PerryScope: By Perry Diaz
Catapulted to the presidency on a campaign promise to eradicate corruption, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s first 100 days was off to a good start with a trivial “walang wang-wang, walang tong” (no sirens, no bribes) message that made its mark with the people. With a survey taken several days prior to his inauguration showing an 88% trust rating on him, the populist tone and demagogic appeal of his inaugural message removed any reservation the people might have on P-Noy’s ability to lead the nation. All P-Noy had to do then was demonstrate that he has what it takes. And like all presidents before him, he was extended the traditional 100-day “honeymoon” period by the media. Now, that honeymoon period is just about the end.
Like with all his predecessors, P-Noy’s ship of state started sailing with an even keel. However, he was sailing in uncharted waters mined with more than 900 of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s midnight appointees that includes the Supreme Court Chief Justice.
His stewardship was erratic at first making a few miscalculations with his memoranda and executive orders. His first memorandum was to fire all of the government top executives who were co-terminus with Gloria. However, he was forced to recall some of them so the government can continue to operate.
His first executive order creating the Truth Commission was met with strong resistance from Gloria’s few but vociferous allies in the House of Representatives. They immediately filed a complaint before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Truth Commission. And compounding the opposition’s resistance, P-Noy appointed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as head of the Truth Commission. Davide’s appointment casts doubt on P-Noy’s motive for appointing him to investigate Gloria. It must be remembered that it was Davide who swore in Gloria as president in 2001 and declared that president Joseph “Erap” Estrada has “constructively” resigned from the presidency. However, many people deemed it as a “judicial coup d’état.”
Notwithstanding the pending complaint in the Supreme Court, P-Noy ordered the Truth Commission to proceed with its investigation of Gloria. This prompted the Supreme Court to threaten the Truth Commission with a temporary restraining order (TRO) if it doesn’t desist.
Then on August 23, 2010, midway through his first 100 days, the unexpected happened – a tourist bus with 25 Chinese tourists from Hong Kong was hijacked at the Luneta Park near the Quirino Grandstand where P-Noy was inaugurated last June 30. The hijacker was dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza from the Manila Police. Mendoza held the tourists hostage while he demanded that he be reinstated in this job. After 11 hours of negotiation the hostage crisis ended in a bloodbath when Mendoza killed eight tourists before he was fatally shot by police sniper fire.
The hostage-taking fiasco became an international cause célèbre. It put P-Noy in a bad light. Immediately, P-Noy ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to conduct a fact-finding investigation. After several days of hearings, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) submitted its report to P-Noy. It named 13 individuals with complicity to the hostage-taking fiasco, including Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno -– P-Noy’s longtime friend and “shooting buddy” -- and then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa.
Then on September 11, 2010, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz dropped a bombshell alleging that two close aides of P-Noy were receiving P2-million each in monthly payola – protection money – from jueteng lords. During a Senate hearing investigating the “jueteng-gate,” Cruz disclosed the names of the “jueteng kings” – Puno and Verzosa.
Immediately calls for Puno’s resignation flooded Malacanang Palace. Verzosa has since retired. But P-Noy stood by his friend Puno saying that he still has confidence on him.
While Luneta-gate and Jueteng-gate were brewing, P-Noy embarked on his first travel abroad as president. Within a six-day period beginning September 21, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly; attended the US-ASEAN conference with US president Barack Obama and the other nine ASEAN leaders; and signed a $434-million grant to the Philippines by the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) to help fight corruption and poverty in the Philippines. P-Noy also talked with Obama for seven minutes after the US-ASEAN conference.
On September 25, P-Noy addressed the Philippine Development Forum in San Jose, California. The following day, his last day in the U.S., P-Noy attended mass with the Fil-Am community at the Mission Dolores in San Francisco. After the mass, he gave a short talk at the pulpit where he revealed that his delegation was able to secure a $2.7-billion investment pledge from American firms.
In the evening before heading for the San Francisco Airport for his flight home, P-Noy met with members of the Pinoys for Good Governance who, as one member said, “want to make sure that the present administration will live up to its promise to bring about such reform in governance.”
The U.S. trip promises to boost the Philippine economy. P-Noy claimed that the infusion of investment would create about 43,000 jobs.
All in all, the events of the first 100 days pose a big challenge to P-Noy in his quest to institute reforms and changes in a country. Indeed, he’s got his work cut out for him for the next six years.
It’s been said that it was destiny that brought P-Noy to the presidency. I agree. Now, it’s time for him to show the density of his commitment to bring about change in country deluged with corruption and plagued with poverty.