade for his first two years in office. It makes independent observers wonder if these groups are looking at the same Mr. Aquino.

There's an explanation, of course. These groups don't like Aquino. They don't gain anything by praising what he has done so far. They have to keep up their criticism and keep on throwing brickbats at the president. They're the ones who didn't like Aquino in the first place and who supported other candidates for president in 2010.

So what they do is they continue to play down the Aquino government's achievements. And they continue to put down Aquino as incompetent, lazy and inept. They have a conflicting agenda from that of Mr. Aquino. And what is that agenda? What it boils down to is, simply, self-preservation. Meanwhile, the majority of the Filipino people continue to support the President and say so in the periodic surveys.

But, in fairness, life in the Philippines hasn't exactly turned suddenly rosy. Despite the positive economic and fiscal indicators, growth hasn't trickled down, a favorite term of economists in the 1970s and 80s. Prosperity hasn't been knocking on people's doors, especially the really poor. Even the middle class hasn't benefited. Yet. The hope is that economic growth will continue and will finally reach more people.

The poor are still poor, and the President and his people had better act fast and decisively in order for the bulk of the population to crawl out of poverty, where they've been wallowing for many years.

But, having said this, the President's detractors haven't been honest or accurate with their assessment of Aquino's performance. While it's their role to point out the President's shortcomings, they should be accurate and reasonable in their criticism. Otherwise, they lose their credibility.

Which is what's happening. The President's critics have been portraying him as a non-performing leader despite the appreciable improvements in many areas. But the people aren't blind.

Yes, the people cry for higher wages, cheaper food and other commodities, less crime in the streets or in homes, and a generally stable economy. Yes, they could do with improved living conditions and a better quality of life. But the picture is not as dire and hopeless as the critics paint it to be.

In the end, the President's approval rating proves that the people can see improvements in both governance and in the economy. As long as Mr. Aquino's survey numbers are positive, that is proof enough that the people believe and support him more than they do his detractors.

 

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One Response to Who do the people believe?

  1. Baloney!