Slogans do become stale, and political idealism eventually flounders on the shoals of everyday wheeling and dealing and compromise. But for the sheer damage to credibility and cache that a political brand could inflict on itself over the course of a brief five years, President Aquino and the Liberal Party’s much-vaunted “Daang Matuwid” should now stand as a cautionary example.
Here was a straightforward, sincere-sounding promise of a return to basic good governance that greatly appealed to an electorate weary of the endless corruption scandals and sundry controversies of the nine-year presidency of Gloria Arroyo. So hated was Arroyo in the twilight of her administration that Mar Roxas—the presumptive Liberal Party presidential candidate who graciously slid to the vice-presidential slot when it became clear that his party mate Noynoy Aquino had surged ahead in the public standing after the death of his mother, former president Corazon Aquino—could describe his and Aquino’s campaign against the legacy of Arroyo as nothing less than “a fight against evil,” and no one blinked or choked on his coffee.
“Daang Matuwid” promised, first and foremost, that, under a President Aquino, the Philippines would have an honest, upright, transparent government. One of P-Noy’s most significant promises on the campaign trail was that he would pass the Freedom of Information bill, to bring much-needed public light and accountability to the use of taxpayer money and the byzantine ways of official transactions. He vowed to promote genuine merit and good work in government by hiring competent professionals as his Cabinet and seeding the bureaucracy with able, service-minded people. He clapped Arroyo in jail and impeached Renato Corona from the Supreme Court to bring home the message that he was serious about cleaning up house and prosecuting those who have engaged in corrupt practices. “Daang Matuwid” was exactly that—a pledge to stick to the straight path in politics.
Five years later, P-Noy’s slogan is as tarnished and hollow-sounding as Arroyo’s own “Strong Republic” mantra. The President’s avowals to spare neither friend nor foe from the law have come up short when it came to exacting accountability from members of his administration, who had run afoul of it. The most prominent among them has been former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima who enjoyed the unqualified backing of his boss, even as irregularities were swirling around his name and despite his eventual suspension from office by the Ombudsman. It would take the terrible tragedy of the Mamasapano bloodbath for Purisima to finally be eased out of government, and still with much reluctance on P-Noy’s part at that.
Elsewhere, the Freedom of Information bill remains in limbo with barely a year left in the Aquino presidency. Stalwarts of his party, meanwhile, are knee-deep in various corruption charges. Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali, the LP treasurer, has been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail by the Sandiganbayan for a P2.5-million anomalous transaction. Five other LP members in the House of Representatives have had their pork barrel releases flagged by the Commission on Audit as tainted with links to the bogus nongovernment organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Now comes the Liberal Party’s announcement of possible candidates it would field for the Senate in the 2016 polls, and if you think the LP couldn’t go any lower—well, it just did, with names like actor Dingdong Dantes heading its list of party standard-bearers that it will be asking the Filipino people to transform into ersatz senators of the realm come 2016. Consider that a measure of how the party thinks of the Filipino electorate—and so much for “Daang Matuwid.”
There’s also Lino Cayetano in the mix. The Senate only has 24 slots, two of them already occupied by Cayetanos (and another two by Estradas). Just how many from Taguig’s reigning dynasty are we looking to put in the Senate before we say, “Enough!”—time to give way to others? The rest of the names—Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino—inspire not an ounce of confidence that the Liberal Party has, in fact, looked long and hard for the best men and women it could offer as future august senators of this country.
Is this the best that the President’s party can come up with? Except perhaps neophyte congresswoman Leni Robredo, the names floated so far, whether mere trial balloons or not, are disappointingly more of the same. That LP list is quite a joke—but, as usual, the joke is on us.
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