A legacy is what you leave behind after you are done with your job, profession, or watch, for or by which you will be remembered. There are three kinds of legacy: one that gives people pleasure recalling, one that makes people cringe in horror or pain, and one that draws from people a blank stare, zero reaction.
Of course, this classification can be further broken down into subcategories, but in the interest of clarity and to avoid wandering into a myriad though related subjects, let it be my guidepost in assessing the legacy of President Aquino.
When he steps down from office in June, what will he leave in your mind as footprints of his six-year term?
P-Noy is today the object of brickbats from politicians who see nothing right in what he is doing, or has done. Understandable, because this is a political season and politicians need exposure, and the best way to get it is to attack, attack, attack—best of all the person in power. But to be fair, P-Noy has achievements which, he can proudly say, form part of his legacy to the nation. These are accomplishments done through gutsy moves, self-abasement, and steely political will ramming through nerve-wracking challenges. To cite a few:
- Enactment of the Reproductive Health Law over the vigorous objection of the religious sector. The greatness of this achievement can be appreciated in light of the fact that for over a decade, a shadow of this law was believed impossible.
- Impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona and TKO of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, whom many perceived as roadblocks to cleansing the government of irregularities at the top.
- Enactment of antitrust measure and amendment of Cabotage Law to promote a level playing field in business, and raising of government revenues through upward adjustment of “sin taxes.”
- Completion of some vital infrastructure projects by the time he steps down, retention of the Philippines’ investment-grade rating, and continued strength of its macroeconomic fundamentals.
- Modernization of the military, which had been blared about for decades by a succession of leaders but never quite got off the ground until P-Noy did something about it, equipping the troops with modern ground, air and sea assets.
- Appointment of competent persons with integrity and “balls” to key positions in the government—Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, and Leila de Lima (Department of Justice) and Grace Pulido-Tan (Commission on Audit).
But the tricky thing about legacy is that it does not stay long in the people’s memory if it is not embodied in something one can see, touch, or feel. The legacy of wonderful but intangible deeds one has done will have a short shelf life overpowered by the ignominy of what one did, or did not but should have.
How then will P-Noy’s term be remembered? For some wonderful things he has done? Or the utter insensitivity and cluelessness in the face of gripping situations, the misplaced stubbornness, and the nonsensical prioritizing ability which each or in concert contributed to missed opportunities, nondelivery of vital goods services, and tragic results?
Granted that P-Noy has achieved a few wonderful things. But these are overshadowed by acts so unwise they are clearly products of unfocused, if not mediocre, thinking. To certain observers, including once-diehard but now-disillusioned partisans, P-Noy’s legacy may be collectively bundled as a mishmash of unfulfilled promises, timid or no response to critical situations calling for quick and dynamic action, spotty decision-making, action or nonaction mistakenly believed as an expression of steadfast political will but is in fact mere stubbornness that defies correct thinking and common sense.
These cited shortcomings may be blamed for the following sorry events and situations that resulted in public dismay, and in some cases sadness, anguish and tears: the hostage crisis at Rizal Park where presidential intervention was totally absent; the mess at the Department of Transportation and Communications vividly dramatized by the incompetence of the Land Transportation Office, the almost-daily breakdown of the MRT/LRT, and the traffic nightmare; Typhoon “Yolanda,” which left P-Noy so stunned it took several days before presidential action was felt by the survivors; Mamasapano, a clear case of leadership bungling that resulted in great tragedy; P-Noy’s inexplicable absence at the arrival rites for the SAF 44; the ill-conceived and ill-explained funding rigmarole that is the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program).
So what could be in store for P-Noy after leaving Malacañang? If the opposition is to be believed, he would be wearing out the soles of his shoes trekking to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan, to answer case after case filed against him when he ceases to be president.
So difficult to pinpoint P-Noy’s legacy to the nation. Is it his personal honesty and one-track mind that has happily produced some surprising achievements? Or is it his unassertive character and less than brilliant brain power that has brought about many missed opportunities and bewildering failures in the last six years?
Rightly, let history be the judge.
Gualberto B. Lumauig ([email protected]) is past president of the UST Philosophy and Letters Foundation and former governor/congressman of Ifugao.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.