Legacy | Inquirer Opinion


Stash the baloney. The rising shrillness on the political front today is not about ideals, let alone a government of integrity that Filipinos have a right to.

The din comes from political pygmies scrambling to hijack a 2016 transition of power. Once again, a president will do the unthinkable: Heed the constitutional edict and willingly step down after one term.


Corazon Aquino did just that. She handpicked Fidel Ramos who scraped up a budget surplus, in 1997, even as other Asian countries reeled from the worldwide economic meltdown. But Cory shot down, in 1998, President Ramos’ less-than-coy bid to pry loose the constitutional lid on single terms.

Three years later, she helped oust Joseph Estrada’s corrupt regime. Erap and cronies swigged P90,000-a-bottle Petrus, by the caseful, in until-cockcrow carousing in Malacañang. To Palace courtiers, Estrada would display a special watch. It counted down the days remaining in his four-year term. Did he chuck that into the Pasig River as he  scrammed from  Malacañang in People Power 2?


Starting in 2005, Cory called for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down, for corruption, symbolized in the “Hello Garci” vote-rigging and the NBN-ZTE scam. “Sadly, history shows how a bad leader or two can set the Philippines back by years.”

“No legacy is so rich as honesty,” Shakespeare once wrote. Graft never tainted Corazon Aquino. Her son is trounced for his balding pate to being a “Torquemada.” But filching from the taxpayers’ till has not been one of his flaws.

Cory’s 1986-1992 presidency evokes powerful memories for Filipinos. The Aquino family declined a state funeral. That contrasts sharply with the Marcoses who insist, up to today, on a Libingan ng mga Bayani grave for the late dictator’s embalmed corpse.

Cory’s funeral procession, from the Manila Cathedral to the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque, lasted for over eight hours. Black- and yellow-clad mourners jammed the route, flashing the “Laban” sign. Her grave is next to that of her murdered husband, Benigno

“Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The markers are identical: name, nickname, dates of birth and death inscribed in black.

“Any shortcomings in Corazon Aquino’s governing skills were made up for with heart and dogged perseverance,” writes Bloomberg’s William Pesek. “Nostalgia for that time inspired the masses to urge her son to run for president—an office he never coveted.”

Aquino “confounded the skeptics, increasing tax revenues; going after graft; defying a powerful Catholic Church on population-control efforts; attracting more foreign capital; and investing in infrastructure and education to reduce poverty.”


Much more needs to be done. The administration concedes that the Philippines will miss its 2015 Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction. We will “fall short of the MDG of reducing poverty to 16.6 percent next year,” reports Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

“The Philippines’ poverty rate in 2012 remained one of the highest in Asia. [Yet] the country registered an economic growth rate of 6.8 percent, one of the fastest in Asia. New measures being cobbled now into place should trim today’s poverty incidence of 23 to 25 percent to 18 to 20 percent—when Aquino accompanies his successor to the Luneta for oathtaking.”

The country has won investment-grade status. “If public perception were the sole judge, democracy [here] is in very good shape,” reports the Social Weather Stations. The present administration outperformed the past regimes. The net satisfaction rating of President Aquino is “very good” as he garnered scores “far higher than his predecessors, even that of his mother.”

The unsolved Maguindanao massacre remains a sore point. The SWS survey found that 73 percent of “Yolanda” survivors were satisfied with government response. Peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were deemed a sign of “persistent hope for peace, much more so among Muslims.” Over 59 percent of Muslims expressed hope that there’d be peace between the military and the MILF.

Estrada and Arroyo “left Aquino with a much bigger mess to clean up, amid a less forgiving global environment.”  Nonetheless, his reform team, spearheaded by women, are making a dent.  These include  Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido Tan. He ignored the rigid seniority rule to name a woman, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, as chief justice.

He has two years left to cement his legacy. The reforms he championed have to be institutionalized, from strengthening the judiciary to clamping down on rampant smuggling at the Bureau of Customs, and building power grids. “He must focus on laying a foundation that those who follow him can build upon,” adds Bloomberg.

“Aquino’s biggest challenge may be to prevent backsliding after he’s gone… The President would be wise to begin grooming a successor, who represents continuity. [That’d] ensure that Aquinonomics isn’t undone by whoever comes next. Leaving presidential succession to chance could imperil the virtuous cycle Aquino  unleashed….”

Imelda Marcos, 83, “the shoe-loving widow of Ferdinand, sits in Congress. Her son is a senator and her daughter a provincial governor. Arroyo also has a congressional seat, while Estrada left prison only to be elected mayor of Manila.”

“Women are good for the bedroom,” sneered Ferdinand Marcos after Corazon Aquino launched her 1986 snap election bid. Marcos gagged on that sneer in exile. In 2016, can legacy replay by sweeping aside men like Binay, Roxas and Marcos Jr. and usher in another woman president?

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Corazon C. Aquino, Cory Aquino, Juan L. Mercado, opinion, Viewpoint
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